12 Best Songs of the Week: Kero Kero Bonito, Wolf Alice, Gruff Rhys, John Grant, and More | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, July 29th, 2021  

12 Best Songs of the Week: Kero Kero Bonito, Wolf Alice, Gruff Rhys, John Grant, and More

Plus UV-TV, CHVRCHES, Iceage, Pom Pom Squad, Yola, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Apr 23, 2021
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Welcome to the 15th Songs of the Week of 2021. In this week’s news, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts in the murder of George Floyd! There’s still a long way to go with police reform in this country, but it’s a positive step.

The big Under the Radar news was that on Wednesday we announced our new print issue. The issue features Japanese Breakfast and HAIM on the two covers and is another edition of The Protest Issue, which examines the intersection of music and politics and features musicians photographed with protest signs of their own making. It follows Protest Issues we also published in 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016.

The issue also features Julien Baker, Wolf Alice, Tegan and Sara, Arlo Parks, Fleet Foxes, Jessie Ware, Shamir, Lucy Dacus, Valerie June, David Byrne, Julian Casablancas, Thurston Moore, Squid, Dry Cleaning, The Weather Station, CHAI, Future Islands, Mogwai, Cassandra Jenkins, Billy Bragg, Bartees Strange, Phoebe Bridgers, The Decemberists, and much more. The issue is out now nationwide (on newsstands, in such stores as Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, and elsewhere) and available to buy directly from us here.

Now onto Songs of the Week and this week’s other content on our website. Lots of great new music this week, so we went for a super-sized Top 12 instead of our usual Top 10 songs.

In the last week we posted a Self-Portrait interview with Claud and a My Firsts interview with Field Music.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 10 best the last week had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last seven days. Check out the full list below.

1. Kero Kero Bonito: “Well Rested”

On Wednesday, Kero Kero Bonito released their new EP, Civilisation II. It features the song “Well Rested,” a seven-minute-long dance tune with four-on-the-floor rhythms, shimmering analog synths, and spoken word interludes by frontwoman Sarah Bonito. It oscillates between spoken word and singing refrains by Bonito before delving off into ambient nature sounds.

The trio speaks about their new EP in a press release: “Civilisation II is the sequel to our 2019 EP Civilisation I. Like it’s predecessor, Civilisation II explores lost world art pop, made entirely with old synthesisers and assorted junk in our quest to realise a fantastical parallel timeline for pop music, with lyrics encompassing religion, our society and the environment.

“Each of Civilisation II’s three tracks are set in the past, present and future respectively. ‘The Princess and the Clock’ (past) is a legend of our own invention, designed to feel like a familiar folk tale. It tells the story of a young explorer who was kidnapped and revered as a princess by an isolated society; her worshippers later found her gone, but it’s up to the listener to guess her fate. ‘21/04/20’ (present) recounts a typical day in the early Covid lockdown in Bromley (South London), complete with a late leftover pasta breakfast, enthusiastic joggers and friendship conducted over video call. Its direct, documentary style was inspired by narrative art like the Bayeux Tapestry and Trajan’s Column. ‘Well Rested’ (future), our longest track yet at over seven minutes, addresses The Resurrection and humanity’s distant future. It’s a humanist manifesto for the Anthropocene in several parts incorporating chants, an insistent four-to-the-floor and field recordings of natural sites.

“The Civilisation era, with its conflation of time on the grandest scale, is a bridge between our more personal 2018 album Time ‘n’ Place and KKB’s next move. Whatever that may be, don’t forget: You Cannot Stop Civilisation.”

Back in February, the trio released the song “The Princess and the Clock” coinciding with the EP’s announcement, and it was also featured on our Songs of the Week. The EP also features the song “21/04/20.”

The trio’s Civilisation I EP came out back in 2019. By Joey Arnone

2. Wolf Alice: “Smile”

Britain’s Wolf Alice are releasing a new album, Blue Weekend, on June 11 via Dirty Hit/RCA. On Tuesday, they shared the album’s second single, the bass-heavy “Smile,” via a video for the song. Jordan Hemingway directed the video, which finds the band performing the song in a pub.

Frontwoman Ellie Rowsell had this to say about “Smile” in a press release: “This is one of the songs we wrote thinking that we would play it live. I miss that feeling of singing on stage. It’s like screaming into a pillow or something—you can get away with being more nasty. There’s a whole other part of me missing.”

Wolf Alice previously shared a video for Blue Weekend’s first single, “The Last Man on Earth.” “The Last Man on Earth” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

Blue Weekend is the band’s third album and the follow-up to 2017’s Visions of a Life, which won them the coveted Mercury Prize.

The band’s full line-up is Rowsell (vocals, guitar), Joff Oddie (guitar, vocals), Theo Ellis (bass), and Joel Amey (drums, vocals). The band stayed in an Airbnb in Somerset, England and worked on some demos in a converted church. Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Björk, Brian Eno, Florence + The Machine) then produced the final album.

3. Gruff Rhys: “Can’t Carry On”

Gruff Rhys, Welsh frontman of Super Furry Animals, is releasing a new solo album, Seeking New Gods, on May 21 via Rough Trade. On Tuesday, he shared a new song from it, “Can’t Carry On,” via a video for the song. In a press release Rhys says “Can’t Carry On” is about “when reality catches up with delusion and the search for a guiding hand out of a heavy situation.”

Previously Rhys shared Seeking New Gods’ first single, “Loan Your Loneliness,” also via a video. “Loan Your Loneliness” was also one of our Songs of the Week (coming in at #1). Long-time Rhys collaborator Mark James art directed the album and directed both the “Loan Your Loneliness” video and the “Can’t Carry On” one and the two videos are interconnected.

Seeking New Gods is Rhys’ seventh solo album. It was recorded following a U.S. tour with his band. Mario C (Beastie Boys) mixed the album in Los Angeles.

Apparently, Seeking New Gods started off as a biography of an active volcano, Mount Paektu, on the Chinese-North Korean border. A previous press release explained that the more Rhys wrote, the more “he began to reflect on the inhuman timescale of the peak’s existence and the intimate features that have allowed mythologies to be built around it over centuries. Both the mountain and the songs became more and more personal to him as time went on.”

Rhys further explained: “The album is about people and the civilizations, and the spaces people inhabit over periods of time. How people come and go but the geology sticks around and changes more slowly. I think it’s about memory and time. It’s still a biography of a mountain, but now it’s a Mount Paektu of the mind. You won’t learn much about the real mountain from listening to this record but you will feel something, hopefully.”

4. John Grant: “Rhetorical Figure”

John Grant is releasing a new album, Boy from Michigan, on June 25 via Partisan in the U.S. (and Bella Union in the U.K.). On Thursday, he shared the album’s second single, the amusing and quite ’80s sounding “Rhetorical Figure,” via a lyric video for it. The song is about the sexiness of good grammar.

“This is a song about my love of language and rhetorical figures and what a turn-on it is when someone wields language in a very capable manner,” says Grant in a press release.

Boy From Michigan was produced by Welsh musician Cate Le Bon. Previously Grant shared a video for the album’s title track, “Boy from Michigan,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

Boy from Michigan is the follow-up to 2018’s Love Is Magic and 2015’s Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. A press release says the album is Grant’s “most autobiographical and melodic work to date.”

Last year Grant also sang guest vocals on the Lost Horizons song “Cordelia.”

Also be sure to read our in-depth 2013 article on Grant, one of the most honest and personal interviews we’ve ever done.

5. UV-TV: “Back to Nowhere”

This week, UV-TV shared a new single titled “Back to Nowhere,” a song which celebrates what the band refers to in a press release as “the art of doing nothing.” It is the second single from their upcoming third studio album, Always Something, which is due out May 28 on PaperCup Music.

The band previously shared the single “Distant Lullaby” from their upcoming album. Their most recent album, HAPPY, came out in 2019.

UV-TV feature founding members Rose Vastola (guitars/vocals) and Ian Bernacett (guitars), along with newer member Ian Rose (drums). Always Something was recorded during the pandemic and is the band’s first album since relocating from Florida to New York and the first to feature Rose as a full-time member. By Joey Arnone

6. CHVRCHES: “He Said She Said”

On Monday, Scottish electro-pop trio CHVRCHES shared a brand new song, “He Said She Said,” which is about the modern challenges of being a woman. The song was recorded remotely during the pandemic, with Lauren Mayberry and Martin Doherty in Los Angeles and Iain Cook in Glasgow. While musically it sounds very much like CHVRCHES songs of yore, lyrically Mayberry has some relevant points to make about the conflicting demands put on women. “Be sad, but don’t be depressed,” Mayberry sings about the expectations of a man, latter adding: “Get drunk, but don’t be a mess.” No wonder that in the chorus she states “I feel like I’m losing my mind.”

Mayberry had this to say about the song in a press release: “Like everyone, I’ve had a lot of time to think and reflect over the past year; to examine experiences I had previously glossed over or deeply buried. I feel like I have spent a lot of my life (personally and professionally) performing the uncomfortable balancing act that is expected of women and it gets more confusing and exhausting the older I get. Be successful but only in the way we want you to be. Speak up for yourself but not so loudly that you steal men’s thunder. Be attractive but only for the benefit of men, and certainly don’t be vain. Strive to be The Hot Sad Girl but don’t actually be sad in a way that’s inconvenient for anyone. Be smart but not smart enough to ask for more than what you’re being given…. ‘He Said She Said’ is my way of reckoning with things I’ve accepted that I know I shouldn’t have. Things I pretended weren’t damaging to me. It was the first song we wrote when we started back up, and the opening line (‘He said, You bore me to death’) was the first lyric that came out. All the verse lines are tongue-in-cheek or paraphrased versions of things that have actually been said to me by men in my life. Being a woman is fucking exhausting and it felt better to scream it into a pop song than scream it into the void. After the past year, I think we can all relate to feeling like we’re losing our minds.”

CHVRCHES’ last album, Love Is Dead, came out in May 2018 via Glassnote. It was their third album. A press release says that “He Said She Said” is “the first fruits of their labor” from their recent recording sessions, suggesting that it could be the first taste of a new album or EP.

CHVRCHES were on the cover of one of our print issues in 2015 and you can read the in-depth 8-page 5,600-word cover story feature on the band here. You can also read our bonus digital magazine Q&A with them here.

7. Iceage: “Gold City”

On Thursday, Iceage shared a new single titled “Gold City.” It is the latest release from their forthcoming album Seek Shelter, which will be out on May 7 via Mexican Summer. The band has also announced a North American/UK tour set for 2022, along with a livestream concert which will take place on May 22 at 8 p.m. ET, in which their new album will be performed in its entirety. Check out the tour dates here.

Frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt states in a press release: “At home and enraptured in the fleeting moment, the sky becomes technicolor in its makeshift lucidity. A culmination made so that everything felt briefly complete. Traffic lights and the setting sun through a polluted filter, shimmering and golden.”

Previously released singles from Seek Shelter are “Vendetta” (which was one of our Songs of the Week), “The Holding Hand,” and “Shelter Song.” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week). By Joey Arnone

8. Pom Pom Squad: “Head Cheerleader”

This week, Brooklyn-based four-piece Pom Pom Squad announced that their debut album, titled Death of a Cheerleader, will be out on June 25 via City Slang. On Tuesday, the band shared a video for “Head Cheerleader,” a new song taken from the album which features backing vocals from Tegan Quin of Tegan and Sara. The video was co-directed by frontwoman Mia Berrin alongside Julia Sub. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Berrin speaks about the new song in a press release, stating that it “was an effort to lean into the overarching trope that makes Pom Pom Squad what it is—almost like parodying myself. Heart shaped lockets and scary cheerleaders and young adult chaos and self-discovery and deep ungraceful discomfort. I was also in a really complicated relationship at the time that really pushed me to come face to face with my sexual identity in a way I never had before. I had this realization that the life I was living was designed around receiving attention and validation from men - something I never truly wanted. The result of that realization was like stepping out of an old skin. It changed the way I behaved in every aspect of my life. I was finally making decisions toward my own self-actualization instead of for other people’s perception. It was terrifying and exciting and necessary. This song feels like a celebration of the discomfort that comes with stepping into your new skin—your own power.”

She adds, regarding the new video: “The image of laying awake in a grave underneath plastic grass, a painted sky, and flowers growing from these creepy, textured structures seemed to represent what I wanted out of a full length—something fierce and funny, dreamy, dark, queer…. I think the video marks a turning point in my project in the same way it marked a turning point in my life. The song is about accepting yourself radically—I think the video explores that through a really fun, campy lens.”

Death of a Cheerleader was produced by Sarah Tudzin (Illuminati Hotties) and also features production from Berrin.

Last month, the band shared the song “Lux” from the album. By Joey Arnone

9. Yola: “Diamond Studded Shoes”

On Thursday, symphonic soul and classic pop artist Yola announced her new album, Stand For Myself, and shared a video for the first single off the album, “Diamond Studded Shoes.” Stand For Myself is due out July 30 via Easy Eye Sound. Check out the album’s tracklist and album art here.

Yola talks about the inspiration for the song and music video in a press release: “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it. This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity. The video is in part inspired by The Truman Show and is about being trapped in a false construct. It is supposedly perfect, but you’re trapped in a life that wasn’t meant for you. I wanted to convey the feeling that everything you know to be true is not quite working the way it’s supposed to. The island at the end is a paradigm of mental conditioning, we are all trapped on an island of our own thinking, until we change it.”

Produced by Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys), Stand For Myself will be released under his label and is a major shift from Yola’s debut album, with sounds of soul and classic pop. Yola planned to tour with Chris Stapleton and The Black Keys before the pandemic put production and stadium tours to a halt. However, she will be touring with Chris Stapleton on his rescheduled tour in 2021 and will headline the Ryman Auditorium in 2022. Yola announced that she will be performing at Newport Folk and Newport Jazz this summer. Check out the tour dates here. The album draws inspiration from seminal records of the ’70s, British radio, R&B, classic pop, and ’90s neo soul.

On the topic of inspiration for the album, Yola talks about being back to where she started: “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.” By Emma Goad

10. Lightning Bug: “September Song, pt. ii”

Brooklyn-based shoegaze band Lightning Bug are releasing a new album, A Color of the Sky, on June 25 via Fat Possum (their first for the label). On Wednesday, they shared the album’s second single, “September Song, pt. ii,” via a video for the song. Sarah Bolander wrote, directed, and choreographed the video. It features both Bolander and Lightning Bug frontwoman Audrey Kang and was filmed on a small island off of the coast of Maine.

Kang had this to say about the song in a press release: “In summer of 2018 I spent about a month camping alone on this cliff on a small island in the Baltic Sea. There where I was in the north off the coast of Stockholm, the sun was setting insanely late, like at 11pm and it took hours longer than normal. So I’d watch it disappear, this glowing orb sink into the sea every night to the point where I felt kind of insane, like I was hallucinating…and I started reliving memories but they felt like they were right before me and then I felt confused, was I reliving memories, or seeing into the future? I kept thinking to myself, each end is a beginning, each end is a beginning. So this surreal experience with time lay dormant in me, and then an entire year later, I was camping in the PNW, also on the shore, and I watched the sun sink into the sea, and suddenly those sunsets from Sweden rippled through me again very vividly. And when I came back to New York, I wrote this song.”

Previously Lightning Bug shared a video for the album’s lead single, “The Right Thing Is Hard To Do,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

The band’s most recent album, October Song, came out in 2019. The band’s core lineup also features Kevin Copeland (guitar, vocals) and Logan Miley (engineer, synths, textures). Touring members Dane Hagen (drums) and Vincent Puleo (bass) also joined the band in the studio for the first time with this album. A Color of the Sky was recorded in the in the Catskills in a rundown old house turned into a makeshift studio.

Summing up the album in a previous press release, Kang said: “I want listeners to explore their own interior worlds. It’s about learning to trust yourself, about being deeply honest with yourself, and about how self-acceptance yields a selfless form of love.”

11. Villagers: “The First Day”

On Tuesday, Villagers (aka Irish musician Conor O’Brien) announced a new album, Fever Dreams, which will be out on August 20 via Domino. A video for a new song from the album titled “The First Day” was shared on Tuesday. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Video director Daniel Brereton speaks about the video in a press release: “The whole process was pretty collaborative with Conor. I think we both imagined a floatiness to the video, and obviously the title conjures up a lot of imagery and ideas, ‘The first day of the rest of your life.’ What does that look like? How does that feel? We were very lucky to shoot on film and have great casting and styling. Shooting during a pandemic is not easy, so I feel fortunate that we got to make it happen.”

O’Conor adds, with regard to creating Fever Dreams: “I had an urge to write something that was as generous to the listener as it was to myself. Sometimes the most delirious states can produce the most ecstatic, euphoric and escapist dreams.”

Villagers previously released The Sunday Walker EP in 2019 on Domino. Villagers’ last album, The Art of Pretending to Swim, came out in 2018, also via Domino. By Joey Arnone

12. illuminati hotties: “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA”

This week, Illuminati hotties (the band led by singer and songwriter Sarah Tudzin) launched a new label, Snack Shack Tracks, and on Wednesday they shared the label’s first song, “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA” (which is just pronounced as “MOO!”), via a video for it. Snack Shack Tracks is in partnership with Los Angeles-based indie label Hopeless. Katie Neuhof directed the “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA” video, which features some very specific framing and was inspired by the video for D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel).”

The band found success with 2018’s debut album, Kiss Yr Frenemies, but when it came time to release a follow-up Tudzin found herself at odds with her then label, Tiny Engines, who didn’t have the proper infrastructure to fully release their second album. “It felt like any momentum came to a screeching halt. It felt painful to pick up a guitar, to write, to record any loose ends that needed to happen to wrap up the album,” Tudzin says in a press release. So instead, illuminati hotties self-released a new album (although carefully not referring to it as one), the acclaimed FREE I.H: This Is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For, in 2020. Now Tudzin has a new home and more control.

“I’m incredibly stoked to be partnering with Hopeless Records on my own imprint, Snack Shack Tracks,” she says. “With everything that has brought me to where I am, I knew that the next time around I needed to seek support from folks who trusted me—who believed not only in illuminati hotties, but also in myself, and my curative vision as a creator at large. Hopeless is the perfect collaborator for IH and beyond. I am thrilled, grateful, and looking forward to an expansive future for the music that we’re all total nerds about!”

Of “MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA,” Tudzin says: “Somebody told me my music is too ‘CUTE’ to take seriously. So I wrote them a love letter. I hope they’re laughing their patoots off.”

Of the video, she adds: “The springboard for the ‘MMMOOOAAAAAYAYA’ video pays tribute to the iconic music video for D’Angelo’s ‘Untitled (How Does It Feel)’ while demanding space for the subversion of male sexuality and flipping the dynamic of power throughout its three slimey minutes.”

The press release also states that “the video serves as a cautionary reminder to all of those who would like to even think about projecting their bullshit onto her—don’t.”

Honorable Mentions:

These six songs almost made the Top 10. We loved the Angel Olsen track, but it’s just a different version of a song that already made our Songs of the Week last year.

Bachelor: “Sick of Spiraling”

James: “Beautiful Beaches”

Angel Olsen: “Alive and Dying (Waving, Smiling)”

Sports Team: “Happy (God’s Own Country)”

Rosie Tucker: “Barbara Ann”

We Were Promised Jetpacks: “If It Happens”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Lydia Ainsworth: “Cake”

Axis: Sova: “(Don’t Wanna Have That) Dream”

Azure Ray: “Bad Dream”

Bicep: “Siena” (feat. Clara La San),” “Light,” and “Meli (I)”

Bloodslide: “Trap Door”

The Chemical Brothers – “The Darkness That You Fear”

Cornelius: “Forbidden Apple”

DāM-FunK: “Feel”

Dinosaur Jr.: “Take It Back”

Doss: “Strawberry”

Ellis: “Hospital”

Flying Lotus: “Black Gold” (feat. Thundercat) and “Between Memories” (feat. Niki Randa)

Miya Folick: “Karaoke (Demo)”

Claire George: “I Promise”

Juliana Hatfield: “Gorgon”

Helvetia: “New Mess”

Hiss Golden Messenger: “Hardlytown”

Homeschool: “Smartest Man” (Feat. Arlissa) (Bartees Strange Remix)

Andrew Hung: “Promises”

JEFF the Brotherhood: “Garbage Man” and “Mountains”

Jordana: “Push Me Away” (Feat. Magdalena Bay)

Sophia Kennedy: “I’m Looking Up”

Lightman Jarvis Ecstatic Band: “Elastic Band”

Little Simz: “Introvert”

Midwife: “Christina’s World”

The Mountain Goats: “Mobile”

Georgia Anne Muldrow: “Unforgettable”

nasimiYu: “White Lightning”

Gary Numan: “Now and Forever”

Jai Paul: “Super Salamander”

A Place to Bury Strangers: “End of the Night”

Pronoun: “I WANNA DIE BUT I CAN’T (CUZ I GOTTA KEEP LIVING)”

Todd Rundgren and Sparks: “Your Fandango”

The Scientists: “Outsider”

Jorja Smith: “Gone”

Social Haul: “Wet Eyes”

Sons of Kemet: “To Never Forget the Source”

Sufjan Stevens: “Revelation II”

Weezer: “I Need Some of That”

Yes/And: “Centered Shell” and “Ugly Orange”

(Thanks to Joey Arnone for helping to put this week’s list together.)

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