13 Best Songs of the Week: Art Feynman, Emma Anderson, Steven Wilson, Devendra Banhart, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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13 Best Songs of the Week: Art Feynman, Emma Anderson, Steven Wilson, Devendra Banhart, and More

Plus bar Italia, The National, Wings of Desire, CHAI, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Sep 22, 2023 Bookmark and Share


Welcome to the 30th Songs of the Week of 2023. This week Andy Von Pip, Caleb Campbell, Marc Abbott, Scott Dransfield, and Stephen Humphires all helped me decide what should make the list and we settled on a Top 13.

In the past week or so we posted interviews with Lael Neale, Steven Wilson, Worriers, Coach Party, Grian Chatten, and others.

In the last week we reviewed some albums.

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

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

1. Art Feynman: “Early Signs of Rhythm”

Art Feynman, the moniker of Here We Go Magic frontman Luke Temple, is releasing a new album, Be Good The Crazy Boys, on November 10 via Western Vinyl. On Monday he shared another song from it, “Early Signs of Rhythm.”

Previously Temple shared the album’s lead single, “All I Can Do,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. He also shared the songs “Passed Over” and “Desperately Free.”

A press release says “Early Signs of Rhythm” “showcases Temple’s twisted takes on Kosmische musik, worldbeat, and art pop, complete with references to Abraxas, a figure of both good and evil in Jungian mythology.” It also mentions Grace Jones and Talking Heads as reference points.

The first two Feynman records were crafted in a rural part of Northern California, but Temple relocated to LA with a live in-studio full band to make Be Good The Crazy Boys.

Temple said of the album in a previous press release: “To me, there was a lot of energy that needed to be released as the result of living in isolation for six years. It also seems to speak to a general anxiety we’re all holding, but it’s expressed in a cathartic way.”

In 2020, Temple shared his second studio album as Art Feynman titled, Half Price at 3:30.

Read our COVID-19 Quarantine Check-In interview with Temple.

2. Emma Anderson: “Clusters”

Emma Anderson, the co-founder of shoegaze icons Lush, is releasing her debut solo album, Pearlies, on October 20 via Sonic Cathedral. On Wednesday, she shared the album’s second single, “Clusters,” via a music video. Kieran Evans directed the video.

James Chapman (aka Mute Records artist Maps) produced Pearlies.

Anderson had this to say about “Clusters” in a press release: “It was the first track I worked on with James and it’s the one we found our feet with. I guess it’s the pop one on the album but, although it’s upbeat, I think lyrically it’s actually quite dark.”

Of the song’s lyrics, she adds: “It’s about some young people at a party at the end of summer, seeing some signs on a wall…. Discovering a kind of underlying threat during something that should have been quite fun.”

Some of the songs for Pearlies were actually written for a Lush reunion album that wasn’t meant to be. Lush reformed in 2015 for some touring and released a new EP, Blind Spot, in 2016. But the reunion came to a somewhat abrupt end that year, with plans for a new album or any more touring scrapped.

“I thought we were in it for the long term, so some of these songs—or even just parts of them—were actually going to be for Lush,” explains Anderson. “That didn’t happen, so I had these songs and bits of music that I didn’t know what to do with.”

At first Anderson worked on home demos with cellist and string arranger Audrey Riley. Then Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins (who produced Lush’s 1992 album, Spooky) helped with some further recording, but insisted Anderson sing her own songs. Initially she had planned on getting another singer involved, which she had done with her post-Lush band Sing Sing.

“He basically said, ‘If you don’t sing, I am not going to do it,’ so I decided I would,” says Anderson. “I am not someone that feels comfortable in the spotlight, so for me to take center stage, metaphorically speaking, was quite a big leap.”

Then Sonic Cathedral suggested James Chapman produce the final album.

“He turned out to be exactly the right person,” says Anderson. “People tend to view James as primarily an electronic producer but he has a lot more strings to his bow. He has a wide range of tastes and also an encyclopedic knowledge of music, which meant he was able to bring a huge amount to the album. He really got it.”

One of the final pieces of the puzzle was some additional guitar contributions from Suede’s Richard Oakes.

“I didn’t know Richard back in the ’90s, but it turned that he was a bit of a Lush fan,” says Anderson. “I have a part-time day job as a bookkeeper, and I do bits of work for the Suede camp. I got to know him through that and we became friends. I asked if he would play some guitar on the record and, to my delight, he said yes!”

Previously Anderson shared the album’s first single, “Bend the Round,” via a music video. “Bend the Round” made a special Songs of the Week playlist.

Check out our interview with Lush on their 1994 album Split.

3. Steven Wilson: “What Life Begins”

British musician/producer Steven Wilson is releasing a new album, The Harmony Codex, on September 29 via Spinefarm. On Tuesday he shared another single from it, “What Life Begins,” via a music video. Also, on Tuesday we posted part two of our interview with Wilson about the album. Read that here. Charlie Di Placido directed the “What Life Begins” video.

We also recently posted part one of our two-part interview with Wilson about the album. Read the interview, which was conducted by Stephen Humphries, here.

Previously Wilson shared the album’s first single, “Economies of Scale,” via a music video. “Economies of Scale” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then we posted the album’s “Rock Bottom,” which features Israeli singer Ninet Tayeb and was shared via a music video. “Rock Bottom” was also one of our Songs of the Week. He also shared the album’s “Impossible Tightrope.”

A deluxe edition of The Harmony Codex includes remixes/reimaginings by Interpol, Manic Street Preachers, Tears for Fears’ Roland Orzabal, and others.

The album features Ninet Tayeb, Craig Blundell, Adam Holzman, Jack Dangers (Meat Beat Manifesto), and Sam Fogarino (Interpol).

In 2022 Wilson released his memoir, Limited Edition of One, and The Harmony Codex is based on a short story featured in that book.

“I’ve always seen my music in cinematic terms,” Wilson says in our new interview with him. “But something about this record has taken that aspect, I think, to another level. Maybe it’s the fact it was based on the short story. Maybe it’s the fact that every song seems distinctly different to every other song, and it has its own sort of internal musical world and musical vocabulary, and yet it still seems to form a cohesive whole, a cohesive journey.”

4. Devendra Banhart: “Fireflies”

Devendra Banhart released a new album, Flying Wig, today via Mexican Summer. On Tuesday he shared the album’s fourth single, “Fireflies,” via a music video that features Anthony Ivancich and Julia Crockett of the Stud Country Queer Country Western Dancing community. Christian Stavros and Joseph Wasilewski directed the video.

Banhart had this to say about “Fireflies” in a press release: “This is a song of regret…. With a bit of acceptance of the temporal nature of all phenomena thrown in there…. I wanted to write something about Paradox, the space where two contradicting views can exist and both be true.”

Cate Le Bon produced Flying Wig and “Fireflies” definitely bears her sonic fingerprints.

Previously Banhart shared the album’s first single, “Twin,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared a music video for its second single “Sirens,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared the album’s third single, “Nun.”

Read our 2007 interview with Banhart on his fifth studio LP, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon.

Listen to our podcast episode with Banhart on his own inspirations.

5. bar italia: “my little tony”

On Tuesday, London post-punk trio bar italia announced a new album, The Twits, their second album of 2023, and shared a new song from it, “my little tony,” via a music video. The Twits is due out November 3 via Matador. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

The Twits quickly follows Tracey Denim, a new album the band released in May via Matador (it was the band’s first for the iconic label).

The band features Nina Cristante, Jezmi Tarik Fehmi, and Sam Fenton. The trio recorded the album over the course of eight weeks, starting in February 2023. They recorded in a makeshift home studio in Mallorca, Spain. Marta Salogni mixed the album.

Prior to Tracey Denim, the band released two albums, an EP, and several singles over the last two years on Dean Blunt’s World Music label.

6. The National: “Smoke Detector”

On Monday, The National surprise-released a new album, Laugh Track. It’s the band’s second album of 2023, following the April release of First Two Pages of Frankenstein, and is out now digitally via 4AD. The album features Phoebe Bridgers, Bon Iver, and Rosanne Cash. And on Monday the band shared an animated video for the album’s “Deep End (Paul’s in Pieces).”

But despite all that, the album’s near-eight-minute long closing track, “Smoke Detector,” was the song we liked the best, as it finds the band rocking out more than they have on recent releases. The song was recorded in June during a soundcheck in Vancouver and those circumstances aid the song’s welcome looseness.

Laugh Track includes two songs the band shared in August, “Alphabet City” and “Space Invader.” “Alphabet City” was one of our Songs of the Week. It also features the band’s 2022 single, “Weird Goodbyes,” which was a collaboration with Bon Iver (the project led by Justin Vernon), but was surprisingly not featured First Two Pages of Frankenstein.

“It felt like the story had already been told. It was its own thing,” says the band’s Aaron Dessner of “Weird Goodbyes” and why it was held for the new album. “But it also felt related to what we were doing. That was part of the logic for making another record—let’s give ‘Weird Goodbyes’ its own home.”

Laugh Track originates from the First Two Pages of Frankenstein sessons and is regarded as a companion album (even the album covers are almost identical). The band recorded at producer Tucker Martine’s Portland studio, Flora Recording & Playback.

The band features frontman Matt Berninger, as well as two sets of brothers: Aaron Dessner (guitar/piano/bass) and Bryce Dessner (piano, guitar), and Scott Devendorf (bass, guitar) and Bryan Devendorf (drums).

Aaron Dessner says The National has often resisted making a full-on rock record, but leaned more into that notion this time, with the drums having a more prominenet role. “It’s not because we don’t enjoy sitting in a room banging around ideas. It’s just that it wasn’t that productive, so we developed a fairly elaborate way of building songs in which [drummer] Bryan [Devendorf] had a very important but compartmentalized role,” he says. “This time we had the desire to make something that was more alive so that Bryan’s playing would drive more.”

Matt Berninger says of their approach to making Laugh Track: “Let’s just turn everything off and walk away. Bail out of your head, of all the things you’re worried about, your career, your whole identity, how strong you thought you were.”

Read our review review of First Two Pages of Frankenstein here. Stream the album here.

The National’s previous album, I Am Easy to Find, came out in 2019 via 4AD.

Read our 2018 interview with The National.

Read our 2017 interview with The National on Sleep Well Beast.

7. Wings of Desire: “001 [Tame the War, Feed the Fire]”

On Wednesday, British duo Wings of Desire (Chloe Little and James Taylor) announced a new singles collection, Life Is Infinite, and shared two new songs from it—“A Gun in Every Home” and “001 [Tame the War, Feed the Fire]”—as well as a live video for the former song. The New Order sounding “001 [Tame the War, Feed the Fire]” was our clear favorite of the two tracks.

Life Is Infinite is due out December 8 via WMD Records. It’s not a debut album, but instead “collects together the formative tracks of their opening era,” according to a press release. Check out the collection’s tracklisting and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

The duo collectively had this to say about “001 [Tame the War, Feed the Fire]” in the press release: “Is it our burning desires which will lead us and our planet to our ultimate destruction? Or will strength, love and unity lead us to a new beginning? A grand reset… our year zero.

“001 was a song written before this incarnation of the band. The last few lines giving us the final piece of the puzzle…our name: ‘Tame the war, feed the fire, can’t deny the wings of desire.’

“Our desires often take over us and have wings of their own. We must eliminate/burn through our desires in order to reach higher states of consciousness. Our attachments can lead us down destructive paths.”

Life Is Infinite includes two new songs—“Made of Love” and “Be Here Now”—the band shared in August. The latter is not an Oasis cover, but it did make our Songs of the Week list.

Life Is Infinite also features “Runnin’,” a new song the band released in January that was one of our Songs of the Week, and “Choose a Life,” a new song the band shared last year that was also one of our Songs of the Week.

In 2021, Wings of Desire released the EP Amun-Ra.

Pick up our current print issue, Issue 71, to read our Pleased to Meet You interview with Wings of Desire.

8. CHAI: “GAME”

Japanese pop four-piece, CHAI, released a new self-titled album today via Sub Pop. On Wedneday they shared another song from it, “GAME,” via a music video in which the band are delivery drivers clad in pink. Cameron Lew directed the video.

CHAI features identical twins MANA (vocals/keys) and KANA (guitar), as well as drummer YUNA and bassist/lyricist YUUKI.

MANA had this to say about “GAME” in a press release: “Winning isn’t the goal, it’s the strategizing and challenge that matters♡ So it doesn’t matter if you lose. Take that loss and turn it into an even better strategy! Life’s a game! We made the video with our lovely friend Ginger Root♡ It’s fun and NEO KAWAII♡ As long as you’re living, you can play the game as many times as you want. Be honest to your heart, don’t take it too seriously, and live life.”

Of the video, Lew adds: “CHAI blends chaos and positivity in the best way, and so I wanted to create a video that showcases exactly that. And what better way, then to show them frantically delivering their music, movements, and mindset directly to their fans. It was such a fun experience directing this video, the way the girls are in sync with one another is insane. Not your ordinary delivery service: Come along as the girls hand over packages that will take their fans (and some skeptical patrons) on a musical journey.”

Most of the songs on CHAI were written on the road in between shows. “It was actually a chill and relaxed process, because we were playing shows every day and were really in the music,” MANA said in a previous press release.

CHAI includes the previous single “We the Female!,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. When the album was announced they shared its next single, “PARA PARA,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. “Neo Kawaii, K?” was the album’s third single.

The band’s last album, WINK, came out in 2021 via Sub Pop. It was featured on our Top 100 Albums of 2021 list. Read our 2021 interview with CHAI about WINK.

In 2022, the band shared the singles “Surprise” and “My Dream.” They also collaborated with Superorganism on “Hero Journey.”

9. Lydia Loveless: “Poor Boy”

Alternative country singer Lydia Loveless (who uses she/her/they/them pronouns) released a new album, Nothing’s Gonna Stand In My Way Again, today via Bloodshot. On Tuesday they shared its fourth single, “Poor Boy,” via a lyric video, and announced some new tour dates. Check out the tour dates here.

Loveless previously released two songs from Nothing’s Gonna Stand In My Way Again: “Toothache” and “Runaway” (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Then they shared its third single, “Sex and Money,” via a music video.

Check out our 2014 interview with Loveless on her third studio album, Somewhere Else.

10. Viji: “Karaoke”

On Tuesday, London-based Austrian-Brazilian artist Viji (real name Vanilla Jenna) released a new single titled “Karaoke.” The track is taken from her debut album, So Vanilla, and comes on the heels of her fuzz-laden lead single “Sedative.” The new album is due out 27th October via London tastemaker label Speedy Wunderground.

Having previously released music on Dirty Hit, she recently signed to Speedy Wunderground and worked on So Vanilla with four-time Mercury Prize nominated producer and Speedy Wunderground label head, Dan Carey (Fontaines D.C., Kae Tempest, Wet Leg).

Speaking on the track, Viji says in a press release: “‘Karaoke’ is a song that came out of a silly 10-minute jam at the end of a writing session. I remember picking up the bass and just riffing with some filthy low-end sounds. Dan [Carey] felt the magic and we recorded 3 or 4 minutes of us going for it, followed by some guide vocals inspired by shouty Japanese punk songs I like. What the lyrics actually turned into is such a time stamp of what I was going through at that very moment”

The single is accompanied by an eerie new video, Viji continues to say: “The video is a collaboration with director Claryn Chong, who made my sexy nightmares come to life. As an homage to where the album So Vanilla was recorded, we filmed the video on Streatham high street in London. Speedy Wunderground central!” By Andy Von Pip

11. The Polyphonic Spree: “Galloping Seas”

On Tuesday, The Polyphonic Spree officially announced a new album, Salvage Enterprise, and shared its first single, “Galloping Seas.” Salvage Enterprise is the band’s first album of original songs in nine years and is due out November 17 via Good Records Recordings. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

Salvage Enterprise follows 2021’s covers album, Afflatus, and 2014’s Psychphonic, their last album of original songs.

The band is led by Tim DeLaughter, who had this to say about “Galloping Seas” in a press release: “We’re all galloping through rough waters. I tried to describe the process as well as I could and encourage people to keep their heads above the storm and the waves. Ride it out. It’s going to be okay. It starts off very calm and introspective, and you can envision where it’s going.”

DeLaughter describes Salvage Enterprise as a “rising-from-the-ashes record” and had this to say about the album’s sound: “There’s an acoustic current running through the whole body of work, and we tried to embrace it as a thread. It has a lot of space to contemplate what we’re going through. I was very specific on instrumentation. I knew I wanted a cross between a Percy Faith and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young record. With the ability of The Spree to have crescendos, peaks, valleys, we were able to add depth and texture to the classic harmonies and rich folk music.”

Of the album’s lyrics, DeLaughter says: “Across all of the music I’ve done, lyrically there’s a sense of desperation and a moment of convincing myself I’m going to make it through regardless of how the music dresses up. On this one, I struggled with the amount of vulnerability I was experiencing and was willing to share both musically and lyrically, but ultimately decided to let it play out. Now that it’s done, I’m happy with the dance between the two.”

12. Jenny Owen Youngs: “Everglades”

Since her self-released debut, Jenny Owen Youngs has already had a fascinating and wide-ranging career, including soundtrack work for film and TV, pop song co-writes with Pitbull and Panic! At the Disco, and retrospective re-watch podcasts on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files. Amidst all that, she’s also managed to write some great music of her own. Most recently, she released an ambient album this year with John Mark Nelson, OFFAIR: From The Forest Floor. She has also quickly followed that record with Avalanche, her first full-length solo album in almost a decade, which came out today via Yep Roc.

The record encompasses 10 years of reflections on growth, joy, loss, and love, exploring a spectrum of emotions amidst lush and placid instrumental arrangements. Avalanche also sees Youngs work with producer Josh Kaufman (The National, The Hold Steady, Bonny Light Horseman) and recruiting a slate of friends and collaborators, including S. Carey, Madi Diaz, The Antlers’ Peter Silberman, and Christian Lee Hutson.

She has shared the record’s title track already, followed by “Knife Went In” and “It’s Later Than You Think” this summer. On Monday, she was back with her fourth and final single from the record, “Everglades,” premiering with Under the Radar.

“Everglades” was co-written with singer/songwriter Christian Lee Hutson while Youngs was based in LA. As she describes, the track was written in her home studio with a gentle breeze blowing through an open door. The track captures that same sense of effortless, sun-lit tranquility, with Youngs’ vocals dancing above light acoustic tones, shuffling rhythms, and golden-tinged guitar licks. Youngs and Hutson immerse the track in blissful warmth, even as the lyrics reveal darker shades lying beneath the lilting harmonies: “When I was in the Everglades / Caught a lotta shade / Can’t remember everything / I tell the truth but in between / I say a lot of things I don’t mean.”

Youngs explains of the track: “People say there are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. I have discovered through trial and error that further subdivisions can emerge when you’re not entirely honest with yourself. ‘Everglades’ is concerned with the truth, and lies, and whatever grey area might exist in the cracks between the two.”

You can also listen to Youngs’ episode with the Why Not Both podcast here. By Caleb Campbell

13. DJ Shadow: “You Played Me”

DJ Shadow is releasing a new album, Action Adventure, on October 26 via Mass Appeal/Liquid Amber. Today he shared another song from the album, “You Played Me,” via a music video. The Reggies directed the video.

The song started out via 200 tapes of music recorded off the radio in the Baltimore/D.C. area in the ’80s that DJ Shadow got on eBay. From those tapes DJ Shadow created an instrumental track. “I loaded up the instrumental and looped it on my computer to play forever,” he explains in a press release.

Next he began searching for vocals for the song, searching through his record collection. “I dropped the needle on an a cappella of a really obscure R&B 12-inch from around ’84, ’85 and I thought, ‘That actually works.’”

He then tried to find a singer to add guest vocals to the track, before deciding that the original a cappella vocals he added were perfect as is. “It’s an example of one of my favorite aspects of the music I make, which is just 100% serendipity. There are a thousand records sitting next to me that aren’t going to work; the right record got put on at the right moment to change the course of my album. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever made.”

Action Adventure is the follow-up to 2019’s Our Pathetic Age, which was a double album. DJ Shadow began work on the album on January 1, 2022. Previously he shared the album’s first single, “Ozone Scraper.”

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 13.

Duran Duran: “Black Moonlight” (Feat. Nile Rodgers)

Ezra Furman: “You Like Me”

Alex Lahey: “Newsreader”

Sleaford Mods: “Big Pharma”

Voxtrot: “Another Fire”

Faye Webster: “Lifetime”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 13 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

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