15 Best Songs of the Week: Elbow, Iron & Wine and Fiona Apple, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, May 24th, 2024  

15 Best Songs of the Week: Elbow, Iron & Wine and Fiona Apple, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and More

Plus Camera Obscura, Julia Holter, St. Vincent, La Luz, King Hannah, and a Wrap-up of the Last Two Weeks’ Other Notable New Tracks

Mar 08, 2024 Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the eighth Songs of the Week of 2024. We didn’t do a Songs of the Week last week because we were deep in deadline-mode finishing our new print issue, so this week’s Songs of the Week covers the last two weeks. To be honest, we are still putting the finishing touches on the issue today and tomorrow, but there were so many notable songs released in the last two weeks that we still had to find the time to do a Songs of the Week today.

This week Andy Von Pip, Caleb Campbell, Mark Moody, Matt the Raven, Scott Dransfield, and Stephen Humphries all helped me decide what should make the list. We settled on a Top 15 this week, narrowed down from the 36 songs we seriously considered. While 15 may seem like a lot of songs, remember it covers two weeks.

In the past few weeks we posted interviews with Slowdive, Eaves Wilder, Spiritualized, 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 15 best the last week had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. Elbow: “Balu”

Elbow are releasing a new album, AUDIO VERTIGO, on March 22 via Polydor/Geffen. Last week they shared its second single, “Balu,” via a music video.

Previously the band shared the album’s first single, “Lovers’ Leap,” which was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they performed the song on the British chat show The Graham Norton Show. The band also shared a video for “Lovers’ Leap.”

Many of the songs on AUDIO VERTIGO were born of Elbow’s members working in smaller groups, before the whole band finished the songs.

AUDIO VERTIGO is the follow-up to 2021’s Flying Dream 1 and in contrast to that more intimate sounding album, the new record embraces a more varied and rhythmically diverse musical landscape, or as Garvey puts it, “gnarly, seedy grooves created by us playing together in garagey rooms.”

The band recorded the album throughout 2023 at the members’ individual studios, Migration Studios in Gloucestershire, and at the band’s facility at Blueprint Studios in Salford (in Greater Manchester).

Elbow’s album before last was 2019’s Giants of All Sizes (read our rave review of the album).

Read our interview with Elbow’s Guy Garvey on 2017’s Little Fictions.

Also read our 2014 print article on Elbow and our 2014 web-exclusive interview with Garvey on his favorite cities. Plus read our 2016 The End interview with Garvey on endings and death.

Garvey was also one of the artists on the cover of our 20th Anniversary Issue. By Mark Redfern

2. Iron & Wine: “All in Good Time” (Feat. Fiona Apple)

Iron & Wine (aka Sam Beam) is releasing a new album, Light Verse, on April 26 via Sub Pop. This week he shared its second single, “All in Good Time,” which is a duet with Fiona Apple. The string-backed song plays like a classic country duet from the 1970s. Iron & Wine also announced some new UK and EU tour dates, which you can check out here.

In a press release, Beam had this to say about working with Apple: “Her voice is a miracle that sounds like both a sacrifice and a weapon at the same time.”

Previously Iron & Wine shared the album’s first single, “You Never Know,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

The album also features Tyler Chester (keyboards), Sebastian Steinberg (bass), David Garza (guitar), Griffin Goldsmith, Beth Goodfellow, Kyle Crane (all drums/percussion) and Paul Cartwright (strings). Four songs feature a 24-piece orchestra.

Beam self-produced the album, which was mixed and engineered by Dave Way at Waystation and Silent Zoo Studios in Los Angeles. It follows 2017’s Beast Epic and 2018’s Weed Garden EP.

Read our 2017 interview with Iron & Wine on Beast Epic. By Mark Redfern

3. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: “Wild Dog”

This week, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds announced a new album, Wild God, and shared its first single, title track “Wild God.” Wild God is due out August 30 via Bad Seed/Play It Again Sam. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

Wild God is Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ 18th studio album and is the follow-up to 2019’s acclaimed Ghosteen, which was #3 on our Top 100 Albums of 2019 list.

Cave and bandmate Warren Ellis produced the album, which was mixed by David Fridmann. Cave started writing the album on New Year’s Day 2023 and there were recording sessions at Miraval Studios in Provence, France and Soundtree Studios in London, England. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds are Cave, Ellis, Thomas Wydler, Martyn Casey, Jim Sclavunos, and George Vjestica. The album also features Colin Greenwood of Radiohead (who contributes bass) and Luis Almau (on nylon string guitar and acoustic guitar).

“I hope the album has the effect on listeners that it’s had on me,” Cave says in a press release. “It bursts out of the speaker, and I get swept up with it. It’s a complicated record, but it’s also deeply and joyously infectious. There is never a master plan when we make a record. The records rather reflect back the emotional state of the writers and musicians who played them. Listening to this, I don’t know, it seems we’re happy.”

Cave adds: “Wild God…there’s no fucking around with this record. When it hits, it hits. It lifts you. It moves you. I love that about it.” By Mark Redfern

4. Camera Obscura: “We’re Going to Make It in a Man’s World”

Scottish indie-pop band Camera Obscura are releasing their first new album in 11 years, Look to the East, Look to the West, on May 3 via Merge. This week they shared its second single, “We’re Going to Make It in a Man’s World.”

“We’re Going to Make It in a Man’s World” was co-written by frontwoman Tracyanne Campbell with keyboardist Donna Maciocia, originally for filmmaker Margaret Salmon’s 2021 film Icarus (After Amelia).

“This is a co-write with Donna, one of the first of many songs we have since written together,” says Campbell in a press release. “It is a bit tongue-in-cheek with a serious message at its core. As middle-aged women in the music industry, are we relevant? Who is interested in us? Where’s our place in an industry where women are so underrepresented?”

Salmon shot the album cover for Look to the East, Look to the West. The cover features the return of Fiona Morrison, who was on the cover of Camera Obscura’s debut album, 2021’s Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi.

Previously Camera Obscura shared the album’s first single, “Big Love,” via a music video. “Big Love” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list.

Camera Obscura released their first three albums via Merge, before switching to 4AD for their last two albums. The band haven’t released a new album since 2013’s Desire Lines, in large part due to the tragic and untimely passing due to cancer of founding member and keyboardist Carey Lander in 2015. Last year the band announced their return to Merge and announced some UK tour dates.

Tracyanne Campbell had a side-project, Tracyanne & Danny, with Danny Coughlan, that released a self-titled album in 2018 via Merge.

The band features founding members Tracyanne Campbell (vocals and guitar, Kenny McKeeve (guitar and vocals), Gavin Dunbar (bass), and Lee Thomson (drums and percussion), alongside newer member Donna Maciocia (keys and vocals). Maciocia has also become a regular songwriting partner with Campbell.

Jari Haapalainen, who produced Camera Obscura’s 2006 album Let’s Get Out of This Country and 2009’s My Maudlin Career, returned to produce Look to the East, Look to the West, which was recorded in the same room where Queen wrote “Bohemian Rhapsody.” A press release says that the album sees the band somewhat go “back to basics,” with no string or brass arrangements.

Read our 2013 joint interview between Tracyanne Campbell and Lloyd Cole.

Read our 2014 Artist Survey interview with Carey Lander of Camera Obscura.

Read our 2018 interview with Tracyanne and Danny.

Read our 2020 My Favorite Album interview with Tracyanne Campbell. By Mark Redfern

5. Julia Holter: “Evening Mood”

Julia Holter is releasing a new album, Something in the Room She Moves, on March 22 via Domino. Last week she shared its third single, “Evening Mood,” via a music video. Dicky Bahto directed the video.

When working on “Evening Mood,” Holter was inspired by the Studio Ghibli film Ponyo, which was her daughter’s favorite movie at the time. The Japanese animated film from 2008 is about a fish that can transform into a girl and befriends a human boy (it was directed by Hayao Miyazaki).

“I was inspired by the transformability of creatures, and how this malleability works alongside our capacity for love. I wanted everything to feel very liquid,” Holter says in a press release.

The song features a “heavily filtered ultrasound heartbeat” that was sent through a phaser. “I wanted it to sound like it was inside the body,” says Holter.

“There’s a corporeal focus, inspired by the complexity and transformability of our bodies,” she says of the new album. “I was trying to create a world that’s fluid-sounding, water-like, evoking the body’s internal sound world.”

The album’s title was in part inspired by The Beatles song “Something” and its lyrics, “Something in the way she moves.” Holter, a lifelong Beatles fan, has been singing Beatles songs to her daughter at night.

Something in the Room She Moves features “Sun Girl,” a new song Holter shared in November that was one of our Songs of the Week. When the album was announced, she shared its second single, “Spinning,” via a music video. “Spinning” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Something in the Room She Moves is the follow-up to Aviary, her last regular new album, released six years ago. It was our Album of the Week and made the Top 10 in our Top 100 Albums of 2018 list.

Since then she has kept busy, including composing the score for Eliza Hittman’s 2020 film Never Rarely Sometimes Always and working with England’s Chorus of Opera North on a new live soundtrack to the 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc, which Holter wrote and performed. She’s also recently worked with Call Super, Beverly Glenn-Copeland, and Max Tundra.

Read our rave review of Aviary.

Read our interview with Julia Holter on Aviary.

Read our 2015 interview with Holter. By Mark Redfern

6. St. Vincent: “Broken Man”

Last week, St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) announced a new album, All Born Screaming, and shared its first single, “Broken Man.” All Born Screaming features Cate Le Bon, Dave Grohl, and others and is due out April 26 via Virgin Music Group. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

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

Clark somewhat cryptically had this to say about the album in a 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). By Mark Redfern

7. La Luz: “Strange World”

This week, La Luz announced a new album, News of the Universe, and shared its first single, “Strange World,” via a music video. The band also announced some new tour dates. News of the Universe is due out May 24 via Sub Pop. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

News of the Universe follows 2021’s La Luz, which was released on Hardly Art, Sub Pop’s sister label, which makes this their debut on Sub Pop proper. The band is led by guitarist, singer, and songwriter Shana Cleveland, who was diagnosed with breast cancer two years after the birth of her son, which led to the postponement of shows in 2022.

“Seeing the cycle of life, seeing things grow out of decay, the decay of other living things—was super comforting to me. I had to get to a place where I felt more comfortable with the idea of death,” Cleveland says in a press release.

Regarding the new single, she says: “It’s been a strange and difficult few years, and at moments, I have found myself rushing to move forward in time, to leave the present and escape to whatever is next. The best advice a friend gave me during a time when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed and battling consecutive panic attacks was to go outside, take my shoes off, and sit with my feet on the earth. This seemed to slow the universe down in a way that made it feel easier to handle. So this chorus is something of a mantra to myself ‘we’ll be fine, just take your time.’”

News of the Universe features a changing of the guard in terms of La Luz’s lineup—it’s the first appearance for drummer Audrey Johnson and the final ones from longtime members Lena Simon (bass) and Alice Sandahl (keyboards).

La Luz worked with producer Maryam Qudos (Spacemoth) on the album and the collaboration went so well that Qudos has joined the band as their new keyboardist.

“There are moments on this album that sound to me like the last frantic confession before an asteroid destroys the earth,” says Cleveland, summing up News of the Universe.

Read our 2021 interview with La Luz. By Mark Redfern

8. King Hannah: “Big Swimmer” (Feat. Sharon Van Etten)

Liverpool duo King Hannah (Hannah Merrick and Craig Whittle) are back with their sophomore album, Big Swimmer, out May 31st on City Slang. The announcement this week coincided with the release of the album’s stunning title track, “Big Swimmer,” featuring special guest vocals from Sharon Van Etten.

Produced by Ali Chant (known for his work with PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, and Perfume Genius), the album draws inspiration from the band’s extensive touring experiences across the U.S., including supporting acts like Kurt Vile and Thurston Moore.

The title track collaboration stemmed from Van Etten’s public appreciation for the band’s debut single “Crème Brûlée.” The song opens with a duet between Van Etten and Merrick, their voices blending as they explore the song’s powerful message: life is what you make it. The track transitions into a warm, rich soundscape reminiscent of ‘70s American folk rock, balancing darkness and light before carrying home the album’s core message: “never stop swimming.”

Merrick says of the song: “I remember sitting at my desk and the song just came pouring out and the big swimmer metaphor instantly felt right; to never give up on whatever it is you’re swimming hard towards. But I like that it questions the listener too, that whenever you’re faced with something challenging, do you carry on swimming or do you jump out and grab our towel? There’s no right answer, but it feels empowering and necessary for the record.” By Andy Von Pip

9. Amen Dunes: “Boys”

Amen Dunes (aka Damon McMahon) is releasing a new album, Death Jokes, on May 10 via Sub Pop, his first album for the label. This week he shared its second single, “Boys,” via a music video.

McMahon wrote “Boys” in 2015 while on tour in Sicily. It started as more of a pop-punk song before evolving into something more complex and electronic, with double-tracked vocals and guitar. McMahon had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Boys’ is another interstitial character portrait, this time about outcasts, ‘bad kids,’ and seeing things from their side: ‘Everything you’ve done, it’s been done to you too.’”

Steven Brahms directed the “Boys” video and had this to add: “We only had one shot to destroy the room. The guys in the video gave us such an authentic look and flow. Everyone on the crew was buzzing after the shoot and we knew we had something special. Destruction can be very cathartic.”

Previously he shared its first single, “Purple Land,” via a music video. It was one of our Songs of the Week.

Death Jokes follows Amen Dunes’ acclaimed 2018 album, Freedom, which was released on Scared Bones, and his 2021 single, “Feel Nothing,” which featured British duo Sleaford Mods and was his first single for Sub Pop.

Death Jokes went through a long birthing process, with work starting in 2019. McMahon was beset by health issues in 2020, including COVID-19, and lost 30 pounds. In recent years his first child was born and he moved cross country from Los Angeles to Woodstock, NY. McMahon also struggled to find collaborators who could line up with his vision for the album. Eventually he ended up working with jazz bassist Sam Wilkes and producers Christoffer Berg (Fever Ray) and Kwake Bass (Tirzah, Dean Blunt), as well as doing sessions with Panoram and Money Mark. The final album includes samples sourced from YouTube videos, including standup routines from Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor.

Read our 2018 interview with Amen Dunes on Freedom. By Mark Redfern

10. Wild Pink: “Air Drumming Fix You”

This week, Wild Pink, the band led by singer/guitarist John Ross, shared a new song, “Air Drumming Fix You.” It’s their first single for Fire Talk, who have just announced that they’ve signed the New York band. The “Fix You” of the title and lyrics is presumably the Coldplay song. Check out Wild Pink’s upcoming tour dates here.

Wild Pink’s last album, ILYSM, came out in 2022 via Royal Mountain and was the quick follow-up to 2021’s A Billion Little Lights (also on Royal Mountain). By Mark Redfern

11. Kamasi Washington: “Prologue”

This week, modern jazz icon Kamasi Washington announced a new album, Fearless Movement, and shared a new song from it, “Prologue,” via a music video. He also announced some tour dates. Fearless Movement is due out May 3 via Young. AG Rojas directed the “Prologue” video, which was choreographed by Samantha Blake Goodman. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as Washington’s tour dates, here.

Fearless Movement features a slew of collaborators, including André 3000, who plays flute. Various musicians also contribute vocals to the album, including George Clinton, BJ The Chicago Kid, Inglewood rapper D-Smoke, and Taj and Ras Austin of Coast Contra (who are the twin sons of California rapper Ras Kass). The album also features regular collaborators Thundercat, Terrace Martin, Patrice Quinn, Brandon Coleman, and DJ Battlecat.

Washington says Fearless Movement is his dance album, but that doesn’t mean he’s switched to electronic music. “It’s not literal,” Washington says in a press release. “Dance is movement and expression, and in a way it’s the same thing as music—expressing your spirit through your body. That’s what this album is pushing.”

Another big influence on this album was the birth of Washington’s daughter a few years ago. She is even featured on the album in that she wrote the melody to the album’s “Asha the First” when she was first experimenting on the piano.

“Being a father means the horizon of your life all of a sudden shows up,” says Washington. “My mortality became more apparent to me, but also my immortality—realizing that my daughter is going to live on and see things that I’m never going to see. I had to become comfortable with this, and that affected the music that I was making.”

Fearless Movement features “The Garden Path,” a new song he shared in 2022. The day after the song was shared, Washington performed it for the first time on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, which was also his TV debut. “The Garden Path” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Washington’s last album was the acclaimed double album, Heaven and Earth, released in 2018. It was our #1 album of 2018. Read our 2018 cover story interview with Washington.

Washington was also one of the artists on the cover of our 20th Anniversary Issue (Issue 69).

He’s also in the supergroup Dinner Party, alongside Terrace Martin and Robert Glasper, and they released a new album, Enigmatic Society, in 2023. By Mark Redfern

12. Everything Everything: “Enter the Mirror”

Last week, British art-rockers Everything Everything released a new album, Mountainhead, today via BMG. In honor of release day, they shared its fourth single, “Enter the Mirror,” via a music video. Frontman Jonathan Higgs co-directed the video with Kit Monteith.

Higgs had this to say about the new song in a press release: “‘Enter The Mirror’ is a song about friendship in the afterlife. The video was made in the woods in Wales and features puppetry and a magical mirror.’’

Read our review of Mountainhead, which we posted on last week, here.

Everything Everything features frontman Jonathan Higgs, Jeremy Pritchard (bass, keyboards), Michael Spearman (drums), and Alex Robertshaw (lead guitar, keyboards).

Previously the band shared Mountainhead’s first single, “Cold Reactor,” via a music video. “Cold Reactor” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its second single, “The Mad Stone,” which also made our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared its third single, “The End of the Contender,” via a music video (it also landed on our Songs of the Week list).

Mountainhead is the quick follow-up to 2022’s Raw Data Feel, which was an album created with the assistance of articial intelligence (AI). Robertshaw produced Mountainhead with his production partner Tom Fuller.

Explaining the themes behind the album and its title, Higgs had this to say in a previous press release: “In another world, society has built an immense mountain. To make the mountain bigger, they must make the hole they live in deeper and deeper. All of society is built around the creation of the mountain, and a mountain religion dominates all thought. At the top of the mountain is rumored to be a huge mirror that reflects endlessly recurring images of the self, and at the bottom of the pit is a giant golden snake that is the primal fear of all believers. A ‘Mountainhead’ is one who believes the mountain must grow no matter the cost, and no matter how terrible it is to dwell in the great pit. The taller the mountain, the deeper the hole.”

Read our My Firsts interview with Everything Everything for 2022.

Check out the fourth episode of our Under the Radar podcast, where we speak to Jonathan Higgs.

Read our COVID-19 Quarantine Check-In interview with Higgs. By Mark Redfern

13. Good Looks: “If It’s Gone”

This week, Austin, Texas four-piece Good Looks announced a new album, Lived Here For a While, and shared its first single, “If It’s Gone.” Lived Here For a While is due out June 7 via Keeled Scales. Here, check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, including their many SXSW appearances.

Lived Here For a While is the band’s second album and the follow-up to 2022’s Bummer Year.

The album was influenced by an accident lead guitarist Jake Ames had just after the band’s hometown record release show for Bummer Year, when he was hit by a car outside the venue and ended up in the hospital with a fractured skull and tailbone, along with short-term memory issues.

“We were in the hospital with him every day,” says frontman Tyler Jordan in a press release. “It wasn’t clear how bad it was gonna be for Jake. We had no idea how this traumatic brain injury would affect him until the swelling went down. We even wondered if we’d ever play music together again.”

Luckily Ames made a full recovery and joined by drummer Phil Dunne and bassist Robert Cherry, they set out to record Lived Here For a While at Texas’ Dandy Sounds with producer/engineer Dan Duszynski (of Loma and Cross Record). Harrison Anderson has since joined the band as their new bassist.

Jordan had this to say about “If It’s Gone” in the press release: “I went through a breakup on day one of the pandemic. ‘If It’s Gone’ kind of opened up the floodgates, and a lot of the other songs on this record were written afterward, so it feels really fitting that this is the first song on the record. I’m kinda hoping I don’t have to write any more break up songs, and if this is the last one I ever write, I’d be ok with it. I feel really proud of this one.” By Mark Redfern

14. gglum: “Eating Rust”

Last week, emerging London songwriter gglum, the stage name of Ella Smoker, unveiled “Eating Rust,” the latest captivating single from her forthcoming debut album, The Garden Dream, arriving March 29th on Secretly Canadian.

“Eating Rust” is a testament to gglum’s songwriting chops, weaving intimacy and atmosphere into a powerful, yet understated, breakup anthem. The track showcases her ability to capture raw emotion with subtlety, proving that less can be more when crafting a truly impactful song.

Smoker says in a press release that it “was the first song I made while writing the album that felt like it summed up the album’s sound for me. It’s all about a period of my life where I was desperate for one person’s love and approval which I would never get (yet I’d keep on trying anyway). It’s about what inspired the dream that inspired the album.”

She also shares some insights into the album: “At the time of writing it, I was having so many nightmares, just straight-up graphic and disturbing stuff. I think it was my subconscious telling me I had shit I needed to deal with, a lot of the mistrust I’ve had since I was a teenager. It was weirdly good timing, because I’m at a point in my life now where I’m actually pretty happy, and am in a good place to look back.” By Andy Von Pip

15. Phosphorescent: Impossible House”

Phosphorescent (aka Matthew Houck) is releasing a new album, Revelator, on April 5 via Verve, his first for the label. This week he shared its second single, “Impossible House,” via a music video.

A press release describes “Impossible House” in this manner: “The track uses domestic imagery not as idylls, but as mechanisms of distance, grappling with the challenges of maintaining long-term partnerships.”

Previously Houck shared the album’s first single, its title track, via a music video. “Revelator” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Phosphorescent’s last album of original songs, C’est La Vie, came out in 2018 via Dead Oceans.

Read our exclusive 2018 joint interview between Phosphorescent and Ethan Hawke. By Mark Redfern

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 15.

American Culture: “Let It Go” (Feat. Midwife)

Arab Strap: “Allatonceness”

Bully: “Atom Bomb”

Corridor: “Mon Argent”

Dehd: “Light On”

Sam Evian: “Stay”

Kim Gordon: “Psychedelic Orgasm”

Hinds: “Coffee”

Linn Koch-Emmery: “Happy”

Lauren Mayberry: “Change Shapes”

Mdou Moctar: “Funeral for Justice”

of Montreal: “Yung Hearts Bleed Free”

Tomato Flower: “Harlequin”

Underworld X KETTAMA: “Fen Violet”

Jane Weaver: “Romantic Worlds”

The Zutons: “Pauline”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 15 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

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