8 Best Songs of the Week: Camera Obscura, The Last Dinner Party, Everything Everything, and More | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, April 13th, 2024  

8 Best Songs of the Week: Camera Obscura, The Last Dinner Party, Everything Everything, and More

Plus Ducks Ltd., Holly Macve, Dehd, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Feb 02, 2024
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Welcome to the fourth Songs of the Week of 2024. This week a band’s first single in over a decade takes the top spot.

This week Andy Von Pip, Caleb Campbell, Scott Dransfield, and Stephen Humphries all helped me decide what should make the list. We settled on a Top 8 this week, narrowed down from the 16 songs we seriously considered.

In the past week or so we posted interviews with Eaves Wilder, The Allman Brothers Band, Heather Woods Broderick, Birthmark, Slow Pulp, Spiritualized, Mutual Benefit, 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 eight best the last week had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. Camera Obscura: “Big Love”

This week, Scottish indie-pop band Camera Obscura announced their first new album in 11 years, Look to the East, Look to the West, and shared its first single, “Big Love,” via a music video. They have also announced some new North American tour dates. Look to the East, Look to the West is due out May 3 via Merge. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the tour dates, here.

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.

Frontwoman 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.

The album’s first single, the country-tinged “Big Love,” is described as “a pining break-up anthem” and it features pedal steel playing by Tim Davidson.

“‘Big Love’ is our tribute to Waylon Jennings, with a nod to Sandy Denny and prog rock band Scope,” says Campbell in the press release. “It’s a song about not looking back, having faith in the present and future.” By Mark Redfern

Read our 2006 interview with Camera Obscura.

Read our 2010 interview with Camera Obscura.

Read our 2010 interview with Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell on Grease.

Read our 2013 interview with Camera Obscura.

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.

2. The Last Dinner Party: “Portrait of a Dead Girl”

Buzzed about new British five-piece The Last Dinner Party released their debut album, Prelude to Ecstasy, today via Island. You can stream the whole thing here. Today we also posted our rave review of the album and you can revisit our interview with the band from last year.

Read our 9/10 review here. Plus read our May 2023 interview with The Last Dinner Party, which was likely the band’s first ever interview with an American publication.

Because it wasn’t the strongest week for new songs, we thought we’d consider an album track from Prelude to Ecstasy, one that hadn’t already been a pre-release single, and settled on “Portrait of a Dead Girl.”

The Last Dinner Party are Abigail Morris (vocals), Georgia Davies (bass), Lizzie Mayland (guitar), Aurora Nishevci (keys), and Emily Roberts (lead guitar). James Ford produced Prelude to Ecstasy, as he did all the band’s previous singles. Not only is he a member of Simian Mobile Disco and The Last Shadow Puppets, but as a producer he has worked with an impressive array of artists, including Depeche Mode, Arctic Monkeys, Jessie Ware, Everything Everything, Gorillaz, HAIM, Florence + The Machine, Foals, and Pet Shop Boys.

The Last Dinner Party collectively had this to say about their debut album in a previous press release: “Ecstasy is a pendulum which swings between the extremes of human emotion, from the ecstasy of passion to the sublimity of pain, and it is this concept which binds our album together. This is an archeology of ourselves; you can exhume our collective and individual experiences and influences from within its fabric. We exorcized guitars for their solos, laid bare confessions directly from diary pages, and summoned an orchestra to bring our vision to life. It is our greatest honor and pride to present this offering to the world, it is everything we are.”

The Last Dinner Party were getting a considerable amount of buzz in their home country based mainly on their live performances, but in April they released their debut single, “Nothing Matters,” via a music video. “Nothing Matters” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then in June they shared their second single, “Sinner,” as well as a video of them performing the song live. “Sinner” again made our Songs of the Week list. “My Lady of Mercy” was the band’s third single, again shared via a music video and again one of our Songs of the Week. When the album was announced, the band shared its fourth single, “On Your Side,” via a music video. “On Your Side” was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another new song from it, “Caesar on a TV Screen,” via a music video. “Caesar on a TV Screen” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Read our May 2023 interview with The Last Dinner Party, which was likely the band’s first ever interview with an American publication.

The Last Dinner Party had already performed sets ahead of Nick Cave and The Rolling Stones before even releasing a debut single. By Mark Redfern

3. Everything Everything: “The End of the Contender”

British art-rockers Everything Everything are releasing a new album, Mountainhead, on March 1 via BMG. Today they shared its third single, “The End of the Contender,” via a music video. Kit Monteith directed the video.

A press release describes the inspiration behind the song: “The song takes inspiration from the subject of a mid-2010s viral road rage video: ‘Ronnie Pickering,’ a man who ascended to (a very particular) type of online fame by insisting on his own significance and threatening a fight on-camera. ‘The End of the Contender’ is a track that explores the strangely targetless aggression and delusions of grandeur that have seeped into the fabric of modern culture.”

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.

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

4. Ducks Ltd.: “Heavy Bag”

Toronto-based duo Ducks Ltd. are releasing a new album, Harm’s Way, on February 9 via Carpark. This week they shared the album’s fourth single, “Heavy Bag,” via a lyric video.

Ducks Ltd. is Tom McGreevy and Evan Lewis.

McGreevy had this to say about the single in a press release: “It’s about despair and the way that misery loves company. The way that when people are in a bad place they try to undermine the people who are down there with them. To keep them and hold them there. It’s an incredibly ugly impulse, but one that if I’m being honest I’ve caught myself indulging in the past. We tried to do something we hadn’t done before on this one musically, and had to kind of reverse a lot of our instincts in building the arrangement. But it felt like what ultimately suited the song. Macie Stewart and Briar Darling ended up improvising a lot of the string layers at the end which had some really exciting results.”

Harm’s Way is the follow-up to Modern Fiction, which came out in 2021 via Carpark and was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021.

McGreevy had this to say about the rest of the tracks on the album in a previous press release: “They’re songs about struggling. About watching people I care for suffer, and trying to figure out how to be there for them. And about the strain of living in the world when it feels like it’s ready to collapse.”

Ducks Ltd. previously shared the album’s first single “The Main Thing,” via a music video. “The Main Thing” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its second single, “Hollowed Out,” via a music video (it was also one of our Songs of the Week). The album’s third single, “Train Full of Gasoline,” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Dave Vettraino (Deeper, Lala Lala, Dehd) produced the album, which was recorded in Chicago.

Ducks Ltd. say they found themselves in a more confident place when recording Harm’s Way.

“When we got signed, we had played maybe five or six shows ever. After last year, it’s in the hundreds. That experience can change your perception of your own music and songwriting,” said McGreevy. “In the past when we got stuck on a song we had a tendency to look at our favorite records to see how they tackled it. But now, instead of asking ‘what would Orange Juice do?’, we’d ask, ‘what would we do?’”

The band released a new single in 2022, “Sheets of Grey.” It was one of our Songs of the Week but isn’t included on the new album.

Last year the band launched a cover song series, The Sincerest Form of Flattery. It included a cover of The Cure’s “In Between Days,” which featured Jane Inc (the project of Carlyn Bezic), as well as a cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s 1989 song “Head On.”

Read our The End interview with Tom McGreevy. By Mark Redfern

5. Holly Macve: “Time is Forever”

After an absence of almost three years, Holly Macve made a striking return this week with her latest project—a mesmerizing five-track EP titled Time Is Forever. This release marks a significant milestone for the Irish-born, Yorkshire-raised songwriter, as she explains, “Time is Forever is the start of a new era for me. During the making of it, I spent a lot of days and nights alone in strange cigarette-stained motels, dreaming big and overcoming certain inhibitions. I put a lot of my soul into these tunes and I’m super excited to share them and play them live.”

Leading the EP is the hypnotic, narcotic title track, “Time Is Forever,” out now via Loving Memory Records / Believe.

Macve expands on the track sharing, “The writing process for this song was different for me, I usually just write on piano or guitar to begin with but this one was atmosphere first and the song followed. Most of it was recorded in my bedroom studio setup but it really came to life when I visited Valentine Studios in LA where Jay Bellerose added the most amazing drums. So lucky to have his beats on the EP.” By Andy Von Pip

6. Dehd: “Mood Ring”

This week, Chicago trio Dehd announced a new album, Poetry, and shared its first single, “Mood Ring,” via a music video. They also announced some tour dates. Poetry will be out on May 10 via Fat Possum. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the tour dates, here.

Poetry is the follow-up to 2022’s Blue Skies (also on Fat Possum) and 2020’s Flower of Devotion (which was released by Fire Talk).

Dehd is Emily Kempf, Jason Balla, and Eric McGrady. After they finished touring Blue Skies, the band embarked on some writing sessions in remote locations. “Eating, sleeping, breathing, living—our only purpose was to write,” says Kempf in a press release.

Ziyad Asrar of Whitney co-produced the album alongside Balla, recording at Palisade Studios in Chicago. Charles Bukowski’s poem “The Laughing Heart” inspired the album.

Read our interview with Dehd on Flower of Devotion. By Mark Redfern

7. Hovvdy: “Forever”

This week, Austin, TX duo Hovvdy (Charlie Martin and Will Taylor) announced a new album, Hovvdy, and shared a new song from it, “Forever,” via a music video. Hovvdy is due out April 26 via Arts & Crafts.

“It’s a full circle, because lots of my songs, in adulthood, deal with looking back and seeing your parents as just individuals struggling through life—and trying to have more empathy or understanding. And now Will is diving in from the opposite side as a new parent, grappling with all that,” says Martin of the new album.

“On this album, we tried to really step back and look at: ‘How can we convey our songwriting in a new way?’” says Taylor. “It challenged the songs we brought, and it challenged me to be more vulnerable.”

“We’re trying to stretch out and create a tapestry of everything we can do,” adds Martin.

The band co-produced the album with Andrew Sarlo (Bon Iver, Big Thief) and Bennett Littlejohn (bassist, multi-instrumentalist).

The album includes three previously released singles: “Jean,” “Bubba,” and “Portrait.”

In 2022 Hovvdy released a new EP, billboard for my feelings, via Grand Jury. The band’s last album, True Love, was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021 and also produced by Sarlo. By Mark Redfern

8. POND: “Neon River”

This week, Australian psych-rock band POND shared a new song, “Neon River,” via a music video. They also announced some tour dates.

The band had this to say about the song in a press release: “This is a full on Pond Gemini song. Kinda tumbles through bucolic Gum (Jay Watson) larping, into Nick (Allbrook) in maximum Aerosmith spandex mode, with a brief detour into some kind of shoegaze instrumental section. The chorus is about the hollow half dead riverside shuffle of so many pre dawns of years gone by.”

POND’s last studio album, 9, came out in 2021 via Spinning Top. By Mark Redfern

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 8.

Julien Chang: “Home For The Moment”

cruush: “Headspace”

The Fourth Wall: “Darkness of Heart”

Ibibio Sound Machine: “Got to Be Who U Are”

Billy Joel: “Turn the Lights Back On”

Omni: “INTL Waters”

Pet Shop Boys: “Loneliness”

STRFKR: “Under Water / In Air”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 8 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

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