7 Best Songs of the Week: IDLES, Still Corners, Adrianne Lenker, Yumi Zouma, and More | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, April 13th, 2024  

7 Best Songs of the Week: IDLES, Still Corners, Adrianne Lenker, Yumi Zouma, and More

Plus J Mascis, Birthmark, Fat White Family, and a Wrap-up of the Last Two Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Dec 15, 2023
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Welcome to the 40th Songs of the Week of 2023. This will probably be the final Songs of the Week of 2023.

This week’s list includes songs from the last two weeks, as we didn’t do a Songs of the Week last week due to it being a light week for new songs and because we were also working on our Holiday Gift Guide.

This week Chris Thiessen, Marc Abbott, Matt the Raven, and Scott Dransfield all helped me decide what should make the list. We settled on a Top 7 this week.

In the past week or so we also posted interviews with Wings of Desire, Beth Orton, Sun June, Modern Nature, the cast of the new season of Fargo, 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 two weeks, we have picked the 7 best the last two weeks had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. IDLES: “Grace”

IDLES are releasing a new album, TANGK, on February 16, 2024 via Partisan. Last week they shared its second single, “Grace,” via a lyric video. They also announced some new 2024 North American tour dates.

Frontman Joe Talbot had this to say about the single in a press release: “The song came from nowhere and everything. It was a breath and a call to be held, The only words or singing that came from our sessions with Nigel [Godrich] and I needed it, truly. All is love.”

Tickets for their tour go on sale this Friday at 9 a.m. local time.

Previously IDLES shared the album’s first single, “Dancer,” via a music video. “Dancer” featured guest vocals from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and Nancy Whang and was one of our Songs of the Week.

Nigel Godrich (Radiohead, The Smile, Beck) and Kenny Beats (Denzel Curry, Vince Staples, Benee) co-produced TANGK with IDLES’ Mark Bowen. TANGK (which is simply pronounced as “tank”) follows CRAWLER, which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021.

Talbot had this to say about the new album in a previous press release: “TANGK. I needed love. So I made it. I gave love out to the world and it feels like magic. This is our album of gratitude and power. All love songs. All is love.”

2. Still Corners: “Secret World”

Last week, dream-pop duo Still Corners announced a new album, Dream Talk, and shared its first single, “Secret World.” They also announced some 2024 tour dates. Dream Talk is due out April 5, 2024 via the band’s own Wrecking Light label. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

Still Corners are the American/British duo of Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray. 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 “Secret World” in a press release: “Sometimes the thought of someone, wanting to know them, get into their world is dangerous. The real person doesn’t matter anymore, just the fantasy of them, which is totally wrong but feels right.”

She had this to say about the album as a whole: “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,” says Murray.

Hughes produced Dream Talk at the band’s studio in Woodstock. He says: “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.

3. Adrianne Lenker: “Ruined”

Last week, Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief shared a new solo song, “Ruined,” via a music video. She also announced some new 2024 tour dates. “Ruined” is said to be the first single from a forthcoming new solo album on 4AD (details are still forthcoming). Lenker’s brother, Noah Lenker, directed the “Ruined” video.

Lenker had this to say about “Ruined” in a press release: “This song has been a quiet beacon for me. It may contain the essence of the gift of romantic love but it’s mostly about something much bigger.”

Lenker will be teaching an online songwriting Zoom workshop in January via School of Song over four consecutive Sundays––January 7th, January 14th, January 21st, and January 28. It costs $160 and you have to sign up by Saturday, January 6 at 11:59 PM PT.

In 2020, Lenker released two solo albums, one simply titled songs and another simply titled instrumentals, via 4AD.

In September, Big Thief shared a new song, “Born For Loving You.” It followed “Vampire Empire,” a new song the band shared in July.

Read our 2016 Pleased to Meet You interview with Big Thief.

Read our 2017 interview with Big Thief on Capacity.

4. Yumi Zouma: “Desert Mile”

Last week, New Zealand alt-pop group Yumi Zouma released a new EP, EP IV, which includes the new song “Desert Mile,” along with three previously released singles, plus various remixes, demos, and instrumental versions. Stream the whole EP here.

The band features Christie Simpson, Josh Burgess, Charlie Ryder, and Olivia Campion.

EP IV features “KPR,” a new song the band shared in September via a music video directed by the band. “KPR” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then in October they shared another new song, “be okay,” also via a music video. “Kicking Up Daisies” was the EP’s third single and also one of our Songs of the Week.

The band’s last album, Present Tense, came out in 2022 via Polyvinyl.

The band collectively had this to say about the new EP in a previous press release: “All four of us are New Zealanders, but we live between NZ, the US, and the UK, which makes it difficult to spend time physically together. This was a particular challenge during the pandemic, which made the creation of our last album Present Tense a fully remote process. However, last year, we played over 70 shows in 13 countries, including one show and 24 hours in Japan—a fleeting glimpse which planted a seed that Tokyo could be a good middle point for us to meet again to write and record one day.

“And so, it transpired—over three weeks in April and May, we wrote and recorded at Studio Mech, a studio based in the quiet neighbourhood of Yutenji, south of Shibuya. Working in a different environment without the pressures of being on tour was a new experience, while the mix of routine and residency brought us all closer together. The sessions also sparked new creative conversations—this was the first time Olivia had been able to join the group for each step of making a record, and the proximity of organic instruments in the studio for sharing ideas meant that songs primarily became established on the guitars and pianos around us, instead of software instruments shared wirelessly between our laptops at home.

“The result is our fourth EP, and ninth Yumi Zouma record overall—a fuller, more natural-sounding collection of recordings crammed full of cascading piano lines, pummelling drums, chorused gang vocal takes, and waves of distorted guitars. Particularly inspired by the sounds of ’90s noise, shoegaze, and midwestern emo, these new songs push the band’s signature dream pop sheen to new extremes, exemplified by the bursts of screeching feedback and spoken word on lead single ‘KPR,’ and the overdriven screams in the bridge of the anthemic ‘be okay.’ There are even surprises during the record’s more classic Yumi Zouma moments, such as the naked, intimate vocals in the coda to ‘Kicking Up Daisies,’ and Olivia’s joyous shout of ‘whoo!’ before the piano-led second verse of the alt-folk-leaning ‘Desert Mile.’”

The tracks on the EP were mixed by Kenny Gilmore (Weyes Blood, Julia Holter, Chris Cohen), Jake Aron (Grizzly Bear, Snail Mail, Solange), Tom Healy (The Chills, Tiny Ruins, Marlon Williams) and Simon Gooding (Fazerdaze, Neil Finn, Dua Lipa). Antoine Chabert (Daft Punk, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Christine & The Queens) mastered the EP.

Burgess had this to add about the EP: “The time we spent together writing and recording this EP will forever be one of my most cherished memories.”

While Ryder said the EP “is the best music we have ever released, without a shadow of a doubt—it feels like a very dramatic update to the world of who we are as a band.”

Yumi Zouma’s 2020 album, Truth or Consequences, was featured on our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list.

Read our COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check-In interview with the band’s Charlie Ryder.

In March 2020, we posted our My Firsts interview with the band, which can be read here.

Read our 2017 interview with Yumi Zouma on their second album Willowbank.

5. J Mascis: “Set Me Down”

J Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr.) is releasing a new solo album, What Do We Do Now, on February 2, 2024 via Sub Pop. On Tuesday, he shared its second single, “Set Me Down,” via an animated music video. Callum Scott-Dyson directed the video.

Mascis previously shared the album’s first single, “Can’t Believe We’re Here,” via a music video that features Fred Armisen, David Cross, Eugene Mirman, Bully, IDLES, and others. “Can’t Believe We’re Here” was one of our Songs of the Week.

What Do We Do Now is the follow-up to 2018’s Elastic Days. Mascis recorded the album at his Bisquiteen studio in Western Massachusetts.

“When I’m writing for the band,” he says in a press release. “I’m always trying to think of doing things Lou and Murph would fit into. For myself, I’m thinking more about what I can do with just an acoustic guitar, even for the leads. Of course, this time, I added full drums and electric leads, although the rhythm parts are still all acoustic. Usually, I try to do the solo stuff more simply so I can play it by myself, but I really wanted to add the drums. Once that started, everything else just fell into place. So it ended up sounding a lot more like a band record. I dunno why I did that exactly, but it’s just what happened.”

The album features Ken Mauri of The B-52s on keysboards and Matthew “Doc” Dunn on steel guitar.

“Ken is great, and he plays all the keys. I tried playing some keyboards on the first Fog album, but I’m really only comfortable playing the white notes, so it’s kind of limiting,” Mascis says, laughing. “Nowadays, I could just turn the pitch on a mini Mellotron to play different sounds, but black keys just seem hard. For whatever reason, I just like banging on the white ones. Seems like it’s harder to figure out how to stretch your fingers around the other ones.”

Read our 2014 joint interview between Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis and The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus.

6. Birthmark: “Red Meadow”

Birthmark—the solo project of Nate Kinsella of Joan of Arc, American Football, Make Believe, and LIES—is releasing a new album, Birth of Omni, on January 19, 2024 via Polyvinyl. This week he shared its second single, “Red Meadow,” via a self-directed music video.

Kinsella had this to say about the song in a press release: “When my wife and I were overwhelmed with tending to our new child our romantic relationship dwindled to the point where it felt like the pilot light had gone out. This wasn’t a huge surprise given the circumstances, but the gap between us began to manifest in ways I hadn’t foreseen. This song is about lamenting that loss and feeling conflicted by what our new lives as parents had brought us and the need to rebalance the emotional ecosystem of our lives.”

Previously Kinsella shared the album’s first single, “Rodney,” via a music video.

This is the fifth Birthmark album, but the first one in over eight years, since 2015’s How You Look When You’re Falling Down.

7. Fat White Family: “Religion for One”

This week, British punk band Fat White Family shared a new song, “Religion for One,” via a music video. Michael William Wes directed the video.

Frontman Lias Saoudi had this to say about the song in a press release: “Abject narcissism is our only real code of conduct anymore. Everything is thinly veiled self-interest. The post-modern post social media condition constitutes a complete death of outwardness. We are smothered by the infinite present. We have swapped art for the history of art. The game is up. The party’s over…NO SURRENDER!”

It’s been over four and a half years since the release of the band’s last album, Serfs Up!, on Domino, which was their first for the label (and third album overall). It was our Album of the Week.

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 7.

Hovvdy: “Bubba”

Shadow Show: “Mystic Spiral”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 7 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

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