8 Best Songs of the Week: Parquet Courts, Colleen Green, Pip Blom, Low, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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8 Best Songs of the Week: Parquet Courts, Colleen Green, Pip Blom, Low, and More

Plus Dean Wareham, Matthew E. White, Penelope Isles, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Aug 20, 2021 Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the 31st Songs of the Week of 2021. It wasn’t the most overwhelmingly amazing week for new songs, so instead of a Top 10 we’ve picked eight songs we liked.

In the last week we posted interviews with brand new Russian artist Settima Tacca, Norwegian musician Ora the Molecule, and Welsh trio The Joy Formidable.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of 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, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last seven days. Check out the full list below.

1. Parquet Courts: “Walking at a Downtown Pace”

On Wednesday Parquet Courts announced a new album, Sympathy for Life, and shared its first single, “Walking at a Downtown Pace,” via a frantic video for it featuring New York City street life. Sympathy for Life finds the band embracing their more danceable electronic side and is due out October 22 via Rough Trade, with a visual album featuring videos for every song premiering two days earlier. They have also announced some unique global events connected to the album. New York City street photographer Daniel Arnold directed the “Walking at a Downtown Pace” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

Sympathy for Life follows the band’s acclaimed 2018 album Wide Awake!, also released via Rough Trade. In June the band released a new limited edition 12-inch single, “Plant Life,” that isn’t currently available digitally. “Plant Life” is included on the album.

For Sympathy for Life the band worked with producers Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, Hot Chip, David Byrne) and John Parish (PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, Dry Cleaning). The album was made mainly from improvised jams and inspired by New York clubs, Primal Scream, and Pink Floyd.

Wide Awake! was a record you could put on at a party,” says co-frontman Austin Brown in a press release. “Sympathy For Life is influenced by the party itself. Historically, some amazing rock records have been made from mingling in dance music culture—from Talking Heads to [Primal Scream’s] Screamadelica. Our goal was to bring that into our own music. Each of us, in our personal lives, has been going to more dance parties. Or rather, we were pre-pandemic, which is when this record was made.”

“Most of the songs were created by taking long improvisations and molding them through our own editing,” Brown adds. “The biggest asset we have as artists is the band. After 10 years together, our greatest instrument is each other. The purest expression of Parquet Courts is when we are improvising.”

Co-frontman A Savage had this to say about the “Walking at a Downtown Pace” video: “We see New York City from the vantage point of someone busily hurrying through it. That’s what life can be like here; a world of constant motion surrounds you while you’re just walking toward where you need to be. There’s a lot of beauty that can be missed, and it wasn’t until the streets were virtually empty that I did miss it. The song was written before all quarantine, but eerily enough the lyrics echo that longing. Now the city is back and, so it seems, are Parquet Courts.”

Feel Free - Sympathy For Life, Visualised will be a livestream of 11 videos, one for each song on the album, each directed by a different visual artist. It will stream on October 20 and is a ticketed event. Tickets cost $15 (or $10 if you buy them in the next three days) and ticket-holders will also get access to exclusive merch. You can buy tickets here.

Finally, Parquet Courts have also announced The Power of Eleven, which will be 11 global events, or “happenings” as a press release calls them, each in a different city (including London, Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Brooklyn, and Austin) and each tied to a different song on the album and a different piece of exclusive merch. The first happening has already happened, when last week the Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corp (LGBAC) Marching Band marched through the streets of downtown Manhattan and performed “Walking at a Downtown Pace” while also flying a custom-made Parquet Courts flag (find a recap on the band’s website here). More info on future The Power of Eleven events can also be found on the band’s website.

Read our 2018 interview with Parquet Courts on Wide Awake!.

2. Colleen Green: “Someone Else”

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Colleen Green is releasing a new album, Cool, on September 10 via Hardly Art. On Wednesday she shared its third single, album opener “Someone Else.”

Green had this to say about the song in a press release: “This song is about double standards within a relationship, and how they can go both ways. It’s about coming to terms with you how you actually feel about something and taking responsibility for how that affects you. It’s about taking back power in a one-sided relationship and not letting someone else dictate your happiness. It’s about choices and the act of making them.”

Previously Green shared Cool’s first single, “I Wanna Be a Dog,” via a video for it. “I Wanna Be a Dog” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared its second single, “It’s Nice to Be Nice,” via a video for it featuring Green performing the song on a sailboat.

Cool is Green’s fourth album and the follow-up to 2015’s very well-received I Want to Grow Up. Green co-produced the album with Gordon Raphael, which was mixed by Brendan Eder. The album was recorded at various Southern California studios: comp-ny (Glendale), Tenement Yard (North Hollywood), and Cosmic Vinyl (Los Angeles). Frida Claeson Johansson mastered Cool at Svenska Grammofonstudion in Gothenburg, Sweden.

3. Pip Blom: “You Don’t Want This”

Amsterdam four-piece Pip Blom are releasing a new album, Welcome Break, on October 8 via Heavenly. On Tuesday they shared its third single, “You Don’t Want This,” via an amusing and colorful video for the song.

Sara Elzinga directed the “You Don’t Want This” video and had this to say in a press release: “When I first heard ‘You Don’t Want This,’ I recognized the feeling of self-consciousness; knowing that people have a certain way of looking at you, that does not necessarily comply with the image you have of yourself. The concept of a Matryoshka doll then stuck in my head, having these multiple versions of yourself that are hidden at first. The set reminds us of a dollhouse, of someone who is so comfortable in their own scenery, they forget to look at the world outside of the room. Though rather than making a music video about anxiety, I wanted the video to be about self-acceptance. Smiling back at yourself, instead of constantly criticizing which is something people tend to do.”

Previously they shared Welcome Break’s first single, “Keep It Together,” via a video featuring the band in an aerobics class. Then they shared its second single, “It Should Have Been Fun.”

Welcome Break is the band’s second album, the follow-up to 2019’s Boat. Pip Blom are a band, but it’s also the name of the band’s frontwoman. The band also features her brother, Tender Blom. Pip wrote 20 songs in her bedroom in her parent’s house and 16 became demos. The album was recorded at Big Jelly Studios in Ramsgate, England over three weeks with engineer Al Harle.

4. Low: “More”

Low are releasing a new album, HEY WHAT, on September 10 via Sub Pop. On Tuesday they shared its third single, “More,” via a video for it. Julie Casper Roth directed the strange video, which a press release says “metaphorically explores the Sisyphean task of dismantling structural oppression, through gender biases.” The only problem with the song is that it’s too short, clocking in at just over two-minutes.

Previously Low shared HEY WHAT’s first single, “Days Like These,” via a video for it. “Days Like These” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared the album’s disorientating second single, “Disappearing,” video a striking video for it. “Disappearing” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

HEY WHAT is the band’s thirteenth album and follows 2018’s acclaimed Double Negative, which was #4 on our Top 100 Albums of 2018 list. For the third time, Low (led by Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker) worked with producer B.J. Burton on HEY WHAT. Steve Garrington, who played bass with the band since 2011’s C’mon, sat this album out.

A previous press release described the vibe of the album: “The new album finds the group focusing on their craft, staying out of the fray, and holding fast their faith to find new ways to express the discord and delight of being alive, to turn the duality of existence into hymns we can share. These 10 pieces—each built around their own instantaneous, undeniable hook—are turbocharged by the vivid textures that surround them. The ineffable, familiar harmonies of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker break through the chaos like a life raft. Layers of distorted sound accrete with each new verse—building, breaking, colossal then restrained, a solemn vow only whispered. There will be time to unravel and attribute meaning to the music and art of these times, but the creative moment looks FORWARD, with teeth.”

Read our My First Concert article with Low, where Alan Sparhawk discussed the first concert he ever attended.

Read our 2018 interview with Low on Double Negative.

Double Negative was the follow-up to 2015’s Ones and Sixes. Read our 2015 print magazine interview with Low’s Alan Sparhawk about Ones and Sixes, as well as our 2015 digital magazine bonus Q&A with Sparhawk.

5. Dean Wareham: “The Past Is Our Plaything”

On Tuesday Dean Wareham (of Luna, Galaxie 500, and Dean & Britta) announced a new solo album, I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A., and shared its first single, “The Past Is Our Plaything,” via a video for it. I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A. is due out October 15 via Double Feature. Alexandra Cabral directed the video for “The Past Is Our Plaything.” Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Wareham had this to say about the new single in a press release: “‘The Past Is Our Plaything’ was recorded at a studio on Stinson Beach, just north of San Francisco, in November 2020. The song sorta grew out of observations by Julian Barnes in my favorite book last year—the Man In the Red Coat—about a collection of dandies, drug addicts, artists and writers in belle epoque France and England.”

Wareham’s last solo album was 2014’s Dean Wareham but since then he’s kept busy, including doing the soundtrack for Mistress America with his wife, Britta Phillips, and reuniting and touring with Luna.

“The hard thing is just to start,” Wareham says of the gap between solo albums. “When I sat down and did it, the songs came pretty quickly.”

Papercuts’ Jason Quever produced and played on the album, which also features Phillips on bass, vocals, and keys, and Roger Brogan on drums.

In terms of the album’s title, I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A., and what he would say if he actually met the mayor of Los Angeles, where Wareham and Phillips have been based since 2013, Wareham responds: “It’s gonna happen. But the answer is right there too—I have nothing to say.”

6. Matthew E. White: “Nested”

Richmond, VA-based singer/songwriter/producer Matthew E. White is releasing a new album, K Bay, on September 10 via Domino. On Tuesday he shared its third single, the bass heavy “Nested,” via a video for it. Shawn Brackbill directed the video, which features in the studio footage.

“‘Nested’ is one of the most personal songs I’ve written, a song about whatever the opposite of coming-of-age is,” says White in a press release. “It was recorded after two intense, transformative days of rehearsal, in one magic take that showcases the distilled, in-the-moment, sledgehammer power of the band.”

Previously White shared K Bay’s first single, “Genuine Hesitation,” via a video for it. “Genuine Hesitation” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared its second single, “Electric,” via an infomercial-themed video for it.

White self-produced K Bay, which was recorded at his Kensington Avenue home studio (and album namesake) K Bay, Richmond’s Montrose Recording, and White’s own Spacebomb Studio. The album features Spacebomb’s house band (bassist Cameron Ralston, drummer Pinson Chanselle, and orchestral arranger Trey Pollard), along with multi-instrumentalist Alan Parker, keyboardists Devonne Harris and Daniel Clarke, and engineer/mixer Adrian Olsen.

“For me, one of the most exciting production techniques from this record was this idea where I’d record the song twice,” explained White in a previous press release. “First, in a more traditional, band-in-the-room, work out the parts and sounds, nail it, kind of way. Secondly, I would distill the concept of the song one way or another into an instrumental composition. I had a much larger band (based off of Miles Davis’ On the Corner bands) play this kind of new-music/improvisational piece at the same tempo as I had recorded the first, more ‘normal’ take. The goal was to be able to cut across between the two pieces, and/or layer them and have them fit together in wild ways. To a large degree it worked, which was pretty exciting for me. The intro to ‘Genuine Hesitation’ is an excerpt from the much longer improvisation based instrumental.”

White’s last solo album was 2015’s Fresh Blood. But since then he’s kept busy producing the likes of Natalie Prass and Bedouine and taking part in collaborative albums. In April, for example, he partnered with Lonnie Holley to release Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection via Spacebomb/Jagjaguwar. In 2017, White teamed up with British singer Flo Morrissey for Gentlewoman, Ruby Man, a collaborative album of covers that came out via Glassnote.

Read our 2015 interview with Matthew E. White.

7. Penelope Isles: “Iced Gems”

On Tuesday British sibling duo Penelope Isles (Lily and Jack Wolter) announced a new album, Which Way to Happy, and shared a new song from it, “Iced Gems,” via a video for the single. Which Way to Happy is due out November 5 via Bella Union. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the band’s upcoming UK tour dates, here.

Which Way to Happy is the band’s sophomore album and follows their debut album, Until the Tide Creeps In, released in 2019 also via Bella Union. Jack produced the album, which was mixed by Dave Fridmann. New backing band members Henry Nicholson, Joe Taylor, and Hannah Feenstra all contributed to the recording of Which Way to Happy, as did composer Fiona Brice.

As the pandemic took hold, Jack and Lily decamped to a cottage in Cornwall to begin writing and recording the album.

“We were there for about two or three months,” says Jack in a press release. “It was a tiny cottage and we all went a bit bonkers, and we drank far too much, and it spiraled a bit out of control. There were a lot of emotional evenings and realizations, which I think reflects in the songs. Writing and recording new music was a huge part of the recovery process for all of us.”

The album includes “Sailing Still,” a new song the band shared in July via a video directed by Jack and starring Lily. “Sailing Still” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Earlier this year Lily (under her alter-ego KookieLou) sang guest vocals on the Lost Horizons song “Heart of a Hummingbird,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

Read our interview with Penelope Isles on Until the Tide Creeps In.

8. Ducks Ltd.: “How Lonely Are You?” (Feat. The Beths)

Toronto-based duo Ducks Ltd. are releasing their debut full-length album, Modern Fiction, on October 1 via Carpark. On Tuesday they shared its second single, “How Lonely Are You?,” which features labelmates The Beths. It was shared via a John Smith-directed video.

The band features Evan Lewis on lead guitar and Tom McGreevy on vocals and rhythm guitar.

“This song is about personal connection in an environment that is hostile to it, and about friendships with people who are physically distant,” McGreevy says in a press release. “Me and Evan have both moved around a lot, and have friends in far off places we don’t see as often as we’d like. In fact, we partly made this record while Evan was living in Australia and I was in Toronto. Some of those friendships are extremely important to me, and the song is kind of about grasping for those lifelines when it’s particularly difficult to believe that things are going to work out, or if there’s even any point in trying.”

The video features shots of McGreevy on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls border, with Lewis on the American side. “Me and Evan had not been in the same country for about five months when this video was shot,” explains McGreevy. “He’d been in Australia and I was stuck in Canada owing to the COVID border rules. Those rules made it complicated for him to return to Canada for a minute so he was in the U.S. and Niagara Falls was the closest we could get to each other. Making something that involved us being separated by a border (and a million billion gallons of water), and experiencing two parallel weird tourist towns felt like a good fit with what the song is about. It didn’t make the final cut, but we waved to each other over the falls through binoculars at one point. First time we’d seen each other since February!”

Previously the band shared its first single, “18 Cigarettes,” via a video for it. “18 Cigarettes” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Modern Fiction follows their Get Bleak EP, which was originally put out in 2019 and given an expanded reissue by Carpark this past May. It included the new song, “As Big As All Outside.”

Producer James Cecil (The Goon Sax, Architecture in Helsinki) put finishing touches on the album and Carpark labelmates The Beths did backing harmonies on three of the album’s songs. “18 Cigarettes” features Eliza Neimi on cello.

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 8.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds: “Vortex”

Future Islands: “Peach”

Gone to Color: “Dissolved” (Feat. Martina Topley-Bird)

Hovvdy: “Junior Day League” and “Around Again”

Taraka: “Psychocastle”

Other notable new tracks in the last two weeks include:

Bad Bad Hats: “Walkman”

BADBADNOTGOOD: “Sending Signals”

Bedouine: “The Wave”

Phoebe Bridgers: “Kyoto (Bartees Strange Remix)”

Church Girls: “Separated”

Circuit des Yeux: “Dogma”

Disclosure: “In My Arms”

José González: “Swing”

Illuminati Hotties: “Pool Hopping (Strange Pool Remix)” (Feat. Bartees Strange)

James: “Beautiful Beaches (Future Islands Remix)”

The Joy Formidable: “Sevier”

Lily Konigsberg: “That’s The Way I Like It”

Lone: “Mouth of God”

Lorde: “Mood Ring”

Mac McCaughan: “Circling Around”

Miloe: “Winona” (Feat. Jamila Woods & Vagabon)

Kevin Morby: “Campfire (4-Track Demo)”

Nite Jewel: “To Feel It”

Cedric Noel: “Comuu”

Angel Olsen: “If You Leave” (OMD Cover) and “Forever Young” (Alphaville Cover)

Pinegrove: “Orange (Acoustic)”

Eddie Vedder: “Drive” (R.E.M. Cover)

Hana Vu: “Everybody’s Birthday”

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