13 Best Songs of the Week: Vampire Weekend, Blondshell and Bully, St. Vincent, DIIV, Bnny, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, June 22nd, 2024  

13 Best Songs of the Week: Vampire Weekend, Blondshell and Bully, St. Vincent, DIIV, Bnny, and More

Plus Bernard Butler, Arab Strap, John Cale, Strand of Oaks, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Mar 29, 2024 Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the eleventh Songs of the Week of 2024. This week Andy Von Pip, Caleb Campbell, Marc Abbott, Mark Moody, Matt the Raven, Scott Dransfield, and Stephen Humphries helped me decide what should make the list. It was a strong seven days for new tracks, so we settled on a Top 13 this week, narrowed down from the 24 songs we seriously considered.

In the past few weeks we posted interviews with Chastity Belt, Elbow, Julia Holter, Ride, Slowdive, 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 13 best the last week had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. Vampire Weekend: “Mary Boone”

Vampire Weekend are releasing a new album, Only God Was Above Us, on April 5 via Columbia. This week they shared its fourth single, “Mary Boone.” It features a beat straight out of Primitive Radio Gods’ 1996 hit “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand,” except that it’s actually a sample of the drum loop from Soul II Soul’s 1989 hit “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me).” “Mary Boone” is also backed by a choir. The song is accompanied by a visualizer video featuring the rapper Despot (who, as the song’s press release points out, has never released an album despite releasing his debut single in 2004), driving from New Jersey to Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel.

The song’s namesake, Mary Boone, is an influential art collector in New York City who was dubbed by New York Magazine, in a 1982 cover story on her, “The New Queen of the Art Scene.” In 2019 she was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison because of tax invasion. The song is about someone trying to get their foot in the door in the New York art world.

Previously the band shared its first two singles: “Capricorn” and “Gen-X Cops.” Both songs made our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared its third single, “Classical,” via a music video. “Classical” also landed on our Songs of the Week list.

Vampire Weekend’s tour will feature various support acts, depending on the date, including LA LOM, The English Beat, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Mike Gordon, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Ra Ra Riot, Princess featuring Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum, Cults, a DJ Set By Mark Ronson, Turnstiles (a Billy Joel tribute band), and The Brothers Macklovitch. In select cities they are doing evening shows on a Saturday night, followed by a matinee show the next day. Check out the tour poster below for info on which artist is opening where.

Previously Vampire Weekend shared a trailer for the album, as well as its tracklist and cover artwork.

Only God Was Above Us is the band’s fifth album, their first new album in five years, and the follow-up to Father of the Bride. Father of the Bride was our Album of the Week, it debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart with the largest first week sales for any rock album in 2019, and you can stream it here. It was also nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys.

Vampire Weekend is Ezra Koenig, Chris Baio, and Chris Tomson. Koenig wrote most of the album’s lyrics in 2019 and 2020 and the band have been refining the album since then, recording in various cities around the world, including New York, Los Angeles, London, and Tokyo. Koenig produced the album with longtime collaborator Ariel Rechtshaid and it was mixed by Dave Fridmann and mastered by Emily Lazar.

A press release promises that the album is “direct yet complex, showing the band at once at its grittiest, and also at its most beautiful and melodic.”

The album’s cover artwork also inspired its title. It is a photo taken in 1988 by Steven Siegel at a subway graveyard in New Jersey. In the photo is a man sitting in a turned over subway car, reading the May 1, 1988 edition of The New York Daily News. The cover of the newspaper details an airplane accident on Aloha Airlines flight 243, when an explosion tore the roof off. The headline of the newspaper quotes a survivor saying, “Only God was above us,” which is now the title of the new album.

We were the first nationally distributed print magazine to interview Vampire Weekend, way back in 2007, and you can revisit that article here.

2. Blondshell: “Docket” (Feat. Bully)

This week, Blondshell (aka Sabrina Teitelbaum) teamed up with Bully (aka Alicia Bognanno) for the new song, “Docket.” The single is out now via Partisan.

Teitelbaum had this to say about the song in a press release: “For me this is a song about splitting off from yourself. It’s about uncertainty when you’re in different environments all the time. In a way it’s about wanting to cope with distance and change but it’s also just a bit about being reckless.

“I had space on this song for another person and I kept hearing Bully’s voice on it. I’m a huge fan of hers and when I was touring last summer I couldn’t stop listening to her album. Honestly when we were sitting in the studio and I heard her voice coming through I was just kind of shocked and in awe of her. I’m really happy she said yes to making the song with me.”

Bognanno had this to say: “I’m a huge fan of Sabrina, I think she is incredible and I was over the moon that she asked me to be a part of her song. It makes me really happy seeing so many musicians in our indie world supporting and admiring one another. So thank you Sabrina and special shout out to her dog who I am a massive fan of as well.”

Blondshell released her self-titled debut album last year via Partisan. It was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2023 and includes the song “Salad,” which was one of our Songs of the Week and which she performed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Pick up our last print issue (Issue 71) to read our exclusive interview with Blondshell. Read our review of her album here.

Bully’s most recent album, Lucky For You, also came out last year, via Sub Pop. It was also one of our Top 100 Albums of 2023. She recently shared the new song, “Atom Bomb.”

3. St. Vincent: “Flea” (Feat. Dave Grohl)

St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) is releasing a new album, All Born Screaming, on April 26 via Virgin Music Group. This week he shared its second single, “Flea,” which features Dave Grohl on drums and Justin Meldal-Johnsen on bass. She has also announced some new North American tour dates.

Previously St. Vincent shared the album’s first single, “Broken Man,” via a music video. It was one of our Songs of the Week.

Clark self-produced the album, which was mixed by Cian Riordan. The album also features contributions from Cate Le Bon, Rachel Eckroth, Josh Freese, Mark Guiliana, Stella Mogzawa, and David Ralicke.

Clark somewhat cryptically had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “There are some places, emotionally, that you can only get to by taking the long walk into the woods alone—to find out what your heart is really saying. It sounds real because it is real.”

All Born Screaming follows 2021’s Daddy’s Home (which had a 1970s vibe) and MASSEDUCTION (which made it to #3 on our Top 100 Albums of 2017 list).

4. DIIV: “Everyone Out”

DIIV are releasing a new album, Frog in Boiling Water, on May 24 via Fantasy. This week they shared the album’s third single, “Everyone Out.”

The band collectively had this to say about the track in a press release: “[‘Everyone Out’] utilizes a softer and more textural sonic pallet: acoustic instruments, layered tape loops and synthesizers. The song is emotional and intimate, and could be interpreted as either hopeful or cynical. It may or may not be a character study centering around a quick transition from youthful naivety to bitter disillusionment. This loss of hope may be manifest in a desire to leave society completely or to accelerate its collapse. Or maybe both, or neither.”

Previously the band shared the album’s lead single, “Brown Paper Bag,” which was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared a video for “Brown Paper Bag” in which the band has a fake performance on Saturday Night Live. The video also features Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit. They also announced some new tour dates. The band also shared a video for “Soul Net.” The band originally shared the audio of the song last October exclusively via a strange website of the same name, but more recently they shared a video of the song to YouTube.

DIIV is Andrew Bailey, Colin Caulfield, Ben Newman, and Zachary Cole Smith. Frog in Boiling Water is the follow-up to Deceiver, which came out in 2019 via Captured Tracks. It’s been five years since that album and DIIV spent four of those making the new record, a process that a press release says almost broke the band as they strived to push their sound. This is also the first album where the band acted as a democracy. “This journey left their relationships with one another fraying, with the many complex dynamics of family, friendship and finances entangled, coupled with suspicions, resentments, bruised egos and anxious questions,” stated the press release announcing the album.

The album’s title was inspired by Daniel Quinn’s 1996 philosophical novel The Story of B. The band collectively explained more about the title in the previous press release: “If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.

“We understand the metaphor to be one about a slow, sick, and overwhelmingly banal collapse of society under end-stage capitalism, the brutal realities we’ve maybe come to accept as normal. That’s the boiling water and we are the frogs. The album is more or less a collection of snapshots from various angles of our modern condition which we think highlights what this collapse looks like and, more particularly, what it feels like.”

Read our 2016 interview with DIIV.

5. Bernard Butler: “Camber Sands”

Bernard Butler was the guitarist in Britpop legends Suede on their first two albums and was also in McAlmont & Butler, among other projects, but this week he announced his first new solo album in 25 years, Good Grief, and shared its first single, “Camber Sands.” Good Grief is due out May 31 via 355 Recordings. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

In 2022, Butler teamed up with acclaimed actress Jessie Buckley for the album, For All Our Days That Tear The Heart. He was a founding member of Suede and played on 1993’s self-titled debut and 1994’s all-time classic Dog Man Star (as well as their many amazing B-sides of the era). After leaving Suede he released two albums as part of the musical duo McAlmont & Butler alongside singer David McAlmont. In 2004 Butler reunited with Suede’s Brett Anderson to form The Tears, who released one album, 2005’s Here Come the Tears. He’s also worked as a producer with a variety of artists. But Butler has only ever released two solo albums, 1998’s People Move On and 1999’s Friends and Lovers.

Butler had this to say about the album in a statement: “For a good while, I was scarred, and I was scared. I was happily distracted and joyously involved with so much music. I realized just being there was more than I had ever hoped for. I gave a lot to other people but realized that my story was defined by what I was, rather than what I am. I set myself a modest commercial goal, an expectant creative one: Perform to 10 people without being bottled, then find 11 the next night. Thus began the undoing of my own embarrassment. I would write as I thought and sing as I wrote until the bottles fly. And so the songs arrived.

“For years and years, I have drawn straight lines from North London to every coastline I could see. To life-worn Londoners, escape is the dream and return most likely. The story I found was not the sea but the journey. Camber Sands, Mersea Island, Dunwich, or a dozen more horizons of possibility, the sea and the seawalls, and the endless return to face the city. ‘Camber Sands’ is a love song—we flee the past, the present, ourselves, to survive, to defy. The loneliest music of the resolute, the half-light, and the saddest tunes.”

6. Bnny: “Something Blue”

Bnny, the band led by Jessica Viscius, are releasing a new album, One Million Love Songs, on April 5 via Fire Talk. Thus week the Chicago-based quintet have shared two new songs from it, “Something Blue” and “Changes.” “Something Blue” was our favorite of the two.

Viscius produced the album, which was recorded at Asheville’s Drop of Sun Studios with Alex Farrar (Wednesday, Indigo de Souza). One Million Love Songs is Bnny’s second album and follows their 2021 debut, Everything.

“I wanted to make songs that are exciting to play—songs that make me feel happy,” Viscius says in a press release. “This album is about love after loss, getting older, and just trying to have fun with a broken heart.”

Previously Bnny shared the album’s “Crazy, Baby” and “Good Stuff.”

7. Arab Strap: “Strawberry Moon”

Scottish duo Arab Strap (Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton) are releasing a new album, I’m totally fine with it don’t give a fuck anymore, on May 10 via Rock Action. This week they shared its third single, “Strawberry Moon,” via a horror-themed music video.

Moffat had this to say about “Strawberry Moon” in a press release: “Lyrically, it’s maybe the most personal song on the album. About a period when I wasn’t doing very well, both mentally and physically. I was walking with a cane and in pain most of the time, and drowning my sorrows too, trapped at home and watching the phases of the moon through a window. The moon always seems to pop up in my lyrics, and the song’s a sort of secular hymn in praise of her constant change. She’s always a comfort, always hopeful, and always makes me smile.”

David Arthur directed the video (Moffat previously worked with him on the film Where You’re Meant to Be) and it’s the first Arab Strap video in almost 25 years to feature both members together. “Aye, it’s been a while,” Moffat confirms. “So we thought we should go all out—costumes, make-up, special effects, acting, mobility scooter, and all.”

Previously Arab Strap shared the album’s first single, “Bliss,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its second single, “Allatonceness.”

I’m totally fine with it don’t give a fuck anymore is supposed to be written with two yellow thumbs up emojis, one between “it” and “don’t” and another at the end of the title, but for technical reasons we can’t include the emojis on our website.

The album follows their 2021 comeback album, As Days Get Dark, and their 2022 single, “Aphelion.”

As Days Get Dark was Arab Strap’s first album in almost 16 years (stream it here). Also, read our review of the album and our My Firsts interview with Middleton. The album made our Top 100 Albums of 2021 list.

The band’s album before As Days Get Dark was 2005’s The Last Romance. Arab Strap were interviewed in Under the Radar’s very first print issue in 2001, for The Red Thread, an album released the same year.

Arab Strap recently did a tour in honor of the 25th anniversary of their 1998 album Philophobia, but are looking forward to performing the more energetic songs from the new album. “The [Philophobia] tour’s been fun, but I’ll be glad it’s over so we can move on,” says Middleton.

Moffat adds: “The Philophobia gigs have been a way of saying goodbye to the old us. It was a very gentle, quiet tour, so I expect this year we’ll just be playing banger after banger—I think we’ve earned the right to make some noise now.”

8. John Cale: “How We See the Light”

This week, John Cale announced a new album, POPtical Illusion, and shared its first single, “How We See the Light,” via a music video. POPtical Illusion is due out June 14 via Double Six/Domino. Pepi Ginsberg directed the “How We See the Light” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

POPtical Illusion is the quick follow-up to MERCY, which was his first new album in a decade and was released in January 2023 via Double Six/Domino. That album featured a slew of notable collaborators, including Weyes Blood, Animal Collective, Sylvan Esso, Laurel Halo, Tei Shi, Fat White Family, and Actress. MERCY was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2023. A press release points out that POPtical Illusion “is not at all MERCY II, or some collection of castoffs.”

Cale produced the new album with longtime artistic partner Nita Scott in his Los Angeles studio. Cale was a founding member of the legendary ’60s band The Velvet Underground, but has often sought to push his music into the future, rather than reveling in past glories.

Read our 2023 interview with John Cale on MERCY.

Read our review of MERCY.

9. Strand of Oaks: “More You”

This week, Strand of Oaks (the project of Timothy Showalter) announced a new album, Miracle Focus, and shared its first single, “More You,” via a music video. Miracle Focus is due out June 7 via Western Vinyl. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

Miracle Focus follows 2021’s In Heaven and 2019’s acclaimed Eraserland. The album was recorded with producer Kevin Ratterman, which marks Showalter’s third collaboration with Ratterman. Showalter made the album while also making his acting debut, starring as a villainous biker on two seasons of the FX show Mayans M.C., which was shot in Los Angeles, while he would fly home to Austin to work on the album.

A press release says the new album was influenced by “Ram Dass, yoga, Freddie Mercury, Alice Coltrane, and the Beastie Boys.”

“Every moment on Miracle Focus is a piece of the architecture that fits together to form a temple of peace in my life,” says Showalter in a press release. “Acceptance of who you are, gratitude of being part of a connected universe, and ultimately I hope it creates one hell of a dance party.”

Read our 2019 My Firsts interview with Strand of Oaks.

Read our 2019 interview with Strand of Oaks on Easerland.

Read our 2020 COVID-19 Quarantine Check-In interview with Strand of Oaks.

Read our My Favorite Album interview with Strand of Oaks.

10. Still Corners: “Today is the Day”

Dream-pop duo Still Corners are releasing a new album, Dream Talk, on April 5 via the band’s own Wrecking Light label. This week shared the album’s fourth single, “Today is the Day,” via a music video.

Still Corners are the American/British duo of Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray.

Murray had this to say about the new song in a press release: “You have all sorts of connections with songs you write but some seem to connect on a deeper level for whatever reason and this song does that for us. I think there were two sides to this song, one is that we wanted to say something about seizing the moment as life is precious and tomorrow is not promised and that is echoed in the chorus, Today is the Day etc. On the other side there’s this connection to nature and that’s peppered throughout the lyrics as well. Yeats once said, ‘The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.’ I really believe that and when we were out filming this video by all the trees and birds and just hearing that acoustic guitar out there, it felt ancient and old and it was something I had to be reminded of. Sitting there by the brook I thought maybe I’ll be lucky and catch a glimpse of something deeper.”

Still Corners previously shared the album’s first single, “Secret World,” which was one of my Songs of the Week. Then they shared the album’s second single, “The Dream,” via a self-directed music video. “The Dream” was also one of our Songs of the Week. The album’s third single was “Crystal Blue.”

The band’s last album, The Last Exit, came out earlier in 2021. It was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021.

Murray had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “The genesis for a lot of these songs came from dreams. Every night I would write down the dreams I could remember. While recording I would pull out my book of dreams and sing over various looped phrases Greg had been working on. The repetitive nature of the looping and singing almost felt like going into a trance. A lot of the songs came from that process, it was fun and what I thought were sort of ramblings ended up surprising us with their various meanings and imagery.”

The album was written in the south of France, East Sussex, UK, and Woodstock, New York.

“The songs came together quickly and being able to write from anywhere kept up our momentum,” said Murray.

Hughes produced Dream Talk at the band’s studio in Woodstock. He said: “We tried various things like different mics, amps and effects before committing to anything. Everything was mixed analog through our new SSL console, there’s a gleam to the sound.”

In 2016 Murray wrote a My Inner Geek guest blog post for us about Star Trek: The Next Generation and you can read that here.

11. Crumb: “AMAMA”

This week, New York City-based quartet Crumb announced a new album, AMAMA, and shared its title track via a music video. AMAMA will be released on May 17 via the band’s own label, Crumb Records. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Crumb features singer and multi-instrumentalist Lila Ramani, keyboardist, and saxophonist Bri Aronow, bassist Jesse Brotter, and drummer Jonathan Gilad. The band recorded the album in Los Angeles and produced it alongside Johnscott Sanford and Jonathan Rado. AMAMA is the band’s third album, following 2021’s Ice Melt and 2019’s Jinx.

Ramani had this to say about the new song in a press release: “‘AMAMA’ is dedicated to my namesake, my grandmother, whose voice is sampled throughout the song. A video sent to me over WhatsApp of her singing originally inspired the melody and ethos of the song, from which I built its glitchy, warped foundation. It’s a love song! My partner and Crumb’s creative director [Abraham El Makawy] directed the video, which combines his family’s archival footage of the neighborhood we grew up in, home videos from the band, as well as drawings from 702 fans who helped us animate the last part of the video. The song is the title track and spiritual center of our new album.”

12. Jessica Pratt: “World on a String”

Jessica Pratt is releasing a new album, Here in the Pitch, on May 3 via Mexican Summer. This week she has shared the album’s second single, “World on a String,” via a music video. Fellow musician Kate Bollinger directed the song’s video.

“On this track I was influenced by the swaying, naive brilliance of ‘lost’ teenage garage rock bands, as well as enduring loves like The Nazz and Guided By Voices,” Pratt says in a press release. “Record the song moments after you’ve learned it on an instrument you’ve just picked up. Oftentimes, that’s all you need.”

Bollinger had this to say about the video: “Making this video with Jessica was a dream art project. We emailed for days, eventually landing on a mondo style march-of-the-pagan village meets field of freaks. We brought in many friends from Los Angeles: two DPs, 20 cast members, and a production designer. It was a big group effort and a day I’ll always remember.”

Previously Pratt shared the album’s first single, “Life Is,” via a music video. “Life Is” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Here in the Pitch is the follow-up to 2019’s Quiet Signs. The Los Angeles-based musician once again recorded at Gary’s Electric Studio in Brooklyn. She worked with previous collaborators, multi-instrumentalist/engineer Al Carlson and keyboardist Matt McDermott. Bassist Spencer Zahn and percussionist Mauro Refosco (David Byrne, Atoms for Peace) also took part in the sessions. Ryley Walker, Peter Mudge (Mac Miller, J.I.D.), and Alex Goldberg all also contributed to the album.

“I became obsessed with figures emblematic of the dark side of the Californian dream while making this record,” Pratt said of Here in the Pitch in a previous press release.

Pratt recorded the album over a three-year period, from 2020 to 2023. Of the five-year gap between albums, she said: “I never wanted it to take this long. I’m just a real perfectionist. I was just trying to get the right feeling, and it takes a long time to do that.”

The previous press release compared the album’s first single, and opening track, “Life Is,” to The Walker Brothers’ 1960s orchestral pop classic “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,” but Pratt warned it’s not exactly representative of the album as a whole, which is starker.

“In a way, it’s kind of a false flag,” Pratt admitted. “But I also feel like it’s a statement of intention.”

Read our interview with Jessica Pratt on Quiet Signs.

13. Mdou Moctar: “Imouhar”

Nigerien quartet Mdou Moctar are releasing a new album, Funeral for Justice, on May 3 via Matador. This week they shared its second single, “Imouhar,” via a music video. Lauren Greenhall directed the video.

The band belong to the Tuareg people and the song asks the Tuareg people to preserve their Tamasheq language, as it is in danger of dying out. Mdou Moctar shares its name with its lead singer and guitarist and he is one of the last people in his community who knows how to write in the language. In a press release, Moctar says: “People here are just using French. They’re starting to forget their own language. We feel like in a hundred years no one will speak good Tamasheq, and that’s so scary for us.”

The band have performed “Imouhar” live before and a different version of the song, a 13-minute instrumental version featuring a drum machine, was released on 2022’s Niger EP Vol. 1.

Previously the band shared the album’s title track, via a music video.

Funeral for Justice follows the band’s 2021 album, Afrique Victime.

In a previous press release, Moctar said the new album is inspired by the troubling political climate in Niger. “This album is really different for me. Now the problems of terrorist violence are more serious in Africa. When the U.S. and Europe came here, they said they’re going to help us, but what we see is really different. They never help us to find a solution.”

Producer and bassist Mikey Coltun said: “Mdou Moctar has been a strong anti-colonial band ever since I’ve been a part of it. France came in, fucked up the country, then said ‘you’re free.’ And they’re not.”

Speaking of the band’s progression, Coltun added: “Ilana was the gateway album, saying that this is a raw rock band. And Afrique Victime was a summation of that vision. With Funeral for Justice, I really wanted this to shine with the political message because of everything that’s going on. As the band got tighter and heavier live, it made sense to capture this urgency and this aggression—it wasn’t a forced thing, it was very natural.”

Read our interview with Mdou Moctar on Afrique Victime.

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 13. Fat White Family, Hovvdy, Local Natives, Pond, and Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings all came the closest to making the main list.

Marina Allen: “Red Cloud”

American Culture: “Survive”

Bored At My Grandma’s House: “How Do You See the World?”

EELS: “Goldy”

Fat White Family: “What’s That You Say”

Lucy Gaffney: “Forgive to Forget”

Hiatus Kaiyote: “Everything’s Beautiful”

Hovvdy: “Make Ya Proud”

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings: “Don’t Wanna Lose You”

Local Natives: “April”

Pond: “(I’m) Stung”

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

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