13 Best Songs of the Last Two Weeks: Angel Olsen, Ratboys, Feist, The New Pornographers, and More | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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13 Best Songs of the Last Two Weeks: Angel Olsen, Ratboys, Feist, The New Pornographers, and More

Plus ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT, Caroline Rose, Nation of Language, Indigo De Souza, and a Wrap-up of the Last Two Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Mar 17, 2023
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Welcome to the tenth Songs of the Week of 2023. We didn’t do a Songs of the Week last week because I was sick with a bad cold (which still lingers) and we were putting the finishing touches on our latest print issue. So this week’s Songs of the Week encompasses songs from the last two weeks. Which is just as well, as there were slim pickings this week, perhaps due to a large portion of the music industry descending on Austin for SXSW. It’s a supersized list, but the majority of the songs in the Top 13 are from last week.

In the past two weeks or so we posted an interview with Steve Mason, Xiu Xiu, actor Tim Roth, Unloved, and Poker Face music supervisor Thomas Golubić.

In the last two weeks we reviewed some albums.

Remember that our current print issue, the My Favorite Movie Issue, is out now.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last 14 days, we have picked the 13 best the last two weeks had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. Angel Olsen: “Nothing’s Free”

Last week, Angel Olsen announced a new EP, Forever Means, and shared its first single, “Nothing’s Free,” via a lyric video. The sax solo sold us on the song! Forever Means is due out April 14 via Jagjaguwar. Check out the EP’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as Olsen’s upcoming tour dates, here.

The EP follows Olsen’s 2022 album, Big Time, which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2022. It features four songs that didn’t fit on Big Time, song that were “in search of something else,” as Olsen puts it in a press release. Jonathan Wilson co-produced and mixed the EP.

“I was somewhere traveling,” says Olsen of the EP, “stopped for a few days and wandering the city, and I was thinking ‘What does forever really mean? What are the things I’m seeking in friendship or love, and how can forever be attainable if we’re always changing?’… Maybe the secret to ongoing love is to embrace change as part of love itself.”

In a press release Olsen says “Nothing’s Free” is a song “about that point when self-denial breaks, and you notice how long you’ve been restraining who you are.”

“It felt really difficult to exclude it from Big Time,” Olsen adds, “but it felt more soulful than the direction of that record, it was coming from a different place. For me, when I wrote it, I was coming to terms with my identity and sexuality. I was opening up in a new way.”

2. Ratboys: “Black Earth, WI”

Last week, Chicago’s Ratboys shared an epic new eight-minute song, “Black Earth, WI.” It was shared via a music video featuring footage of storm chasers. The song is carried by a lengthy guitar solo.

“We recorded ‘Black Earth, WI’ live off the floor in Seattle last year at the amazing Hall of Justice and it was our first time recording straight to tape,” says vocalist/guitarist Julia Steiner in a press release. “We had to be conscious of how many takes we could fit onto a reel, but lucky for us, take two was the one.”

Ratboys’ most recent album, Printer’s Devil, came out in 2020 on Topshelf. There’s no word if “Black Earth, WI” is part of an upcoming EP or album.

3. Feist: “Borrow Trouble”

Feist is releasing a new album, Multitudes, on April 14 via Interscope. On Wednesday she shared the album’s fourth single, “Borrow Trouble,” via a music video. Leslie Feist co-directed the video with Mary Rozzi, Colby Richardson, and Heather Goodchild.

“‘Borrow Trouble’ caused some trouble in trying to finish the recording,” says Feist in a press release. “It began as a contemplative acoustic morality tale and shape shifted itself into the sound of trouble itself. It’s a mess that holds its own logic. It’s the convincing cacophony that thoughts can be. It saws away at you until your overwhelm pops an air supply in the form of another idea, a solution that starts with accepting there’s no such thing as perfection.

“Mike Mills (the filmmaker), directed me deeper into the tangle, insisted I play drums ‘because you’re not a drummer!’ and Amir Yaghmai brought the fist pumping drone of violins. Early on, when I was writing it Charles Spearin said ‘yah but what does borrowing trouble mean?’And I said, ‘It’s an expression from the old days,’ which became the chorus. ‘May as well let the song explain, like I’m doing now.’”

When Multitudes was announced, Feist shared three new songs from it: “In Lightning,” “Hiding Out in the Open,” and “Love Who We Are Meant To.” “In Lightning” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared videos for “Hiding Out in the Open” and “In Lightning.”

Feist’s last album was 2017’s Pleasure. Multitudes was forged out of two life-changing events for Feist—the birth of her daughter and the sudden death of her father.

“The last few years were such a period of confrontation for me, and it feels like it was at least to some degree for everyone,” Feist said in a previous press release. “We confronted ourselves as much as our relationships confronted us. It felt like our relational ecosystems were clearer than ever and so whatever was normally obscured—like a certain way of avoiding conflict or a certain way of talking around the subject—were all of a sudden thrust into the light. And in all that reassessment, the chance to find footing on healthier, more honest ground became possible, and the effort to maintain avoidance actually felt like it took more effort than just handing ourselves over to the truth.”

The songs on Multitudes were written during Feist’s 2021-2022 tour of the same name. Following that trek, Feist landed in Northern California’s Redwood Forest. There she co-produced the album with Robbie Lackritz (Peach Pit, The Weather Station) and Mocky (Jamie Lidell, Vulfpeck). The latter had worked on Feist’s 2011 album, Metals. Multitudes was recorded in a studio built by Lackritz and engineer Michael Harris (HAIM, Vampire Weekend). The album features multi-instrumentalists Gabe Noel (Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington) and Shahzad Ismaily (Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed), alongside Feist’s regular touring musicians—Todd Dahlhoff (woodwinds, synths, bass) and Amir Yaghmai (strings, guitars).

4. The New Pornographers: “Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies”

The New Pornographers are releasing a new album, Continue as a Guest, on March 31 via Merge, their first for the label. Last week they shared its third single, “Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies.”

“Lyrically, it is very much a stream-of-consciousness story about the disease of social media and online culture,” says frontman Carl Newman (aka A.C. Newman) in a press release. “The narrator that only likes art when it changes the subject, buried in daydream, thinking it’s an entrance, and the idea of Pontius Pilate entertaining his friends with home movies of the crucifixion (what else would he be showing? That part’s clear, right?). It was a product of being stuck at home at a time when online was the only way for many to communicate, and obviously it had its negatives. One of those songs that might seem like word salad but is not, its disjointed nature very deliberate.”

Previously they shared the album’s first single, “Really Really Light,” via a music video. “Really Really Light” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its second single, “Angelcover,” also one of our Songs of the Week.

The New Pornographers’ last album was 2019’s In the Morse Code of Brake Lights, released via the band’s own Collected Work imprint, in partnership with Concord. After touring for that album finished, Newman began writing the new album at his home in Woodstock, NY. The lineup for this album was Newman, Neko Case, Kathryn Calder, John Collins, Todd Fancey, and Joe Seiders, as well as contributions from saxophonist Zach Djanikian. Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz, Sad13) co-wrote the song “Firework in the Falling Snow.”

A previous press release said Continue as a Guest deals with “themes of isolation and collapse, following the ambivalence of day-to-day life during the pandemic and the endless pitfalls of living online” but that the title track “also addresses the continually rolling concerns that come with being in a band for so long.”

“The idea of continuing as a guest felt very apropos to the times,” Newman explained. “Feeling out of place in culture, in society—not feeling like a part of any zeitgeist, but happy to be separate and living your simple life, your long fade-out. Find your own little nowhere, find some space to fall apart, continue as a guest.”

Read our 2017 interview with The New Pornographers’ Carl Newman on Whiteout Conditions.

5. ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT: “We Live on a Fucking Planet and Baby That’s the Sun”

ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT is the new project from Ariel Engle (La Force, Broken Social Scene) and Efrim Manuel Menuck (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion). Last week they announced their debut album, Darling the Dawn, and shared its first single, “We Live on a Fucking Planet and Baby That’s the Sun.” Darling the Dawn is due out April 21 via Constellation. “We Live on a Fucking Planet and Baby That’s the Sun” is a 10-minute long opus that would sit comfortably on a Spiritualized album. It features Jessica Moss on violin and Liam O’Neill (SUUNS) on drums. Jace Lasek (The Besnard Lakes) mixed the album.

Engle had this to say about the song in a press release: “We live on a fucking planet and baby that’s the sun” is a lyric that’s been floating around in my head for a couple decades. I lived in an apartment once with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors by my bed. One morning I woke at dawn, sat up like a bolt, and heard myself say those words. I could see the halo of orange pink light cut into the last of the night. The lyric is about the uncanniness of living on a sphere. The smallness of us in contrast to the size and motion of planets and the comfort of the eternal return of dawn and sun after the night.”

6. Caroline Rose: “Tell Me What You Want”

Caroline Rose is releasing a new album, The Art of Forgetting, on March 24 via New West. Last week they shared its fourth single, “Tell Me What You Want,” via a music video. Sam Bennett directed the video.

A press release says the song “chronicles conflicting feelings nearing the end of a relationship.” Rose further explains: “When I listen to this I really feel for myself during that time. My head was like a cesspool of voices trying to tell me what to do. You know, the end of a relationship can be so confusing. There are all these emotions swirling around and really no handbook. You realize when all your attempts to connect with your partner aren’t working, you either have to find a way to stick it out or leave… And both options suck. This song is about being in that pickle of desperation, between trying to protect yourself and feeling the immense guilt and regret of walking away from someone you love.”

Rose has also announced a short film for The Art of Forgetting directed by Bennett. It recreates real-life events in Rose’s life and combines various music videos from the album, including the video for “Tell Me What You Want.” The film will premiere on YouTube on March 23 and will be followed by a Q&A with Rose. Fans who pre-order the album will get access to the stream. On March 24 the film will also screen at Tower Records in Brooklyn at 9:15 and 10:15 p.m. (RSVP here).

Rose had this to say about the film: “It’s strange to recreate things that happened in the past, in the places where they happened, because they are obviously not the same as they were. I was trying to put my finger on this feeling and someone mentioned the Brazilian Portuguese word ‘saudade,’ a sensation that blends nostalgia, melancholy, desire and longing all in one.”

Back in October, Rose shared the album’s first single, “Love / Lover / Friend,” which was #2 on our Songs of the Week list. Then in January, when The Art of Forgetting was announced, Rose shared the album’s second single, “Miami,” via a music video. “Miami” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then the album’s third single, “The Doldrums,” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Rose (who uses they/them pronouns) released their last album, Superstar, in 2020. Listen to our Under the Radar podcast interview with Rose, where the singer discusses the album, here.

7. Nation of Language: “Sole Obsession”

Last week, Brooklyn-based synth-pop trio Nation of Language shared a new song, “Sole Obsession,” via a music video, and also announced some new tour dates. The band also revealed that their next album will be titled Strange Disciple (further details on the album are still forthcoming). John MacKay directed the video, which was shot in 16mm and filmed in Queens and at Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park. Check out the band’s upcoming tour dates here.

Nation of Language’s Ian Devaney and Aidan Noell collectively had this to say about the new song in a press release: “In simplest terms, ‘Sole Obsession’ is one about knowing when, or if, to give in or give up. Particularly, when to untie the knots we tie ourselves into when an infatuation sets in. So many of us have experienced an addictive feeling that constricts us further and further until, hopefully, there’s a moment of clarity that allows one to free themself from that particular compulsion. The title of our next album, Strange Disciple, is a lyric from ‘Sole Obsession’ which references a character of such a nature; one who finds themself an adherent to a subject that is probably not worth the devotion.

“We chose to represent this with an anonymous robed figure that lives within all of us, waiting for us to don the cloak and take up our role, and we worked with John MacKay to bring the Disciple to life in the music video. Taking cinematic inspiration from Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) as well as Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1958), the Disciple is depicted as one of us, and we in turn are depicted as the Disciple.”

Nation of Language’s most recent album, A Way Forward, came out in 2021 via [PIAS].

Read our interview with Nation of Language on A Way Forward.

The band’s debut album, Introduction, Presence, was released in 2020.

Nation of Language also took part in our 20th anniversary Covers of Covers album, where they covered Broken Social Scene’s “Stars and Sons.”

8. Indigo De Souza: “Smog”

North Carolina singer/songwriter Indigo De Souza is releasing a new album, All of This Will End, on April 28 via Saddle Creek. Last week, she shared its second single, “Smog,” via a self-directed video.

De Souza had this to say about “Smog” in a press release: “I remember writing this song during the peak of the pandemic. I was living alone on a dead end street surrounded by neighbors who were seemingly always mowing their lawns. I remember having a lot of anxiety during the day, navigating the newly awkward and uncertain experience of doing anything mid world freak-out. I was in an emotional state that felt like a cross between delirious joy and a real tired hopelessness. Everything felt unknown and distant. ‘Smog’ is mostly about that strange time and how it felt in my house, alone. When the neighborhood was asleep, and all the lawn mowers stopped, I felt free to make anything and sing anything I wanted. It was my first time ever living alone. It brought me a lot closer to myself.

She had this to say about directing the video: “I wanted to make something that felt like one of those dreams where you’re going through mundane life motions, and then you realize that you’re dreaming because something completely out of the ordinary breaks your reality. That’s kind of what the pandemic felt like for me. Like my whole life I’d been moving through this rigid societal system that felt really unfair and unnatural, and when the whole thing suddenly fell apart, I realized that all of the structures I’d been placed in were just made up. They weren’t as powerful as I’d thought. But what does feel powerful to me is the opportunity to fill life with intention, to foster community, to grow and learn from nature, and from each other.”

Previously, De Souza shared the album’s first single and closing track, country ballad “Young & Dumber,” via a self-directed video for the song. “Young & Dumber” was one of our Songs of the Week.

All of This Will End is the follow-up to 2021’s Any Shape You Take. “All of This Will End feels more true to me than anything ever has,” De Souza simply says in a press release.

Read our interview with De Souza on Any Shape You Take.

9. Hatchie: “Rooftops” (Feat. Liam Benzvi)

Last week, Hatchie, the shoegaze/dream pop project of Australian musician Harriette Pilbeam, announced a deluxe edition of her 2022-released sophomore album, Giving the World Away, and shared a new song from it, “Rooftops,” which features Liam Benzvi. The deluxe edition is due out April 7 via Secretly Canadian. Check out the deluxe edition’s tracklist here.

Pilbeam had this to say in a press release: “I wrote, recorded and mixed Giving the World Away with Joe [Agius] and Jorge [Elbrecht] in 2020, with Joe and I recording in Brisbane and Jorge mixing in Denver. We wrapped everything up in December, with plans to release in April 2022. In the meantime, the three of us were finally all able to get back in a room together in 2021, with no specific plans for the outcome. After five intense writing days in the bitter Denver winter, we ended up with about 12 new ideas, some of which we felt fit perfectly into the world of the long-finished album. It was too late to make any additions at that stage, but we felt it would be a shame for them to not be included in the release. To me, these songs round out the world this album established, with my original intention being to make a more uplifting, energetic record than my first.”

The deluxe edition includes “Nosedive,” a new song Hatchie shared last November that was one of our Songs of the Week. It features four new songs and one remix. Jay Watson (Tame Impala, GUM, Pond) plays drums on three of the five new tracks.

Giving the World Away was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2022.

Stream Giving the World Away here.

Read our interview with Hatchie on Giving the World Away here.

Read our rave review of Giving the World Away here.

Giving the World Away is Hatchie’s second full-length album, the follow-up to her acclaimed debut album, Keepsake, which came out in 2019 via Double Double Whammy.

Jorge Elbrecht (Sky Ferreira, Japanese Breakfast, Wild Nothing) produced the album, which also features long-time Hatchie collaborator and guitarist Joe Agius (who also releases music as RINSE) and Beach House drummer James Barone.

Hatchie is featured on Under the Radar’s 20th anniversary compilation album, Covers of Covers, where she covers HAIM’s “FUBT.”

Read our 2018 interview with Hatchie on her EP Sugar & Spice.

Read our My Favorite Album interview with Hatchie on Carole King’s Tapestry.

10. Baxter Dury: “Aylesbury Boy”

Last week, Baxter Dury announced a new album, I Thought I Was Better Than You, and shared its first single, “Aylesbury Boy,” via a music video. I Thought I Was Better Than You is due out June 2 via Heavenly Recordings. Paul White produced the album.

Dury had this to say about “Aylesbury Boy” in a press release: “This song is about coming from one place and arriving at another without fitting in to either, and I think of these people like characters from Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away.”

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

Read our 2017 interview with Baxter Dury.

11. World News: “Wrapped in Gold”

World News are a new South London trio with an impossible to Google band name (unless they become super huge one day). This week they released a new song, “Wrapped in Gold,” via a music video. The band features brothers Alex Evans (singer/guitarist) and Rory Evans (bass), as well as drummer Malte Henning. Alex Evans’ guitar playing is the star here.

“‘Wrapped In Gold’ questions the often mistaken correlating exclusivity of physical things and happiness,” says Alex Evans in a press release. “We aren’t there yet, but who cares because the grass isn’t always greener, it’s just different.”

12. Depeche Mode: “My Cosmos Is Mine”

Depeche Mode are releasing a new album, Memento Mori, on March 24 via Columbia Records. Last week they shared the album’s second single, the atmospheric and ghostly slow-burner “My Cosmos Is Mine.”

Previously Depeche Mode shared Memento Mori’s first single, “Ghosts Again,” via an Anton Corbijn-directed video. “Ghosts Again” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Then they were the musical guests on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, in which they performed “Ghosts Again” and their classic single “Personal Jesus.”

Memento Mori will be the first Depeche Mode album to be released since the death of the band’s Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, who passed away in May at age 60. It was announced last October.

Fletcher did work on the album before his death. Memento Mori is the band’s 15th studio album and the follow-up to 2017’s Spirit. The Memento Mori tour will be the band’s first tour in five years and the band’s 19th tour overall. With Fletcher’s passing, that makes the official lineup for Depeche Mode as Dave Gahan and Martin Gore.

Gore had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “We started work on this project early in the pandemic, and its themes were directly inspired by that time. After Fletch’s passing, we decided to continue as we’re sure this is what he would have wanted, and that has really given the project an extra level of meaning.”

Gahan added: “Fletch would have loved this album. We’re really looking forward to sharing it with you soon.”

13. Silver Moth: “The Eternal”

Silver Moth, a new seven-piece band featuring Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, are releasing their debut album, Black Bay, on April 21 via Bella Union. Last week they shared its second single, “The Eternal.”

Previously the band shared their debut single, “Mother Tongue,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

As well as Braithwaite, Silver Moth features Elisabeth Elektra, Evi Vine, Steven Hill, Abrasive Trees guitarist/songwriter Matthew Rochford, Nick Hudson, drummer Ash Babb, and cellist Ben Roberts.

A press release describes the genesis of the new song in greater detail: “‘The Eternal’ is a deeply heartfelt song written in tribute to Elisabeth Elektra and Stuart Braithwaite’s close friend Alanna who passed away suddenly. A major theme of the song is the regenerative sense of hope that comes with the knowledge that the love we have for our friends and loved ones is eternal.”

The band was born of some Twitter exchanges that led to some Zoom meetings and eventually a recording session at Black Bay Studios on Scotland’s the Isle of Lewis, where they worked with producer Pete Fletcher.

“Because we didn’t know each other before we went to Black Bay,” said Elisabeth Elektra in a previous press release, “we went into a really intense creative mode as soon as we got there. We were in a bubble and there was a lot of collective grief going on, so it was like a pressure cooker, but I think some real beauty came out of it.”

“I knew with everything in me that we could make something powerful, beautiful, celestial and driven,” said Evi Vine, “even though we had never met. We spend our lives in repetition, surrounded by certainty. It’s important to push aside the things we think we understand, because when we least expect it, change comes and we are lost.”

Mogwai’s last studio album was As the Love Continues, which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021.

Read our interview with Mogwai on their 2017 album Every Country’s Sun.

Also read our 2014 interview with Stuart Braithwaite on Mogwai’s 2001 Rave Tapes album, as well as our retrospective article on Rock Action.

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 13.

Beach Fossils: “Don’t Fade Away”

Bodywash: “No Repair”

Christine and the Queens: “To be honest”

Lana Del Rey: “The Grants”

Django Django: “Back 2 Back” (Feat. Patience)

Peter Gabriel: “Playing For Time”

Alison Goldfrapp: “So Hard So Hot”

The Lemon Twigs: “In My Head”

Fenne Lily: “In My Own Time”

LA Priest: “It’s You”

Protomartyr: “Make Way”

Esther Rose: “Safe to Run” (Feat. Hurray for the Riff Raff)

Temples: “Afterlife”

Unknown Mortal Orchestra: “Meshugga”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 10 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

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