8 Best Songs of the Week: Yumi Zouma, Hayden Thorpe, Cate Le Bon, Flying Lotus, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, May 30th, 2024  

8 Best Songs of the Week: Yumi Zouma, Hayden Thorpe, Cate Le Bon, Flying Lotus, and More

Plus Ezra Furman, Cherry Glazerr, Bill Callahan, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

May 24, 2019 Reggie Watts Bookmark and Share

Welcome to another Songs of the Week. Last week we only had a Top 7 instead of our usual Top 10 and this week it’s only a little better with a Top 8.

Elsewhere on the website this week we posted interviews with Kurt Vile, Ladytron, The Twilight Sad, and The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne on the 20th anniversary of The Soft Bulletin.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Idlewild, Interpol (an EP), Clinic, Big Thief, Local Natives, Mavis Staples, Flying Lotus, and two Stereolab reissues. Plus we posted reviews of various DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows.

Don’t forget about our current print issue. The issue features Mitski on the front cover and boygenius (Julien Baker + Phoebe Bridgers + Lucy Dacus) on the back cover.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 7 best the last seven days had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last week. Check out the full list below.

1. Yumi Zouma: “Bruise”

New Zealand indie-pop band Yumi Zouma released a new EP, EP III, last September via Cascine. This week they shared a brand new song, “Bruise,” that’s a standalone single and is a little bit more electronic and club-ready than their usual fare. And yet it still works gloriously. Seriously, this band consistently makes our Songs of the Week lists and really should be bigger.

The band has this to say about the song in a press release: “On EP III, we were literally finishing tracks the day before they had to be turned in and uploaded. This helped us to realize that we could release our next songs in a more direct way, and put ‘Bruise’ out independently. The origins of ‘Bruise’ were steeped in loss, but the track has become a beacon of optimism for us. We started writing the instrumental after our great friend Sam told us he was leaving the band and moving to Serbia. We were all distraught until Josh said, ‘Cheer me up guys - let’s write a song for Nelly Furtado.’ Nelly never replied but we came up with a smash.”

EP III was the follow-up to Yumi Zouma’s sophomore album, Willowbank, which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017.

Read our 2017 interview with Yumi Zouma on Willowbank.

2. Hayden Thorpe: “Earthly Needs”

Hayden Thorpe, formerly the singer for British art-rockers Wild Beasts, released his debut solo album, Diviner, today via Domino. You can stream it here and it was the runner-up for this week’s Album of the Week. This week he shared one last pre-release song from it, “Earthly Needs,” a track built around a hypnotic beat and Thorpe’s distinctive emotive vocals.

Back in February Thorpe shared the album’s title track, “Diviner,” via a video (it was one of our Songs of the Week). When the album was announced in April he shared another new song from it, “Love Crimes,” via a video for the track (it was #2 on our Songs of the Week list).

In 2017 Wild Beasts announced their breakup in a typed up statement, signed by the band and posted to Instagram. That was followed by a final EP, Punk Drunk and Trembling, three farewell concerts in February 2018, and a final album, February 2018’s live in the studio release Last Night All My Dreams Came True (which featured new interpretations of songs from across their catalogue).

Diviner was written in California, Cornwall, and at Thorpe’s home in London.

A previous press release described the album as such: “Diviner is a deeply emotional album: lyrically generous in its candid tone and self-awareness, the melodies resonant with sense memory. The album feels like a startling departure from Thorpe’s previous work with Wild Beasts and also unlike anything else being made at the moment.”

Thorpe had this to say about the album in the previous press release: “My adulthood was based on a certain belief system, a band, a family. When it shifted entirely, I had a ghost I had to find a new haunt for…. I believe in the medicinal properties of songs. I believe in their healing properties, Songs defy time, they don’t erode or denature, they come with you and reform anew in your mind as and when you need them…. I broke up with myself. So this is a break-up album, but not about a relationship. It’s a break-up from a past self, it’s a breakup from the old idea of yourself and therefore every relationship, of all kinds, that you’ve ever had.”

Read our 2018 interview with Hayden Thorpe about the breakup of Wild Beasts and the band’s legacy.

3. Cate Le Bon: “Miami”

Welsh singer/songwriter/guitarist Cate Le Bon released a new album, Reward, today via Mexican Summer. It was our Album of the Week and you can stream it here. Now that the album is out, we can share one of its best album tracks that wasn’t already released as a pre-release single, album opener “Miami.” Le Bon’s music is hard to define, she’s truly her own artist, and “Miami” is fantastic introduction to Reward.

Previously Le Bon shared Reward‘s first single, “Daylight Matters,” which was one of our Songs of the Week, as well as a video for “Daylight Matters.” Then she shared another new song from the album, “Home to You,” via a video for the track. Le Bon doesn’t feature in the video directed by Phil Collins (no, not that Phil Collins). It was filmed in Lunik IX neighborhood of Košice (Eastern Slovakia), which houses a Roma community who, as a press release states, “due to successive governmental and municipal policies, often live in slums and on isolated, dilapidated estates.” “Home to You” was our #1 Song of the Week. Then she shared another song from the album, “The Light” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).

In terms of her solo work, Reward is the follow-up to 2016’s Crab Day, although last year she released Hippo Lite, her second album with DRINKS, a collaboration with Tim Presley of White Fence. Le Bon also produced Deerhunter‘s recent album.

Le Bon spent a year living in isolation in the Lake District in the UK, by day making wood furniture and by night playing piano and writing songs. “There’s a strange romanticism to going a little bit crazy and playing the piano to yourself and singing into the night,” Le Bon said in a previous press release.

Of the album title, Le Bon said: “People hear the word ‘reward’ and they think that it’s a positive word, and to me it’s quite a sinister word in that it depends on the relationship between the giver and the receiver. I feel like it’s really indicative of the times we’re living in where words are used as slogans, and everything is slowly losing its meaning.”

The album features Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint, H. Hawkline, and Samur Khouja. The latter co-produced Reward with Le Bon.

4. Flying Lotus: “Black Balloons Reprise” (feat. Denzel Curry)

Flying Lotus (aka Steven Ellison) has released a new album, Flamagra, today via Warp (you can stream it here). This week Flying Lotus shared one last pre-release single from Flamagra, “Black Balloons Reprise,” which features Denzel Curry. Musically it’s got a bit of a Kamasi Washington vibe.

Also, today we posted our review of Flamagra and you can read that here.

Previously Flying Lotus shared a video for Flamagra‘s first single, “Fire Is Coming” (the song and video both feature David Lynch). Then he shared two more songs from the album: “Spontaneous” (which features Little Dragon) and “Takashi,” a press release described the two songs as a “mini-suite.”

Then he shared another song from it, “More,” which features Anderson .Paak and was one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared an animated video for “More” directed by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop). Watanabe and Ellison previously collaborated on Blade Runner Black Out 2022, the 2017 animated short film that was a prequel to the live action feature film Blade Runner 2049.

Flamagra is the first Flying Lotus album in five years, since 2014’s You’re Dead! The album also features George Clinton, Tierra Whack, Shabazz Palaces, Thundercat, Toro y Moi, Solange, and others.

Ellison had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “I’d been working on stuff for the past five years, but it was always all over the place. I’d always had this thematic idea in mind-a lingering concept about fire, an eternal flame sitting on a hill. Some people love it, some people hate it. Some people would go on dates there and some people would burn love letters in the fire.”

5. Ezra Furman: “Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone”

This week Ezra Furman announced a new album, Twelve Nudes, and shared a video for its first single (and opening track) “Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone.” He also announced some tour dates. Twelve Nudes is due out August 30 via Bella Union. Beth Jeans Houghton (aka Du Blonde) directed the animated “Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

Twelve Nudes is the follow-up to 2018’s Transangelic Exodus. Last year he also did the soundtrack for the Netflix show Sex Education. Twelve Nudes was recorded “quickly” in Oakland last fall and mixed by John Congleton (Sharon Van Etten, St. Vincent). A press release calls it a “‘spiritually queer’ punk record” and says it has two spiritual heroes, the late musician Jay Reatard and Canadian writer/philosopher Anne Carson. The latter inspired the album’s title, as she “used the term ‘nudes’ to describe the meditations she used to deal with intense pain in her life.”

The album tackles Furman’s Jewish identity and the Israel/Palestine conflict, wealthy men accused of sexual assault, and an America that “is balanced on a knife-edge between white male supremacy and the dream of universal opportunity.”

“One of my goals in making music is to make the world seem bigger, and life seem larger,” Furman explains in the press release. “I want to be a force that tries to revive the human spirit rather than crush it, to open possibilities rather than close them down. Sometimes a passionate negativity is the best way to do that.”

Of “Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone” Furman says: “Desperate times make for desperate songs. I wrote this in the summer of 2018, a terrible time. It’s the sound of me struggling to admit that I’m not okay with the current state of human civilization, in which bad men crush us into submission. Once you admit how bad it feels to live in a broken society, you can start to resist it, and imagine a better one.”

Furman sums up Twelve Nudes this way: “This is our punk record. We made it in Oakland, quickly. We drank and smoked. Then we made the loud parts louder. I hurt my voice screaming. This was back in 2018, when things were bad in the world. The songs are naked with nothing to hide.”

Read our interview with Ezra Furman on Transangelic Exodus.

Read our review of Transangelic Exodus.

6. Cherry Glazerr: “Daddi (Reggie Watts Remix)”

Los Angeles-based trio Cherry Glazerr released a new album, Stuffed & Ready, back in February via Secretly Canadian. This week they shared a remix of the Blonde Redhead-sounding “Daddi” (which was one of our Songs of the Week) by musician/comedian Reggie Watts. These days Watts is best known as the band leader on The Late Late Show with James Corden, but before that he had successful comedy and music careers and even once did a hilarious TED Talk.

The band’s Clementine Creevy had this to say about the remix in a press release: “I think a lot of rock musicians secretly would love to make a club floor banger - and Reggie helped us get there with his amazing booty shaking remix of ‘Daddi.’”

Read our 2011 interview with Reggie Watts.

Stuffed & Ready is the band’s fourth album and the follow-up to Apocalypstick, which was released on President Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day in 2017. Instead of focusing on political songwriting, the craziness of the last two years made 22-year-old Creevy turn inwards.

“I am telling my story of how I feel and where I am in life,” she said in a previous press release. “I’ve felt the need to explain my feelings…not just state them, but search for why I feel the way I do honestly. With Apocalipstick, I was an over-confident teenager trying to solve the world’s problems. With Stuffed & Ready, I’m a much more weary and perhaps a more cynical woman who believes you need to figure your own self out first.”

An initial version of Stuffed & Ready was recorded in early in 2018 with engineer/musician John Vanderslice. Creevy said that resulted in a “very live sounding, self-produced album, which was cool, but wasn’t exactly what I wanted to put into the ether right now.”

The band then turned to Carlos de la Garza, who had co-produced Apocalipstick. “I wanted a producer to push me,” Creevy explains. “I wanted to be questioned, to rip my songs apart and look at their guts and pour myself open again. And I wanted it to sound massive.”

7. Bill Callahan: “The Ballad of the Hulk”

Bill Callahan is releasing a new album, Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, on June 14 via Drag City. It’s his first album in six years, since 2013’s Dream River. When the album was announced no new songs from it were shared, but now he’s more than made up for that, sharing six new songs this week. In other words he’s shared side one of the vinyl version of the album. The songs include “The Ballad of the Hulk,” which references the Marvel Comics superhero and the 1970s TV show. The other songs are “Shepherd’s Welcome,” “Black Dog on the Beach,” “Angela,” “Writing,” and “Morning is My Godmother.” There are 14 more songs on Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, so there’s still plenty left to discover. Perhaps because of our geeky inclinations, “The Ballad of the Hulk” is our favorite of the bunch (you can check out the other tracks further below).

Following Dream River Callahan got married and had a kid and after those big and happy life changes he had trouble tapping into his usual songwriting well. As a previous press release explained: “It was suddenly harder for him to find the place where the songs came, to make him and these new experiences over again into something to sing. His songs have always been elusive, landing lightly between character study and autobiography, as the singer/songwriter often does. This felt different, though. After 20 years of putting music first, he wasn’t prepared to go away from it completely. Or perhaps, after all the time, the obvious needs to be made just a little more explicit?”

8. Sanctuary Lakes: “Our Life Together”

This week Brooklyn and Melbourne based electronic duo Sanctuary Lakes (aka Tim Hoey of Cut Copy and Andy Szekeres of Midnight Juggernauts) shared their new single, “Our Life Together,” off of their forthcoming self-titled debut album due out June 21 via Cutters Records, and we were pleased to premiere it. The track is a gently swaying, downtempo funk meditation with lustrous vocals that settle gently across a phased-out pulse.

In a statement to Under the Radar, Hoey had this to say: “Even though Sanctuary Lakes came together at a time when both Andy and myself were dealing with a lot of anxieties, a crippling depression, loss, feelings of relevance…the end result is a record that should remind everyone that in these times, to always turn to the people you love, your best friend…and that family heals everything.”

The duo came together when Hoey shared his noodlings with Szekeres. The tracks then began to coalesce as they bounced back and forth from Brooklyn to Melbourne via email and file sharing. By Stephen Axeman

Honorable Mentions:

These four songs almost made the Top 10.

Dungen: “Var Har Du Varit”

Goon: “Northern Saturn” & “Snoqualmie”

Twen: “Holy River”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

bad heaven ltd. “strength”

Julien Baker: “Everybody Lost Somebody” (Bleachers Cover)

Bill Callahan: “Shepherd’s Welcome,” “Black Dog on the Beach,” “Angela,” “Writing,” and “Morning is My Godmother”

Denzel Curry: “SPEEDBOAT”

Mike Donovan: “B.O.C. Rate Applied”

Dumb: “Content Jungle”

Fashion Brigade: “First Sunny Day of the Year” (Feat. Phosphorescent’s Jo Schornikow) and “Middle C” (Feat. Frankie Cosmos)

The Flaming Lips: “Giant Baby” (Feat. Mick Jones)

Gauche: “Pay Day”

Hideout: “I Won’t Give Up”

Illiterate Light: “Carolina Lorelei”

Just Mustard: “October”

Mannequin Pussy: “Who You Are”

Miya Folick: “Malibu Barbie”

Outer Spaces: “Album For Ghosts”

Peaking Lights: “Mirror in the Sky”

Pelican: “Cold Hope”

Sorcha Richardson: “Don’t Talk About It”

Mark Ronson: “Late Night Feelings (Channel Tres Remix)” (feat. Lykke Li)

Esther Rose: “Only Loving You”

Russian Circles: “Arluck”

Ed Sheeran: “Cross Me” (Feat. Chance The Rapper & PnB Rock)

Strange Ranger: “Leona”

Trentemøller: “Sleeper”

Underworld: “Listen to Their No” and “Soniamode (Aditya Game Version)”

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