14 Best Songs of the Week: The War on Drugs, Hatchie, Sam Evian, Magdalena Bay, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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14 Best Songs of the Week: The War on Drugs, Hatchie, Sam Evian, Magdalena Bay, and More

Plus Tonstartssbandht, Snail Mail, My Morning Jacket, Coco, Ducks Ltd., and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Sep 17, 2021 Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the 35th Songs of the Week of 2021. It was a blockbuster week for new songs, with lots of strong contenders. We tried to show a bit of restraint and keep it to an already over-stuffed Top 12, but then we just went for it with a Top 14. I mean, whose going to tell us we can’t pick 14 favorite songs? It’s our website and we have no corporate overlords.

In the last week we posted interviews with Madi Diaz and José González.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 14 best the last week had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last seven days. Check out the full list below.

1. The War on Drugs: “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” (Feat. Lucius)

The War on Drugs are releasing a new album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, on October 29 via Atlantic. On Wednesday they shared its second single, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore,” which features backing vocals from Lucius and has a big bold 1980s rock sound. It was shared via an Emmett Malloy-directed video that features the band performing the song on a rooftop with the downtown Los Angeles skyline behind them (which is also very 1980s), among other things.

Previously The War on Drugs shared the album’s first single, album opener “Living Proof,” via a video for it. “Living Proof” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they remotely performed “Living Proof” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

I Don’t Live Here Anymore is the follow-up to 2017’s A Deeper Understanding (which won the 2018 Grammy for Best Rock Album and was our #1 album of 2017), although in 2020 they released a live album, simply titled LIVE DRUGS, via frontman Adam Granduciel’s own Super High Quality Records.

Sessions for the album began in early 2018, when Granduciel, bassist Dave Hartley, and multi-instrumentalist Anthony LaMarca recorded some demos in Upstate New York, including early versions of some of the songs on I Don’t Live Here Anymore. But the album was recorded during more than 12 sessions, in seven studios (including Electric Lady in New York and Los Angeles’ Sound City), and over three years, with co-producer/engineer Shawn Everett helping to guide the ship. “Living Proof” was recorded in May 2019 at Los Angeles’ Electro-Vox studios with the band’s entire lineup—with the aforementioned members joined by keyboardist Robbie Bennett, drummer Charlie Hall, and saxophonist Jon Natchez. A press release says that Granduciel puts War on Drugs records together “like a kind of rock ‘n’ roll jigsaw puzzle.”

Read our review of A Deeper Understanding here.

Read our interview with the band about making A Deeper Understanding.

Read our interview with Adam Granduciel on recording A Deeper Understanding.

2. Hatchie: “This Enchanted”

On Tuesday Hatchie, the dream pop project of Australian musician Harriette Pilbeam, shared a new song, “This Enchanted,” via a video for it. It is her first single for Secretly Canadian and her signing with the label was also announced on Tuesday. “This Enchanted” again finds Hatchie ably putting a modern spin on early ’90s shoegaze music, producing a song that’s at once pleasing to old school fans of the genre but is also accessible to contemporary listeners with no proven affinity for shoegazers. The video finds Pilbeam wandering around a city at night while wearing angel wings, as well as showing her performing the song with her band.

“This Enchanted” is Hatchie’s first single since the 2019 release of her acclaimed debut album, Keepsake, which came out via Double Double Whammy. The song came together in February 2020, while Pilbeam and her romantic partner, and Hatchie guitarist, Joe Agius (who also releases music as RINSE) were writing in Los Angeles and working with producer Jorge Elbrecht (Sky Ferreira, Japanese Breakfast, Wild Nothing).

Pilbeam had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘This Enchanted’ encapsulates everything I wanted to do moving forward from my first album. I started writing it with Jorge and Joe in February 2020 and completed it from afar in lockdown later in the year. We had been talking about making something dancey but shoegaze.

“It’s one of the more lighthearted, lyrically vague songs of my new recordings about falling in love; it’s not a perfect relationship, but you’re enthralled by one another and it’s an easy love. It’s one of the most fun songs I’ve written, so it was a no-brainer to pick it as my first solo release in almost two years. It feels so right to be working with a label as exciting as Secretly as I step into new territory with Hatchie. I’ve been counting down the days until its release for a long time.”

Read our rave 8.5/10 review of Keepsake here.

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

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

3. Sam Evian: “Time to Melt”

Sam Evian is releasing a new album, Time to Melt, on October 29 via Fat Possum. On Monday he shared its second single, title track “Time to Melt,” via a trippy video for it. John TerEick directed the video, in which Evian meets an alien in the woods. It was filmed in the woods near Evian’s house.

Evian had this to say about the song in a press release: “If you’re familiar with tarot, I think of it as pulling the death card in a positive way. It’s like facing the idea of death, which I think everyone thought about a lot this past year, maybe more than usual collectively.”

He had this to add about the video: “I met a lonely alien in the woods and they taught me a jig. As the night went on they convinced me to try huffing some special kind of bug spray, which opened a wormhole vortex to another dimension.”

Previously Evian shared Time to Melt’s first single, “Knock Knock,” via a video for it. “Knock Knock” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Evian recorded the album in his own studio, Flying Cloud Recordings, in a Catskills town in Upstate New York, where he lives with his romantic partner, fellow musician Hannah Cohen after decamping from New York City. The album was recorded during the pandemic and it features Cohen, as well as remote contributions from Spencer Tweedy, Chris Bear, and Jon Natchez (The War on Drugs).

Evian’s last album was 2018’s You, Forever.

On tour Evian will be joined by Brian Betancourt (bass), Michael Coleman (keys), Sean Mullins (drums), and Liam Kazar (guitar, synths).

4. Magdalena Bay: “You Lose”

Los Angeles-based electro-pop duo Magdalena Bay (aka Mica Tenenbaum and Matthew Lewin) are releasing their debut full-length album, Mercurial World, on October 8 via Luminelle. On Wednesday they shared its third single, “You Lose!,” via an amusing video that features the band having a series of unfortunate events, such as losing the ice cream off a cone or running out of toilet paper.

In a joint press release statement the band say the new single is “about trying to be a musician and feeling like time for success is always running out. It’s definitely melodramatic, describing ourselves as aging and nearing death, but sometimes it really feels that way.”

Previously the band shared the album’s first single, “Chaeri,” via a video. “Chaeri” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its second single, “Secrets (Your Fire),” via a fun video that features the band getting sucked into a computer. “Secrets (Your Fire)” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

Mercurial World is the follow-up to 2020’s A Little Rhythm and a Wicked Feeling EP. The band wrote, produced, and recorded the album themselves.

“We spend all of our time together, and in some ways Mercurial World is about that particular sense of madness in containment,” Lewin said in a previous press release. “We live together and make art together; this immerses you in our creative, insular universe.”

5. Tonstartssbandht: “What Has Happened”

This week Tonstartssbandht (the brother duo of Edwin and Andy White) announced the release of their 18th album, Petunia, which will be out on October 22 via Mexican Summer. They subsequently shared a Case Mahan-directed video for the album’s lead single, “What Has Happened.” Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Mahan states in a press release regarding the new video: “We shot a couple hundred feet of Super 8 in the hot Orlando sun. That nocturnal bird that showed up midday gave us permission to film a heavy subject on a beautiful afternoon. Not premeditated, everything seemed to fall into place much like the band’s performances that are sometimes seemingly improvised.”

The vast majority of Petunia was written and recorded by the duo at their home studio in Orlando between April and August 2020. It was mixed by Joseph Santarpia and Roberto Pagano at The Idiot Room in San Francisco.

The band’s previous album, Sorcerer, came out in 2017 via Mexican Summer. By Joey Arnone

6. My Morning Jacket: “Love Love Love”

My Morning Jacket are releasing a new self-titled album on October 22 via ATO. On Tuesday they shared its second single, “Love Love Love,” which features a simple but universal message: “The more you give yeah/The more you get now/Go tell it to the world.” It was shared via a vibrant George Mays-directed video.

Previously My Morning Jacket shared the album’s first single, “Regularly Scheduled Programming,” via a video for it. “Regularly Scheduled Programming” also made our Songs of the Week list.

My Morning Jacket’s frontman Jim James had this to say about “Love Love Love” in a press release: “‘Love Love Love’ is trying to steer the ship away from everything I’m talking about in ‘Regularly Scheduled Programming,’ and speak toward positivity and pure love, finding truth within yourself and in the world around you.”

James produced and engineered My Morning Jacket over two multi-week sessions at Los Angeles, CA’s 64 Sound. A press release says that the band almost called it quits prior to recording the album, but were inspired by performing four shows in summer 2019, in particular two nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, that encouraged them to make a new album and keep going as a band.

“I hope this album brings people a lot of joy and relief, especially since we’ve all been cooped up for so long,” said James in a previous press release. “I know that feeling you get from driving around blasting music you love, or even lying in bed and crying to the music you love. The fact that we’re able to be a part of people’s lives in that way is so magical to us, and it feels really good that we’re still around to keep doing that.”

My Morning Jacket released a new album, The Waterfall II, just last year via ATO after announcing it only a few days earlier. The album was the long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s The Waterfall and was recorded at the same time as that album. When The Waterfall was released it was said to be part one of a two-part album and five years later they delivered on that promise. While no pre-release singles from the album were shared, when the album was released “Feel You” and “Wasted” both made our Songs of the Week list.

My Morning Jacket are currently on their first full on headline tour in five years. The band are partnering with PLUS1 so that $1.00 from every ticket “will go to support non-profits working for environmental justice, racial equity, and securing access to mental health care for all.”

In 2019, James released The Order of Nature, a new live album recorded with The Louisville Orchestra in collaboration with conductor/arranger/composer Teddy Abrams, via Decca Gold.

Read our interview with Jim James on the 2018 midterm elections.

Read our review of The Waterfall.

Read our interview with My Morning Jacket on The Waterfall.

7. Snail Mail: “Valentine”

On Wednesday Snail Mail (aka Lindsey Jordan) announced the release of her sophomore studio album, Valentine, which will be out on November 5 via Matador. Jordan also shared a new Josh Coll-directed video for the album’s title track and announced a new 2021/2022 tour. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the list of tour dates, here. The video is age restricted and can only be watched on YouTube, so we’ve also included the basic audio of the song.

Jordan speaks about the new album in a press release, stating: “I wanted to take as much time as possible with this record to make sure I was happy with every detail before unleashing it unto y’all. Referring to the process as the deepest level of catharsis and therapy I have ever experienced would be a huge understatement. Valentine is my child!”

She adds, regarding the “Valentine” video: “It was so rewarding concocting this video alongside the brilliant Josh Coll! Watching a few perverse images in my head metamorphose into this gorgeous storyline and eventually into a tangible visual was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. We connected over a mutual interest in the intersection between terror and devastating beauty. But also Tim and Eric and watered down ginger ale, which I had to drink a shocking amount of in those drink-bombing scenes.”

Valentine was written and produced by Jordan and co-produced by Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Waxahatchee). Jordan’s debut album as Snail Mail, Lush, came out in 2018.

Read our interview with Snail Mail on Lush. By Joey Arnone

8. Coco: “Come Along”

This week Coco, a trio consisting of Maia Freedman (Dirty Projectors), Dan Molad (Lucius), and Oliver Hill (Pavo Pavo), shared a video for their new single titled “Come Along.” It is the latest release from their forthcoming self-titled debut studio album, which will be out on October 29 via First City Artists/Awal.

The band states in a press release: “The skeleton of ‘Come Along’ was recorded live, all together, with Oliver on guitar, Maia on drums, and Danny on bass. The underlying chord loop plays throughout as other instruments are weaved in one by one, picking up momentum and rolling forward as everything joins in harmony. The video mimics the song in this way, portraying our individual days-in-the-life with each of us filming one another on handheld camcorders. The day culminates in our first performance together as Coco, at a house show in Oliver’s garage with our friends as backing band. When it all came together we were pleased with the juxtaposition of the comically low fidelity and fast-paced editing, like a homemade action movie. Just as releasing music anonymously felt natural in 2020, it now feels natural to share ourselves and delight in the connection we make with our listeners.”

Last year, Dirty Projectors shared an EP anthology album, 5EPs, via Domino. By Joey Arnone

9. Still Corners: “Heavy Days”

On Tuesday Still Corners shared a new single titled “Heavy Days.” The duo also announced a new 2022 U.S. tour in tandem with a set of rescheduled Europe dates. Check out the tour dates here.

Frontwoman Tessa Murray talks about the new song in a press release, stating: “Sometimes it all feels like too much, there’s a lot to take in reading the news all the time. We wanted to write a reminder to put the phone down now and again and get out there and live life to the fullest while you can.”

The band’s most recent album, The Last Exit, came out earlier this year on their own Wrecking Light label. By Joey Arnone

10. Ducks Ltd.: “Under the Rolling Moon” (Feat. The Beths)

Toronto-based duo Ducks Ltd. are releasing their debut full-length album, Modern Fiction, on October 1 via Carpark. On Tuesday they shared its third single, “Under the Rolling Moon,” which features backing vocals from labelmates The Beths. It was shared via a video featuring the band in a Hearse in the desert. Ambar Navarro and Max Flick directed the video and they were aiming for the feel of a low to mid budget video from 1985, such as some of the videos by The Cure.

The band features Evan Lewis on lead guitar and Tom McGreevy on vocals and rhythm guitar.

“‘Under the Rolling Moon’ is about trying to be there for a friend who is in a moment of crisis,” says McGreevy in a press release. “Some of the frustration maybe of witnessing someone else’s extremely recognizable self-defeating behavior, but mostly just the feeling of caring for them, knowing they can be ok and hoping that they can find their way to seeing that.”

Previously the band shared its first single, “18 Cigarettes,” via a video for it. “18 Cigarettes” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its second single, “How Lonely Are You?,” which features labelmates The Beths. “How Lonely Are You?” also landed on our Songs of the Week list.

Modern Fiction follows their Get Bleak EP, which was originally put out in 2019 and given an expanded reissue by Carpark this past May. It included the new song, “As Big As All Outside.”

Producer James Cecil (The Goon Sax, Architecture in Helsinki) put finishing touches on the album and Carpark labelmates The Beths did backing harmonies on three of the album’s songs. “18 Cigarettes” features Eliza Neimi on cello.

11. Absolutely Free: “Remaining Light”

Toronto’s Absolutely Free are releasing a new album, Aftertouch, on September 24 via Boiled Records. This week they shared its second single, the Pink Floyd-esque “Remaining Light.”

The band collectively had this to say about the new single in a press release: “‘Remaining Light’ expresses the frustration felt towards invincible and corrupt institutions that uphold structural inequities, including police brutality and manufactured poverty experienced primarily by racialized communities. Written during a heat wave in the summer of 2016, the song dishearteningly remains as relevant as ever today.”

Previously Absolutely Free shared the album’s first single, “How to Paint Clouds,” via a video for it made via an AI system.

Aftertouch is the band’s first full-length album in seven years. Jorge Elbrecht produced the album, which a press release describes as such: “Culling from a myriad of influences that span Krautrock, New Wave, the proliferation of international psychedelic and funk compilations, and early forms of electronic dance music, Absolutely Free has created a patina of disparate but harmonic styles distinctly its own.”

Aftertouch follows the band’s excellent 2019 EP, Geneva Freeport. That EP’s first single, “Currency (Extended Mix),” which featured U.S. Girls (aka Meghan Remy), was one of our Songs of the Week. Its title track also made our Songs of the Week list, as did “The Endless Scroll.”

Absolutely Free haven’t released a full-length album since their 2014-released self-titled debut album. The band’s core lineup is Moshe Fisher-Rozenberg, Michael Claxton, and Matt King.

12. Makthaverskan: “This Time”

This week Swedish post-punk band Makthaverskan announced the release of their fourth studio album, För Allting, which will be out on November 12 via Run For Cover. They also shared the album’s lead single, “This Time.” Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

För Allting features production by Hannes Ferm (HOLY), as well as the incorporation of drum machines and synthesizers, something previously not used by the band. Guitarist Hugo Randulv states in a press release: “When we started the songwriting process for this album, I think we all were pretty determined to take the music in a new direction. Not necessarily that we would sound ‘different,’ but to work on the songs using somewhat different methods than before. For our previous albums, we wrote the songs in our rehearsal space and pretty much recorded them the way they were. For this album, we intended the songs to be finalized in the studio and left some more room to work with.”

The band’s most recent album, III, came out in 2017 via Luxury/Run For Cover. By Joey Arnone

13. Marissa Nadler: “If I Could Breathe Underwater” (Feat. Mary Lattimore)

Marissa Nadler is releasing a new album, The Path of the Clouds, on October 29 via Sacred Bones and Bella Union. On Tuesday she shared its second single, “If I Could Breathe Underwater,” via a video for the song that fittingly features Nadler underwater. The song features harp playing from Mary Lattimore, a longtime friend of Nadler’s. Jenni Hensler directed the video, which was partially shot with 16mm film camera.

Nadler had this to say in a press release: “When I wrote ‘If I Could Breathe Underwater,’ I was contemplating the possibilities of possessing various superhuman powers: teleportation, shapeshifting, energy projection, aquatic breathing, extrasensory perception, and time travel to name a few. As a lyrical device, I married those powers with events in my life, wondering if and how they could change the past or predict the future. I loved working on the melody for this song and bringing the choruses to their climaxes. Mary’s layered, hallucinatory shimmers really echo the netherworld of the story.”

Hensler had this to say about the video: “This song took on many meanings to me and I love that about it. How beauty and tragedy collide. Dreaming of having supernatural powers to change reality and have the ability to live and breathe underwater. It could also speak to the duality of existence. That we all have inner personas or shadow selves, and how we envision those different masks we wear. I chose to make something that touched on the idea of duality and the inner persona. To connect to the two worlds.”

Previously Nadler shared the album’s first single, “Bessie, Did You Make It?,” via a video for it. “Bessie, Did You Make It?” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Nadler wrote and recorded the album during the pandemic and was partially inspired by binging reruns of Unsolved Mysteries as she “began to notice parallels between many of its stories and her own life,” as a press release puts it. On The Path of the Clouds she worked with various collaborators, including Mary Lattimore, Simon Raymonde (of Cocteau Twins and Lost Horizons and the head of Bella Union), multi-instrumentalist Milky Burgess, Jesse Chandler (Nadler’s piano teacher and a member of Mercury Rev and Midlake), Emma Ruth Rundle, and Black Mountain’s Amber Webber. Seth Manchester (Lingua Ignota, Battles, and Lightning Bolt) mixed the album.

Nadler’s last album was 2018’s For My Crimes.

14. Dean Wareham: “Cashing In”

Dean Wareham (of Luna, Galaxie 500, and Dean & Britta) is releasing a new solo album, I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A., on October 15 via Double Feature. Today he shared its next single, “Cashing In,” in which Wareham sings “I’m not selling out/I’m cashing in.” Leanna Kaiser directed the accompanying video.

Wareham had this to say about the new single in a press release: “Musically I was inspired by Michael Rother’s great, late-’70s instrumental guitar records. And also by Peter Hook; I played the new ‘Hooky 6-string bass’ I bought last year, it’s a big part of that early New Order sound.”

Previously Wareham shared the album’s first single, “The Past Is Our Plaything,” via a video for it. “The Past Is Our Plaything” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Wareham’s last solo album was 2014’s Dean Wareham but since then he’s kept busy, including doing the soundtrack for Mistress America with his wife, Britta Phillips, and reuniting and touring with Luna.

“The hard thing is just to start,” Wareham says of the gap between solo albums. “When I sat down and did it, the songs came pretty quickly.”

Papercuts’ Jason Quever produced and played on the album, which also features Phillips on bass, vocals, and keys, and Roger Brogan on drums.

In terms of the album’s title, I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A., and what he would say if he actually met the mayor of Los Angeles, where Wareham and Phillips have been based since 2013, Wareham responds: “It’s gonna happen. But the answer is right there too—I have nothing to say.”

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 10.

Barrie: “Dig”

James Blake: “Famous Last Words”

Dinner: “Anima”

Parcels: “Somethinggreater”

Xenia Rubinos: “Don’t Put Me In Red”

TV Priest: “Lifesize”

Adia Victoria: “You Was Born to Die” (Feat. Kyshona Armstrong, Margo Price, Jason Isbell)

W.H. Lung: “Figure With Flowers”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 14 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Bad Bad Hats: “Milky Way”

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: “Love For Sale” (Cole Porter Cover)

Body/Dilloway/Head: “Goin’ Down”

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: “Earthlings”

Church Girls: “Basement”

CHVRCHES: “Cry Little Sister” (Gerard McMann Cover)

Jarvis Cocker: “Aline” (Christophe Cover)

Ezra Furman: “Trans Mantra,” “Going to Brighton,” and “Flying Pan”

Gold Dust: “Oh Well”

Grouper: “Ode to the blue”

Hand Habits: “Graves”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: “Driver 8” (R.E.M. Cover)

Joan As Police Woman, Tony Allen, and Dave Okumu: “Geometry of You”

Kehlani: “Altar”

Lily Konigsberg: “Sweat Forever”

Lionlimb: “Nothing”

Low Life: “Agony & XTC”

Lunar Vacation: “Gears”

Metronomy: “Half An Inch” (Feat. Pinty), “405” (Feat. Biig Piig), “Uneasy” (Feat. spill tab), “Out of Touch” (Feat. Sorry), and “Monday” (Feat. Brian Nasty and Folly Group)

Kevin Morby: “Sundowner (4-Track Demo)”

Oneohtrix Point Never & Elizabeth Fraser: “Tales From the Trash Stratum”

Pillow Queens: “Rats”

Placebo: “Beautiful James”

Alexa Rose: “Wild Peppermint”

Self Esteem: “Moody”

Spirit Was: “Come Back Up To The House”

Bartees Strange: “Lady Luck” (Richard Swift Cover)

St. Vincent: “The Nowhere Inn”

Taylor Swift: “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)”

Tasha and Gregory Uhlmann: “Lullaby”

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: “Marrow (Strings Version)”

Sharon Van Etten: “Femme Fatale” (The Velvet Underground Cover)

Webbed Wing: “Make a Dime”

Wiki: “Promised” (Feat. MIKE)

Classic Song of the Week:

The Temptations: “Hum Along and Dance”

There isn’t much that’s funkier than late ’60s/early ’70s Temptations, as evidenced by “Hum Along and Dance,” from 1970’s Psychedelic Shack. The opening lyrics lay it out pretty clearly: “Ain’t no words to this song/You just dance and hum along.” The Jackson Five later covered it on their 1973 album G.I.T.: Get It Together, and Rare Earth also did a version the same year, but The Temptations’ version remains the best.

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