12 Best Songs of the Week: Westerman, Alex Lahey, Little Dragon, Modern Woman, and More | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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12 Best Songs of the Week: Westerman, Alex Lahey, Little Dragon, Modern Woman, and More

Plus Strange Ranger, Lightning Dust, High Pulp, Sen Morimoto, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

May 05, 2023
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Welcome to the sixteenth Songs of the Week of 2023. There weren’t any tracks this week that screamed, “This is the very best song of the week!” But still there was plenty to like.

Remember that we recently announced our new print issue, Issue 71 with Weyes Blood and Black Belt Eagle Scout on the covers.

In the past week or so we posted interviews with Tanlines, actor Anna Camp, Braids, Julia Jacklin, Duran Duran, and others.

In the last week we reviewed some albums.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 12 best the last week had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. Westerman: “A Lens Turning”

Westerman (full name Will Westerman) released a new album, An Inbuilt Fault, today via Partisan. On Tuesday he shared the album’s fourth single, “A Lens Turning,” via a music video. Edwin Burdis directed and animated the video.

Read our new review of An Inbuilt Fault here.

Previously Westerman shared the album’s lead single, “CSI: Petralona.” Then he shared the album’s third single, “Take,” via a music video. “Take” was one of our Songs of the Week. An Inbuilt Fault includes “Idol; RE-run,” a new single Westerman shared last year.

An Inbuilt Fault is Westerman’s second album. His debut album, Your Hero is Not Dead, came out in 2020 via Partisan, and made it to #23 on our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list.

For An Inbuilt Fault, Westerman worked with James Krivchenia of Big Thief, who co-produced the album with him via recordings in Los Angeles that built on demos Westerman recorded in Italy.

Check out our interview with Westerman, which originally appeared in Issue 67 of our print issue.

2. Alex Lahey: “The Sky is Melting”

Australian singer/songwriter Alex Lahey is releasing a new album, The Answer Is Always Yes, on May 19 via Liberation. Yesterday she shared another song from it, “The Sky is Melting,” via a lyric video.

“I went to the desert and did a bunch of edibles and wrote a song about it,” Lahey says of the song in a press release. “Definitely not the first person in the world to do it. But maybe it’s the first song to reference both Michael Bolton and an unnamed verified AirBnB host in the same verse.”

When The Answer Is Always Yes was announced, Lahey shared its lead single, “Good Time,” via a music video. “Good Time” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared another song from it, “They Wouldn’t Let Me In,” via an amusing music video featuring Lahey working in a furniture store. “They Wouldn’t Let Me In” was #1 on Songs of the Week list.

The album also includes two 2022 singles. In August 2022 Lahey shared the new song, “Congratulations,” via a video where she married herself. “Congratulations” was one of our Songs of the Week. In November 2022 she shared “Shit Talkin’,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Lahey had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “Living in a world that wasn’t made for you makes you pretty strong and adaptive, and you find the fun in it. It also makes you realize how absurd everything is. With this record, I wanted to get weird because the world is weird, and it’s even weirder when you realize you don’t fit into it all the time.”

The Answer Is Always Yes is the first time Lahey has worked with outside producers and songwriters. Jacknife Lee (U2, Taylor Swift) co-wrote and co-produced “Good Time,” for example.

“I’ve made two records doing it all by myself and now I’ve proved to myself that I can do it,” Lahey said. “But it was also at a point where I was like, ‘If I do that again, I kind of know what it’s gonna sound like’ and I don’t think I’m interested in that right now.”

Of the album’s title, Lahey added: “I feel like if you’re saying yes and you’re exploring, you’re always moving. That’s the part of life that I’m in right now. I just don’t wanna stop.”

The Answer Is Always Yes is Lahey’s third album and the follow-up to 2019’s The Best of Luck Club.

In 2021, Lahey shared the song “On My Way” from the animated Netflix film The Mitchells vs. the Machines, and it nabbed a spot on our Songs of the Week list. That was followed by another new song, “Spike the Punch,” shared in October 2021 and also one of our Songs of the Week. Neither song is on The Answer Is Always Yes.

Lahey was also one of the artists on our 20th anniversary Covers of Covers album, where she covered St. Vincent’s “New York.”

Read our 2017 interview with Alex Lahey.

3. Little Dragon: “Kenneth”

On Wednesday, Swedish electro-pop band Little Dragon announced a new album, Slugs of Love, and shared a new song from it, “Kenneth,” via an animated music video. Slugs of Love is due out July 7 via Ninja Tune and features Damon Albarn on one song. Unlimited Time Only directed the “Kenneth” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

Little Dragon shared the album’s title track, “Slugs of Love,” in April via a music video. “Slugs of Love” was one of our Songs of the Week.

A press release says “Kenneth” is “a soulful, lo-fi tribute to a childhood friend.” The band collectively add: “It’s about friendship and love, and the dirt of getting caught in bitterness and taking the wrong turn mentally.”

Little Dragon is Erik Bodin (drums and percussion), Fredrik Wallin (bass), Håkan Wirenstarnd (keyboards), and Yukimi Nagano (vocals). Slugs of Love was recorded in their studio in Gothenburg. As well as Albarn, the album features Atlanta rapper JID on one song.

The band collectively had this to say about the album: “We’ve been exploring different ways to collaborate and communicate. Dissolving patterns and making new ones. Nurturing our ability to curiously press down keys, to bang—sometimes hard sometimes gently—on different things, strumming strings, recording sounds and investigating the limits for how much or little a sound can be tweaked… Together we have developed, replayed, danced to, cried, and laughed to this music as it has evolved forwards, backwards, sideways and all around, but now finally as a complete masterpiece… This feels like our finest work yet. We are very proud.”

Slugs of Love follows 2022’s Opening the Door EP, which featured the songs “Frisco” and “Stay,” and 2021’s Drifting Out EP, both released via Ninja Tune. The band’s most recent album, New Me, Same Us, came out in 2021, also via Ninja Tune. Later on, they released a new version of the album’s “The Other Lover” featuring Moses Sumney, and it was one of our Songs of the Week.

4. Modern Woman: “Achtung”

This week, new London-based post-punk band Modern Woman shared a new song, “Achtung.” The single is out now via End of the Road Records, an offshoot of the End of the Road music festival in the UK. Check out the band’s upcoming tour dates here.

Modern Woman features frontperson and guitarist Sophie Harris, as well as Juan Brint-Gutierrez (on bass), David Denyer (on percussion, violin, synth, and samples), and Adam Blackhurst (on drums). Oli Barton-Wood (Porridge Radio, Nilüfer Yanya, Obongjayer) produced and mixed “Achtung,” which was mastered by Jason Mitchell (PJ Harvey, Dry Cleaning, Aldous Harding). It follows the band’s debut EP, 2021’s Dogs Fighting In My Dream, and their 2022 single “Ford.”

Harris had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Achtung’ was a song that I wrote around the bassline when I didn’t have any other instruments around, which when we developed as a band focused on trying to build a kind of tension and release within the music. Lyrically it’s a bit of a stream of consciousness about memories of childhood.

“When I was in school I used to live round the corner from a friend who I had a real crush on. His parents were German, and his dad scared me. If we were in his room and had the window open, we could hear his neighbor playing hymns on the piano. His dad also used to come in and shout at us if we were doing things we weren’t supposed to, which was often.

“The song is made up of snapshots of images of going round to that house as there were a lot of emotions flying round. It definitely reminds me of a more innocent time.”

Modern Woman made our 23 for 2023 list.

5. Strange Ranger: “She’s on Fire”

This week, New York City via Philadelphia quartet Strange Ranger announced a new album, Pure Music, and shared a new song from it, “She’s on Fire,” via a music video. Pure Music is due out July 21 via Fire Talk. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

Strange Ranger is Isaac Eiger, Fiona Woodman, Nathan Tucker, and Fred Nixon. Pure Music is the follow-up to 2019’s Remembering the Rockets album and 2021’s No Light in Heaven mixtape. The album was written while Eiger and Woodman were breaking up and was recorded in a cabin in Upstate New York during a blizzard.

“With a few exceptions, I can’t tell whose production ideas were whose, when I listen back to it,” says Nixon in a press release. “We were literally trapped in this cabin, manically working at all hours, and the energy was crazy, in a fun way.”

“Music makes us transcend the feeling of being alienated from or trapped by the world,” Woodman adds. “I want the experience of listening to Pure Music to be euphoric.”

Of the inspiration behind “She’s on Fire,” Eiger says: “When you’re young, it feels like life has a kind of arc to it and up ahead in the future, there’s some point where all your experiences converge and this fog of confusion will lift and you will have arrived, This is definitely not true and increasingly, music is the steadying hand I lean on when looking for meaning. It provides a spiritualism that feels absent from much of life and I want to be as close to that feeling as possible.”

“She’s on Fire” has a bit of an ’80s vibe at the start before it embraces ’90s shoegaze (a press release cites My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless). The press release also mentions disco, house, and experimental pop as reference points for Pure Music. The album includes “Rain So Hard,” a new song the band shared in March.

6. Lightning Dust: “Different War”

Lightning Dust (Amber Webber and Joshua Wells) are releasing a new album, Nostalgic Killer, on June 9 via Western Vinyl. On Monday they shared its second single, “Different War,” via a lyric video. They also announced some June tour dates in British Columbia, Canada, which you can check out here.

Nostalgic Killer is the follow-up to 2019’s Spectre. That same year, Webber and Wells the real life romantic couple, broke up, but vowed to keep the band going.

In a press release Webber says she wrote the song in light of their breakup. “I wrote this song knowing love had died despite our best efforts to revive it. It’s a song about defeat, surrender and acceptance, comparing love to war. Josh ran with this feeling and created an atmosphere of plodding tension, slowly building to an epic orchestral crescendo, then giving way to a lonely spaciousness.”

Previously Lightning Dust shared the album’s first single, “Run,” via a music video. “Run” was one of our Songs of the Week.

The album was recorded in home studios in Vancouver (Webber) and Chicago (Wells). The duo performed almost everything themselves, “save for a few guitar parts performed by touring band member Rob Butterfield, backing vocals by Himalayan Bear’s Ryan Beattie, and string arrangements performed by viola/violinist Meredith Bates.”

Lightning Dust was previously a side-project for Webber and Wells, back when they were in Black Mountain. But in 2017 they both left the mother ship to focus solely on Lightning Dust.

7. High Pulp: “(If You Don’t Leave) The City Will Kill You” (Feat. Daedelus)

This week, Los Angeles-based experimental jazz collective High Pulp announced a new album, Days in the Desert, and shared a new song from it, “(If You Don’t Leave) The City Will Kill You,” which features Daedelus and was shared via a music video. Days in the Desert is due out July 28 via ANTI-. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

“The word jazz is going to follow our band around forever, which is fine, we love jazz, we are inspired by jazz,” group founder and drummer Bobby Granfelt says in a press release. “But our influences are much wider than that.”

The press release says that although they may be influenced by the classic Gil Evans-Miles Davis jazz collaborations in the 1950s, High Pulp have also been inspired by ’90s indie-rock such as Stereolab’s Dots and Loops and Tortoise’s TNT.

“We embraced more imperfections in terms of our executions, but as a result our compositions got stronger, more solid,” alto saxophonist Andy Morrill says. “The album started to get simpler. And also a little more human.”

8. Sen Morimoto: “If The Answer Isn’t Love”

On Wednesday, Chicago’s Sen Morimoto shared a new song, “If The Answer Isn’t Love,” via a music video. It’s his first single for the City Slang label in partnership with his own Sooper Records. It’s also the first taste of Morimoto’s upcoming third album (details of which are TBA). Morimoto co-directed the video with New Trash.

Morimoto had this to say about the song in a press release: “In the face of imminent climate disaster, war and unending sickness it’s natural to start considering what will remain and what might have made it all worth it. I want the sound of my music to reflect that same urgency—instruments warbling and splattered over the beat, melodies tangled and contradicting. I wrote this song about the enduring power of love and the struggle to hang onto that feeling when in crisis.”

Of the video, Morimoto adds: “Up until my first tour in Japan, I washed dishes for a living. I would daydream all day at work about being a full time musician. My fantasies were sweet and naive, mostly just pop culture references glued together, stuff I’d seen in movies and music videos. It wasn’t until I started touring full time that I realized how long the road is from being a working musician to building a life in music that is actually sustainable, which has become even harder as touring proves itself to be a gamble with bad odds, even for more established acts. I wrote this video concept as a kind of tongue-in-cheek visualization of those mid-shift daydreams. I’m dreaming of this big guitar solo in the sky, but even my fantasy is insecure, balancing on a rusted beam with no support.”

The single follows Morimoto’s self-titled second album, released in 2020.

9. Hand Habits: “Private Life”

Hand Habits (aka Meg Duffy, who uses they/them pronouns) is releasing a new EP (or mini-album), Sugar the Bruise, on June 16 via Fat Possum. On Tuesday they shared its second single, “Private Life,” via a music video. Otium directed the video, which features Duffy as a pool cleaner.

Previously Hand Habits shared Sugar the Bruise’s first single, “Something Wrong,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

Duffy taught a month-long songwriting class in the summer of 2021 and that helped inspire the new collection of songs. Duffy worked with Luke Temple (Here We Go Magic, Art Feynman) and Philip Weinrobe (Adrienne Lenker, Cass McCombs) on Sugar the Bruise.

Last September Hand Habits shared two new singles: “Greatest Weapon,” which featured Nick Sanborn and Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso on backing vocals, and “Under the Water,” which had Meath on lead vocals. Both singles were released as part of Psychic Hotline’s Singles Series.

Duffy’s most recent album, Fun House, came out in 2021 via Saddle Creek.

10. Lifeguard: “17-18 Lovesong”

This week, Chicago-based post-punk trio Lifeguard announced a new EP collection, Crowd Can Talk / Dressed in Trenches, and shared a new song from it, “17-18 Lovesong,” via a music video. Crowd Can Talk / Dressed in Trenches collects two EPs, one previously released and one unreleased, and is due out July 7 via Matador. Check out the collection’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

The band features Asher Case (bass, vocals), Isaac Lowenstein (drums, percussion), and Kai Slater (guitar, vocals). The Crowd Can Talk EP was originally released in 2022 by the Chicago label Born Yesterday, whereas the five songs on the Dressed in Trenches EP are new. Both were recorded at the same studio (Electrical Audio) and with the same engineer (Mike Lust), but not at the same time.

“More than old records—before that, before anything—we’re influenced by live shows and people around us,” says Slater in a press release.

“The inspiration comes from playing shows with people and having that mind-blown moment of seeing some friend play at Schubas or Book Club,” adds Lowenstein. “It’s happening on these tiny little scales of seeing kids play live and [knowing] this is something new and interesting.”

11. Baxter Dury: “Celebrate Me”

Baxter Dury is releasing a new album, I Thought I Was Better Than You, on June 2 via Heavenly Recordings. On Tuesday he shared its third single, “Celebrate Me,” via a music video.

Dury had this to say about “Celebrate Me” in a press release: “A stream of consciousness rant about being predictably bohemian, west London-ish and attention seeking.”

Previously Dury shared the album’s first single, “Aylesbury Boy,” via a music video. “Aylesbury Boy” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared its second single, “Leon.” Paul White produced the album.

Dury’s previous two albums were 2020’s The Night Chancers and 2017’s Prince of Tears.

Read our 2017 interview with Baxter Dury.

12. Peter Gabriel: “Four Kinds of Horses”

Today, Peter Gabriel shared a new song, “Four Kinds of Horses.” It is the latest single from Gabriel’s forthcoming new album, i/o, which will be his first album of original songs in over 20 years. The album’s exact release date has yet to be announced.

Gabriel wrote the song and co-produced with Richard Russell, founder of XL Records. Gabriel had this to say about the new song in a press release: “‘Four Kinds of Horses’ actually began on Richard Russell’s project Everything Is Recorded. He’s a friend (and founder of XL Records) and he asked me to pop into his studio. I came up with some chords, melodies and words on top of a groove he was working on. We tried a few things that didn’t altogether work and so it lay dormant for quite a while. Then I started playing around with it again and changed the mood and the groove and something else began to emerge with a better chorus.

“There were a number of things that triggered ideas for the song as it developed, including the Buddhist parable of the Four Kinds of Horses, which describes different ways a student can approach their spiritual practice. There is also a focus on the interesting overlap of religion and peace on the one hand and violence and terrorism on the other. There was also a wonderful film by Hany Abu-Assad called Paradise Now, which shows two young men who end up being trained to become terrorists and it’s a real insight into where the head goes.”

The song also features Brian Eno on synth, which “sounded like electric worms to me,” says Gabriel. “As soon as I heard one I thought they would make a great three dimensional wall paper of sound and asked Brian to create eleven more.”

John Metcalfe does the string arrangements on the song, which features backing vocals from Gabriel’s daughter Melanie. “Another lovely moment for a dad,” he beams.

For each single from the album, Gabriel is working with a different artist to do the cover artwork. Cornelia Parker did the Four Kinds of Horses” single cover artwork.

Gabriel says: “This month we have a fascinating artist, Cornelia Parker, who does some extraordinary work. When we were originally looking at the Art from Us project, I’d seen some of her stuff with exploding rooms and had been fascinated by that, so I’m really happy that she agreed to work with us on this. The photogravure technique of William Henry Fox Talbot was an inspiration for her in this piece, and some of the other glass-based images in the series. I fell in love with this particular work - it’s called ‘Snap.’”

Previously Gabriel shared the album’s first single, “Panopticom,” which featured Brian Eno and was one of our Songs of the Week. That was followed by its second single, “The Court.” Then the album’s third single was “Playing For Time.” The fourth single was the album’s title track, “i/o.”

Gabriel’s last full-length album of original materials was 2002’s Up, although in 2010 he released the Scratch My Back covers album and in 2011 he released New Blood, which featured orchestral re-recordings of songs from across Gabriel’s career. Gabriel’s last full tour was 2014’s Back to Front Tour, which celebrated his classic 1986 album So.

The new tour will feature Gabriel’s regular band-mates Tony Levin, David Rhodes, and Manu Katché and will include songs from i/o, as well as ones across his back catalogue.

Also read our previous interview between Gabriel and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry.

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 12.

79.5: “Long Term Parking”

Body Type: “Weekend”

Califone: “ox-eye”

Bethany Cosentino: “It’s Fine”

Alison Goldfrapp: “Love Invention”

KNOWER: “I’m the President”

Alan Palomo: “Nudista Mundial ’89” (Feat. Mac DeMarco)

Speakers Corner Quartet: “Geronimo Blues” (Feat. Kae Tempest)

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 12 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

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