8 Best Songs of the Week: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Morrissey, CHVRCHES, Wolf Alice, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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8 Best Songs of the Week: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Morrissey, CHVRCHES, Wolf Alice, and More

Plus Angel Olsen, TORRES, Stars, Cults, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Sep 22, 2017 Angel Olsen Bookmark and Share

We’re back down to eight Songs of the Week, after promising last week to stick with a Top 10 for awhile. But it was a slow week for new tracks. Still, there were some clear gems this week, as you will see below, with an easy choice for top song.

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

1. Charlotte Gainsbourg: “Deadly Valentine”

French singer/actress Charlotte Gainsbourg is releasing a new album, Rest, on November 17 via Because Music. Previously she shared a self-directed video for its title track, which was co-written and produced by Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (it was one of our Songs of the Week). This week she shared another song from the album, “Deadly Valentine,” via a video she also self-directed. The bass heavy song exudes French cool and is a bit of a cousin to a mid-period Air song (which makes sense, since they backed her on 2006’s 5:55, although aren’t involved in this album).

The video co-stars Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange). The video charts a romantic relationship from childhood to old age, with Gainsbourg and Hynes playing the adult versions of the characters, with other actors portraying childhood, teenage, and elderly versions. In each incarnation she is clad in some variation of a wedding dress and he is also dressed in white. Gainsbourg’s own daughters play younger versions of her, with Alice Attal as the teenage version and Jo Attal as the child version.

Gainsbourg had this to say about the video in a press release: “Each video came from personal, resonating ideas. This song mixes wedding vows with an offbeat tone. I wanted to express the idea of a lifetime engagement; a couple running to church, from childhood to old age, a lifetime path. I asked my friend Dev Hynes if he would play my partner, and he very graciously agreed. It was fun finding our younger and older selves! For my part, I had all I needed at home (with their consent of course!). I nearly asked my mother, but in the end, didn’t dare…”

Rest also features collaborations with Paul McCartney (who composed and wrote the album’s “Songbird in a Cage”), Owen Pallett, and Connan Mockasin. While “Rest” was produced by Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, the rest of Rest was produced by SebastiAn (Frank Ocean, Kavinsky). A press release says Gainsbourg and SebastiAn were inspired by the music of Giorgio Moroder, as well as various movie soundtracks, “particularly Pino Donaggio’s score for Brian De Palma’s ‘70s horror classic Carrie, Georges Delerue’s music for Jean-Luc Godard’s nouvelle vague masterpiece Le Mépris, as well as the unsettling ambience of films like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Hitchcock’s Rebecca.”

The album is the follow-up to 2006’s 5:55 (a collaboration with Air, Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, and The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon) and 2009’s IRM (a collaboration with Beck). Unlike those albums, for Rest Gainsbourg wrote the lyrics herself.

Read our 2010 interview with Charlotte Gainsbourg.

2. CHVRCHES: “Call It Off” (Tegan and Sara Cover)

Tegan and Sara previously announced that they are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their album The Con with a tour and The Con X: Covers, an album due out October 20 (via Warner Bros) in which other artists cover each song on The Con, with all net proceeds going to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, which works in support of LGBTQ girls and women. Last week it was revealed that the album includes CHVRCHES, Ryan Adams, Grimes and HANA, Hayley Williams of Paramore, Bleachers, Kelly Lee Owens, Shamir, Cyndi Lauper, Shura, and others. This week they shared CHVRCHES’ take on “Call It Off.” CHVRCHES’ version is gorgeous, moody, and atmospheric. It also slows down and stretches out the song (the original version is around 2:20 and the cover is 5:06).

Tegan Quin had this to say to Entertainment Weekly (who premiered it) about the cover: “Lauren [Mayberry of CHVRCHES] was one of the first artists we approached for The Con X: Covers project. We are massive fans of CHVRCHES and the music they make. Lauren is an ally to the LGBTQ community and has been outspoken and political, so she fit the ethos of the project perfectly. CHVRCHES are in the studio making a new record, so we were touched they made the time to cover ‘Call It Off.’”

Of the differences between the cover and the original, Tegan added: “Their cover could not have been more unexpected and we think it’s beautiful. Our hope was that each artist would reinvent and reimagine each song, and they did not disappoint!”

Tegan had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “As the 10th anniversary of The Con approached, Sara and I started to brainstorm meaningful ways to celebrate what was easily one of our most important records. Almost immediately we established that a tour playing all 14 songs in a more intimate and stripped-down arrangement would be memorable for our diehard fans. But we also wanted a companion piece that would live on past the anniversary, hence The Con X: Covers album was born.

“We wanted the proceeds to go to our recently launched Tegan and Sara Foundation, which raises money for self-identified women and girls in the LGBTQ community. With that intention set, we asked 14 artists who were either outspoken allies of the LGTBQ community or LGBTQ themselves to each cover a song from The Con, in any fashion they saw fit. All the artists agreed to donate their time and energy to the project and their labels all agreed to waive their fees as well. We are beyond grateful for the contributions of each artist, and we hope fans of The Con will be moved by their interpretations.”

3. Morrissey: “Spent the Day in Bed”

Morrissey is releasing a new album, Low in High School, on November 17 via BMG and his own new label, Etienne. Earlier this week he shared the album’s first single, “Spent the Day in Bed.” In the topical chorus Morrissey sings: “And I recommend that you/Stop watching the news!/Because the news contrives to frighten you/To make you feel small and alone/To make you feel that your mind isn’t your own.”

Morrissey recorded the album with producer Joe Chiccarelli (who also produced his last album, 2014’s World Peace is None of Your Business). Low in High School was recorded at La Fabrique Studios in France and at Ennio Morricone’s Forum Studios in Rome. The album’s cover art features a boy with a protest sign and a hatchet standing in front of Buckingham Palace.

A previous press release said: “On his 11th studio album, Morrissey’s talent for combining political statements and beautiful melodies is more prevalent than ever as he captures the zeitgeist of an ever-changing world.”

Korda Marshall (EVP of BMG) had this to say in the previous press release: “There are not many artists around today that can compare to Morrissey. He is an extraordinary talent. He is prodigious, literate, witty, elegant and above all, courageous. His lyrics, humor and melodies have influenced many generations. The music on this new landmark record will speak for itself and we are delighted to welcome him to BMG.”

4. Wolf Alice: “Heavenward”

Britain’s Wolf Alice are releasing their sophomore album, Visions of a Life, on September 29 via Dirty Hit/RCA. This week they shared the album’s opening cut, “Heavenward.” While it may not be the album’s best song, it’s such a strong album that the sixth or seventh best song on the album still makes this list.

Previously the band shared a lyric video for the album’s punky and profanity-laden first single, the two-minute long “Yuk Foo,” in which frontwoman Ellie Rowsell declares in the chorus “you bore me, you bore me to death, well you bore me, no I don’t give a shit.” (It was our #1 song of the week.) Then the band showed the more melodic and produced side of their sound with the album’s atmospheric second single, “Don’t Delete the Kisses.” (It was also our #1 song of the week.) Then they shared a fierce video for “Yuk Foo,” as well as a romantic video for “Don’t Delete the Kisses” directed by big time music video director Sophie Muller (Beyoncé, Radiohead, Blur) that chronicled a relationship purely via shots of the couple on public transport in London (mainly on the Tube, aka London’s subway system). And that was followed by the audio for “Beautifully Unconventional” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week), as well as a video for “Beautifully Unconventional” that featured frontwoman Ellie Rowsell channeling Marilyn Monroe, performing the song on a soundstage looking like something out of classic 1950s Hollywood.

Wolf Alice released their amazing debut album, My Love Is Cool, back in 2015. It made it to #3 on Under the Radar‘s Top 100 Albums of 2015 list and landed Rowsell on the cover of our Best of 2015 print issue, in a joint cover with Father John Misty. Rowsell recently sang guest vocals on the new alt-J album, Relaxer, singing on the opening track, “3WW.”

Read our Best of 2015 article on Wolf Alice. Also read our earlier 2015 print article on Wolf Alice, as well as our 2015 Pleased to Meet You Spotlight article on Wolf Alice. And read our review of My Love Is Cool here.

5. Cults: “Right Words”

Cults (the duo of Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion) are releasing a new album, Offering, on October 6 via Sinderlyn. Previously they shared its title track (also its opening track), which was one of our Songs of the Week, the album’s second single, “I Took Your Picture” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week), and a combined video for “I Took Your Picture” and “With Your Eyes Closed.” This week the band shared another song from the album, the catchy “Right Words.”

The band collectively offered this statement about the song in a press release: “We are excited to share ‘Right Words,’ the third single off of Offering. This song was like the nebula of the album. We worked on it forever because it kept breeding new parts that would go on to be their own tracks. Musically it’s inspired by ‘80s power pop bands like Cleaners From Venus and R Stevie Moore, and lyrically it’s a conversation about not letting abstract ideas of success pollute your brain. Play it loud!”

Offering is the band’s third album and it comes four years after 2013’s sophomore release, Static. In that time Madeline Follin teamed up with her brother, Richie Follin of Guards (and Willowz) to form a new band appropriately named Follin. Cults consciously decided to take a break, as Oblivion explained in a previous press release: “I feel like we stepped into a tour van when we were 21, and basically didn’t get out of it for the next few years. We wanted to give ourselves some space to have normal lives, and wait until there was something new to say.”

Follin added: “It was exciting, because writing stopped feeling like a homework assignment. I was able to sit down and do it only when I wanted to. These songs are less art projects, less thinking ‘this is a heartbreak song, what would Lesley Gore do?’ and more reflective of things that have happened in our own lives.”

Offering is Cults’ first release for the label Sinderlyn. Label head Mike Sniper, an early supporter of the band, had this to say in a previous press release: “I contacted the band in 2010 when I first heard ‘Go Outside’ and asked if they were going to make an album. I forgot to tell them I wanted to release said album. I basically started Sinderlyn to try and sign them.”

6. Angel Olsen: “Special”

In 2016 Angel Olsen released a fantastic new album, MY WOMAN, via Jagjaguwar. It made it to #3 on Under the Radar’s Top 100 Albums of 2016 list. While she hasn’t announced its follow-up album yet, this week she announced Phases, a new collection of B-sides, rarities, and demos, including some previously unreleased tracks that’s due out November 10 via Jagjaguwar. This week she shared one of those previously unheard songs, “Special,” recorded during the sessions for MY WOMAN. The album also includes unreleased tracks “How Many Disasters” and “Sans,” both home-recorded demos. Phases opens with “Fly On Your Wall,” a track first shared on Bandcamp back in January as the first song of the “Our First 100 Days” anti-President Donald Trump project, and that’s now available outside of Bandcamp. “Special” is a 7-minute long slow burner that picks up momentum as it goes.

Read our 2016 interview with Olsen.

7. TORRES: “Helen in the Woods”

TORRES (aka MacKenzie Scott) is releasing a new album, Three Futures, on September 29 via 4AD (her first for the label). She has already shared videos for “Skim” (it was our #1 Song of the Week) and title track “Three Futures” (it was also our #1 Song of the Week). This week she shared a third song from the album, the intense “Helen in the Woods,” via its video. The dark song seems to be about a troubled girl, perhaps one dealing with mental illness. Ashley Connor directed the “Helen in the Woods” video, which is fittingly creepy, featuring lots of low-lit moody shots of Scott singing the song with ferocious energy, as well as images of her in the woods.

Connor had this to say in a press release about the directing the video: “The first time I heard ‘Helen In The Woods,’ I thought the guitar riff had such an incredible energy - so I told Mackenzie to come down south and we’d shoot something that felt like your face melting off in the woods. We shot on 16mm film and used only in camera effects - we were a couple feral cats gyrating in a barn.”

TORRES last released an album, Sprinter, in 2015, via Partisan. For Three Futures she reunited with Sprinter producer Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey). The album was recorded in Stockport and Dorset, England, and was mixed by David Tolomei (Beach House, Future Islands). Ashley Connor also directed the “Three Futures” video.

Read our 2015 interview with TORRES on Sprinter.

8. Stars: “Alone”

Montreal indie-pop heroes Stars are releasing a new album, There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light, on October 13 via Last Gang. This week they shared another song from it, “Alone,” which features lead vocals of the band’s Torquil Campbell.

Campbell had this to say about the song to Billboard: “Of all the songs I wish I had written, ‘Waterloo Sunset’ is the one I wish I had written most. But I didn’t. I wrote this instead. And when I say I, I mean the whole band. All six of us, still making music together—music about people who feel alone. There must be a lesson in that somewhere. If you find it, please don’t get in touch.”

In June Stars shared two songs from There Is No Love In Fluorescent Light, album opener “Privilege” and “We Called It Love.” Then in July they announced the album and shared its near title track, “Fluorescent Light” (which features vocals of both Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell as they sing, “No one falls in love under fluorescent light”). That was followed by another song, “Real Thing.”

Other notable new tracks this week include:

Arcade Fire: “Mind Games” (John Lennon Cover)

Bibio: “Phantom Brickworks III (Edit)”

Depeche Mode: “Heroes” (David Bowie Cover)

Kristin Kontrol: “Concrete Love”

Screaming Female: “Black Moon”

Weaves: “Scream” (Feat. Tanya Tagaq)

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Lauren Mayberry Fans
September 22nd 2017

Great list! We absolutely love the cover from CHVRCHES and can’t wait to hear the full Tegan and Sara cover album, The Con X: Covers.

Best Music apps
September 23rd 2017

There are great songs. Almost all are 8 songs nice.