12 Best Songs of the Week: Kurt Vile, Villagers, Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Low, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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12 Best Songs of the Week: Kurt Vile, Villagers, Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Low, and More

Plus Danielson, Jungle, Django Django, Farao, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Sep 14, 2018 Laura Carbone Bookmark and Share

We spent the week wondering if Hurricane Florence was going to hit us here at our headquarters in Southwest Virginia. Lucky for us, it seems to have angled further south, and while we may still get some heavy rains and winds in the coming days and week, it likely won’t be as devastating to Virginia as feared. Still, Florence, now downgraded to a tropical storm, is battering our neighbors to the south in North Carolina and our hearts go out to all those whose homes or whole towns are flooded, who might have to go without power for a week or more, or who are otherwise affected by this storm.

To distract us this week from constantly checking CNN and The Weather Channel for updates as to the storm’s path, there were lots and lots of worthy new songs this week. So here’s another overstuffed Songs of the Week, with a Top 12 this week (we really tried for 10, but it was too hard).

Elsewhere on the website in the last week we posted interviews with Saintsenenca and Quiet Slang. Low’s Double Negative was our Album of the Week. We also talked to Low’s Alan Sparhawk about the first concert he ever attended.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Jungle, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Devon Welsh, Paul McCartney, Waxahatchee (an EP), Spiritualized, Fred Thomas, Low, Marc Ribot, and Ought (an EP). Plus we posted reviews of various DVDs, Blu-rays, films, books, and comic books.

Don’t forget that our new print issue, which features Kamasi Washington on the cover, is out now.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 12 best the last seven days had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last week. Check out the full list below.

1. Kurt Vile: “Bassackwards”

This week Kurt Vile announced a new album, Bottle It In, and shared a new song from it, the near 10-minute long “Bassackwards,” via a lyric video for the song. Bottle It In is due out October 12 via Matador. It includes “Loading Zones,” a new song Vile shared in August via an amusing video for it (it was one of our Songs of the Week). The album features Cass McCombs, Kim Gordon, and others. He has also announced some more tour dates for 2019. “Bassackwards” finds a sweet and chilled out vibe and settles there in a way that only a long Kurt Vile song can and it’s a cool place to hang for 10 minutes. You can check out Vile’s upcoming tour dates here if you want to hear the song live.

Bottle It In is the follow-up to 2015’s b’lieve i’m goin down…, although last fall Vile teamed up with Courtney Barnett for a collaborative album, Lotta Sea Lice. Bottle It In was recorded over the course of two years in various cities (including Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and Portland), with various producers (including Rob Schnapf, Shawn Everett, and Rob Laakso, a member of his backing band The Violators). The majority of Bottle It In was recorded at Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Connecticut, with Peter Katis (Interpol, the National) engineering and producing. The album also features Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa, Mary Lattimore, Farmer Dave Scher, and Lucius.

Vile says in a press release that all the travelling around influenced the album: “For a while I was terrified of flying, so I would be listening to whatever country songs I was obsessed with. I’d have George Jones blasting in my ears. Or, I would be reading something about country music. Or, I would start writing songs in that flash of being afraid, being swallowed by life. I’m up there on a plane drinking wine because like everybody else I’m afraid to die. And I wrote ‘Hysteria’ up there.”

Of the album’s emotional weight, Vile adds: “It’s like that moment on the airplane, when you’re on your way somewhere and you have that burst of panic. When you’re terrified of dying, that’s when you want people to know you love them.”

Also read our 2017 interview with Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile on Lotta Sea Lice.

2. Jaakko Eino Kalevi: “People in the Centre of the City”

Finnish multi-instrumentalist Jaakko Eino Kalevi is releasing a new album, Out of Touch, on October 12 via Domino imprint Weird World. Previously he shared a video for its first single, “Emotions in Motion” (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week he shared another new song from the album, “People in the Centre of the City,” via a video for the song. Gwenaëlle Trannoy directed the video, which intercuts shots of Kalevi wandering around London with four female models dancing in a photo studio. The whole thing just has such a wonderfully detached European vibe to it.

In a press release, Kalevi says “People in the Centre of the City” was influenced by his time as a tram driver in Helsinki: “I began to notice that sometimes people in the city would have so much perfume on that the whole tram would smell really strongly but so perfectly.”

Out of Touch is Kalevi’s fifth solo album and the follow-up to 2015’s self-titled album. Kalevi wrote and produced the album, which was recorded in studios in Helsinki and Berlin, where he currently lives. He plays every instrument on the album, including the saxophone. A previous press release said the album draws inspiration from some time Kalevi spent in Athens and “broadens his horizons while focusing on his inner self.”

Kalevi had this to say about the album in the previous press release: “Everyone knows the meaning of out of touch and it usually has negative connotations, such as lacking the latest information. But to be out of touch can be the most ideal state.”

Read our 2015 interview with Jaakko Eino Kalevi.

3. Low: “Rome (Always in the Dark)”

Low released a new album, Double Negative, today via Sub Pop. As we mentioned above, it was our Album of the Week. The day before its release the trio shared a video for one last new song from the album, “Rome (Always in the Dark).” Aaron Anderson and Eric Timothy Carlson directed the abstract video, which takes a collage approach and doesn’t feature the band. It’s one of the highlights of an album filled with highlights, so we had to include it on the list.

Check out the band’s upcoming tour dates, including some newly announced European dates in 2019, here.

Pick up Under the Radar’s current print issue (Issue 64) to read our exclusive interview with Low on Double Negative.

When the album was announced they shared videos for three new songs, “Quorum,” “Dancing and Blood,” and “Fly” (shared as one complete 14-minute piece, a triptych, as well as separately). The songs all made our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared the album’s closing track, “Disarray” (which was #2 on our Songs of the Week list). Then NPR streamed the whole album a week early.

Double Negative is the follow-up to 2015’s Ones and Sixes. A previous press release described Double Negative as Low’s “most brazen, abrasive (and, paradoxically, most empowering) album.” Low (Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker, and bassist Steve Garrington) recorded the album at Justin Vernon’s April Base studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (where they recorded Ones and Sixes) with producer B.J. Burton (Bon Iver, Lizzo, James Blake, and Francis and the Lights). The press release said the band “knew they wanted to go further with Burton and his palette of sounds: they wanted to see what someone who is, as Sparhawk puts it, ‘a hip-hop guy’ could truly do with their music.”

Music writer Grayson Currin wrote the band’s bio for this album and described the album as such: “Double Negative is, indeed, a record perfectly and painfully suited for our time. Loud and contentious and commanding, Low fights for the world by fighting against it. It begins in pure bedlam, with a beat built from a loop of ruptured noise waging war against the paired voices of Sparhawk and Parker the moment they begin to sing during the massive ‘Quorum.’ For forty minutes, they indulge the battle, trying to be heard amid the noisy grain, sometimes winning and sometimes being tossed toward oblivion.”

Read our 2015 print magazine interview with Low’s Alan Sparhawk about Ones and Sixes, as well as our 2015 digital magazine bonus Q&A with Sparhawk.

4. Villagers: “Again”

Villagers (aka Irish musician Conor O’Brien) is releasing his new album, The Art of Pretending to Swim, on September 21 via Domino. He previously shared videos for the album’s “A Trick of the Light” and “Fool” (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week he shared another new song from the album, “Again,” the strongest pre-release single we’ve heard from the album yet. A press release calls the song “an exploration of self-renewal.” Perhaps O’Brien is also tackling faith in the song?

5. Danielson: “On Purpose”

Danielson is releasing the Snap Outtavit EP on September 28 via Joyful Noise. Its title track, “Snap Outtavit,” was one of our Songs of the Week. Today they shared another song from the EP, “On Purpose,” via a very colorful video directed by Jad Fair.

The Snap Outtavit EP is the band’s first release in seven years, since 2011’s Best of Gloucester County. Daniel Smith fronts Danielson and his band for this EP mainly consists of family members, including his sisters Megan (bells, vocals) and Rachel (keys, vocals), and brothers Andrew and David (drums), with his wife Elin (vocals), as well as various kids in the family on vocals. Famed producer Kramer (aka Mark Kramer) recorded the EP.

A previous press release described the EP as such: “Like in ecstatic religious poetry of another time, the new Danielson songs, on this EP, tackle the spiritual struggles of the everyday - growing older, having kids, momentarily losing hope, for which the route to salvation is music itself, the playing, the singing, the writing of music, and the listening to it as well.”

6. Jungle: “Beat 54 (All Good Now)”

London’s Jungle (led by Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland) released a new album, For Ever, today via XL. Earlier this week they shared one last pre-release single from it, the funky “Beat 54 (All Good Now).” For Ever may not be groundbreaking music, but it’s a guilt-free fun and slick listen.

When the album was announced they shared two new songs from it, “Cherry” and “Heavy, California” (which made our Songs of the Week list). For Ever also includes “Happy Man” and “House in LA,” two songs the band shared back in May and released as a double A-side 12-inch single in June (they also both made our Songs of the Week list).

It’s been four years since Jungle’s 2014-released Mercury Prize-nominated self-titled debut album. The band performed “House in LA” on Last Call with Carson Daly, filmed during the band’s performance at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles in December but broadcast in February.

The band describe For Ever as “a post-apocalyptic radio station playing break up songs.”

The band moved to Hollywood to work on the album, but ended up finishing it back in London. As the press release explains: “If Jungle’s first album was their imaginary soundtrack to the places they had never been, For Ever is inspired by real life experiences of the places they’d dreamed of for so long. Swapping Shepherds Bush for the Hollywood Hills, J and T set up camp in Los Angeles to write and record the album. Over time however, their romanticization of The Californian Dream clashed with the reality of actually living it, the feeling of being adrift on the West Coast compounded by the collapse of long-term relationships.”

They finished the album in London with the producer Inflo.

Read our 2014 interview with Jungle.

7. Farao: “Marry Me”

Norwegian-born/Berlin-based Farao (aka Kari Jahnsen) is releasing a new album, Pure-O, on October 19 via Western Vinyl. This week she shared another song from it, the electro-pop gem “Marry Me.” It comes accompanied by a music video, which features dancers doing aerobics in an urban setting, or as Jahnsen puts it in a press release, “the video is about the importance of aerobics in an industrial world.” The album is inspired by old Soviet disco music and the video has a retro Eastern Bloc feel to it too. Irrum directed the video, which you can watch below.

Jahnsen says “Marry Me” is “about the neurotic impulse to want to possess a person through the institution of marriage, ultimately trying to escape yourself by attaching to others.” Wow, way to be a downer about marriage.

Pure-O is the follow-up to Farao’s 2015-released debut album, Till It’s All Forgotten. Previously she has shared two other Pure-O singles: “Lula Loves You” and “The Ghost Ship.”

Jahnsen had this to say about the influences on the album in a press release: “My choices for instrumentation and arrangement on the record were inspired by my falling in love with old Soviet disco (Eduard Artemyev, Zigmars Liepiņš, Aleksei Kozlov) and subsequent collecting of boutique, Soviet-era analog synthesizers. A reawakening of my love for sensual ‘90s R&B (TLC, Janet Jackson), the spiritual harp playing of Alice Coltrane, and the minimal compositions of Terry Riley have all inspired the album. A danceable contrast between the industrial framework of the beats and synths, and the organic vitality and flow of the vocals and zither are what provide the sonic bed.”

8. Madeline Kenney: “Bad Idea”

Madeline Kenney is releasing her sophomore album, Perfect Shapes, on October 5 via Carpark. This week she shared another new song from the album, “Bad Idea,” via a lyric video. Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak and Flock of Dimes produced the album and you can really hear it in the sonic touches and general atmosphere of “Bad Idea.”

A press release says “Bad Idea” is “about the subconsciously predicted disintegration of a relationship.” In the press release, Kenny further explains: “Only after recording ‘Bad Idea’ did I realize what I was trying to say to myself. I wrote it when I was starting to tour more and pursuing things that matter to me, while trying and failing to juggle things that remained back at home. It’s the feeling of being at once the driver and passenger in your life as it moves forward.”

Previously Kenny shared a video for Perfect Shapes’ first single, “Cut Me Off” (which was our #1 Song of the Week), as well as a creepy self-directed video for another new song from the album, “Overhead,” the one song on the album produced by Ben Sloan instead of Wasner. “Overhead” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Kenney only just released her debut album, Night Night at the First Landing, in September 2017 via Company. Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bear produced that album. Back in January she shared a brand new song, “Still Learning,” which featured Naytronix (aka Nate Brenner of Tune-Yards) and is not on the new album.

Perfect Shapes was recorded in Durham, NC in January 2018, just five months after the release of her debut album. This is Wasner’s first time producing another artist’s work.

Wasner had this to say about Kenney and the album in a previous press release: “The first time I heard the songs that would come together to form Madeline Kenney’s Perfect Shapes, I understood what it felt like to really have a piece of art speak directly to you…hearing her words felt like someone whispering in my ear the contents of my own mind. This was my first time producing music other than my own, and it was one of the only times I’ve ever experienced working exclusively with women. And it was a creative experience unlike any I’ve ever had.”

Read our 2017 Pleased to Meet You interview with Madeline Kenney.

Read our 2017 Artist Survey interview with Madeline Kenney.

9. Yumi Zouma: “Crush (It’s Late, Just stay)”

New Zealand indie-pop band Yumi Zouma released their sophomore album, Willowbank, last year via Cascine (it was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017) and are releasing a new EP, EP III, on September 28 via Cascine. Previously they shared its first single, “In Camera” (which was our #2 Song of the Week). This week they shared another song from it, the wonderfully titled “Crush (It’s Late, Just stay).” We’ve had trouble resisting including Yumi Zouma tracks on our Songs of the Week lists and they’ve done it again.

As its title suggests, EP III is the third and final part of a trilogy of EPs that started in 2014. The band issued this previous press release statement about the EP: “There is something really special about the EP format. It’s been so long since we worked on one that we all had forgotten how fun and liberating they can be. This EP, both in its material and how it was written and recorded, feels really close to EP I and II. Spread again between three countries, bouncing endless revisions of a song until it’s right, falling asleep on FaceTime trying to write lyrics together and the exhilaration of waking up to NEW SONG VERSION 5 - it threw us back to how we worked on material when we thought no one would ever listen. We’ve completed our EP family. It’s the little sibling none of us had growing up and none of us knew we could love so much.”

Back in April the band shared another new song, “France (Grand Boulevards),” from Dreams, a compilation that’s been put together by the New York-based website Stadium & Shrines that came out in June via Cascine.

Read our 2017 interview with Yumi Zouma on Willowbank.

10. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Laura Carbone: “The Flowers Beneath Our Feet”

This week The Pains of Being Pure at Heart teamed up with Berlin’s Laura Carbone for a new song, “The Flowers Beneath Our Feet.” The single is available via Duchess Box. Carbone supported The Pains of Being Pure at Heart in Europe earlier this year, which is how the collaboration came about. For some reason, we get a bit of a ‘90s Britpop vibe from the duet.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s frontman Kip Berman had this to say about the song in a press release: “On our joint tour, Laura’s talent and artistic mind truly impressed me, and we agreed to collaborate on a new song together. I am grateful that Laura took this song to places I never could on my own, her voice conveying all the power and powerlessness of unbridled desire.”

Carbone had this to say: “Creating this song with Kip has been an amazing experience - it meant a lot to me to collaborate…and to receive his trust into my way of approaching music, sound and production. I will always cherish our time on tour and being able to record and work together between New York and Berlin.”

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s last album, The Echo of Pleasure, came out in September 2017 via the band’s own label, Painbow.

11. Spirit of the Beehive: “Hypnic Jerks”

Philadelphia five-piece Spirit of the Beehive released their new album, Hypnic Jerks, today via Tiny Engines. Earlier this week they released one last pre-release single from the album, post-punk title track “Hypnic Jerks.” Hypnic Jerks is the band’s third album and the follow-up to 2017’s Pleasure Suck. Hypnic Jerks takes its title from the involuntary muscle spasms you get right as you’re falling asleep and in a press release frontman Zack Schwartz fittingly says the album sounds like “the state between wakefulness and sleep.”

12. Django Django: “Swimming At Night”

Django Django released their third album, Marble Skies, back in January via Ribbon Music. This week the Scottish band announced a brand new EP, Winter’s Beach, and shared a video for its first single, “Swimming At Night.” Winter’s Beach features six new tracks and is due out October 12 via Ribbon. Check out the EP’s tracklist and cover art, as well as their upcoming U.S. tour dates here.

Winter’s Beach was recorded after Marble Skies was recorded, but before the album was released, with the band’s producer/drummer David Maclean producing. Gemma Yin Taylor directed the “Swimming At Night” video.

Yin Taylor had this to say about the video in a press release: “For ‘Swimming At Night’ the guys wanted to create a highly visual piece of moving image exploring the vibrant inner worlds within our own heads. With a nod to some iconic graphic and video styles from the ‘70s and ‘80s, I used mixed media techniques and a low frame rate to achieve a distinctive tactile quality. Meandering through deconstructed figurative, scenic, and natural forms from the start of the video sets the stage for introducing some trippier ‘life forms underwater’ when the track submerges us into the vibrant choruses. The imagery is familiar, but subverted, using non-linear animation techniques. I wanted the video to embody the off-beat eccentricities of the track, whilst still having a bold, bright pop sensibility.”

Maclean had this to add about the video: “‘The Swimming At Night’ chorus is about closing your eyes or being in the dark and swimming in your own world, your own thoughts. The idea for the video came when we were in Palm Springs. The light and the colors there were extraordinary and were the inspiration behind some of the imagery in the video. That, combined with an old drawing that Tommy found of a colorful deep blue sea full of creatures.”

Marble Skies was the follow-up to the band’s 2015 sophomore album, Born Under Saturn, and their 2012-released Mercury Prize-nominated self-titled debut.

Read our 2018 interview with Django Django on Marble Skies.

Honorable Mentions:

These 9 songs almost made the Top 12. Lala Lala came the closest to actually making the Top 12.

Courtney Marie Andrews: “Heart and Mind”

Richard Ashcroft: “Surprised by the Joy”

B.E.D: “White Coats”

Ethan Gold: “Sway Lake (Lost Record Version)” (Feat. John Grant)

HEALTH and Soccer Mommy: “MASS GRAVE”

Lala Lala: “Dove”

David Nance Group: “In Her Kingdom”

The Smashing Pumpkins: “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)”

Fred Thomas: “Altar” (Feat. Anna Burch)

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

The 1975: “Sincerity Is Scary”

Nana Adjoa: “DOOA”

Axis: Sova: “Dodger”

Beach House: “Black Car (Sonic Boom Remix)”

Buke & Gase: “No Land” and “Pink Boots”

Death Valley Girls: “More Dead”

Lana Del Rey: “Mariners Apartment Complex”

The Distillers: “Blood in the Gutters” and “Man vs. Magnet”

Echo & The Bunnymen: “The Killing Moon (Transformed)”

Exploded View: “Dark Stains”

J Fernandez: “Unwind”

FIDLAR: “Too Real”

Fucked Up: “House of Keys”

GABI: “Wild Sunflowers”

Jacco Gardner: “Volva”

Al Green: “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” (Freddy Fender Cover)

Tim Hecker: “Keyed Out”

How to Dress Well: “Nonkilling 6 | Hunger”

Human People: “Black Flowers”

LCD Soundsystem: “I Want Your Love” (Chic Cover Mashed Up with “Home”)

Adrianne Lenker: “symbol”

Liars: “Total 3 Part Saga” and Tropical Fuck Storm: “The Happiest Guy Around”

Amber Mark: “Put You On” (Feat. DRAM)

Billie Marten: “Mice”

Moaning Lisa: “Comfortable”

Molly Nilsson: “Days of Dust”

Pallbearer: “Run Like Hell” (Pink Floyd Cover)

Dolly Parton and Sia: “Here I Am”

Natalie Prass: “Deja Vu” (Dionne Warwick Cover)

Prince: “Why the Butterflies”

Marc Ribot: “Bella Ciao (Goodbye Beautiful)” (Feat. Tom Waits)

Rostam: “In a River”

Erika Spring: “Scars”

Stove: “Mosquiter”

The Tallest Man On Earth: “Then I Won’t Sing No More”

TOBACCO: “Hungry Eyes” (Eric Carmen Cover)

Tommy and The Commies: “Suckin’ In Your 20’s”

TORRES: “5th Amendment”

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