9 Best Songs of the Week: The Beatles, MGMT, Peter Gabriel, The Last Dinner Party, and More | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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9 Best Songs of the Week: The Beatles, MGMT, Peter Gabriel, The Last Dinner Party, and More

Plus Mount Kimbie, Sen Morimoto, Cheekface, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Nov 03, 2023
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Welcome to the 36th Songs of the Week of 2023. 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 9 this week.

In the past week or so we also posted interviews with The Jesus and Mary Chain, Slaney Bay, Thurston Moore, Duran Duran, Viji, Alan Palomo, 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 week, we have picked the nine best the last week had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. The Beatles: “Now and Then”

Yesterday, The Beatles released what’s being described as their last song, “Now and Then.” Today, as promised, they released a video for the song, directed by Peter Jackson (the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Beatles: Get Back) in his music video debut. It features footage of the remaining Beatles working on the song in both 1995 (when George Harrison was involved) and 2022, as well cheeky footage of younger versions of the band (including John Lennon) interacting with current versions of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

We could be cynical or too cool for school and not include “Now and Then.” Certainly no one would argue it’s in the top teir of Beatles songs and the way it was recorded and finished, after the deaths of half the band and with the aid of AI technology, has been divisive for some. But this is the final Beatles song and the first “new” song from them in over 33 years, so this is our one and only chance to have a Beatles song in our Songs of the Week list. And despite the song’s complicated birth, it’s still a delight to hear all four members of The Beatles together again on a song.

The Beatles also recently shared an Oliver Murray-directed 12-minute documentary about the making of the song, Now and Then – The Last Beatles Song. It features commentary from McCartney, Starr, Harrison, Sean Ono Lennon, and Jackson.

“Now and Then” was announced last week, when they also announced new 2023 editions of 1962-1966 (aka “The Red Album”) and 1967-1970 (aka “The Blue Album”), which will feature the new song and are due out November 10 via Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe.

“Now and Then” started with a rough demo John Lennon recorded in 1978 at his home in New York City. After his tragic murder in 1980, the recording sat unheard until 1994 when his widow Yoko Ono gave it to the remaining Beatles (Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr) when they were working on The Beatles Anthology project. While that project did produce two new Beatles songs based on Lennon’s demos—“Free As a Bird” and “Real Love”—it was decided that the recording quality of the “Now and Then” demo was too rough to make it work. Still, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr did record new parts for the song with producer Jeff Lynne.

Harrison died in 2001. Fast forward to 2021, and director Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back docuseries used WingNut Films’ MAL audio technology to clean up some of the audio from the original footage, which also led to a new 2022 mix of Revolver. In 2022 this A.I. technology was used on Lennon’s “Now and Then” demo, with McCartney and Starr teaming up to work on the song. The final track includes Lennon’s vocals, Harrison’s acoustic guitar part recorded in the ’90s, a new drum part from Starr, and bass, guitar and piano from McCartney, matched to Lennon’s original playing. McCartney also added a slide guitar solo that was inspired by Harrison. McCartney and Starr also recorded new backing vocals for the chorus. Then McCartney teamed up with Giles Martin and Ben Foster to write and record a string part, recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. McCartney and Martin produced the song and also subtly added in backing vocals from “Here, There and Everywhere,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and “Because.” Spike Stent mixed “Now and Then.”

McCartney had this to say in a press release: “There it was, John’s voice, crystal clear. It’s quite emotional. And we all play on it, it’s a genuine Beatles recording. In 2023 to still be working on Beatles music, and about to release a new song the public haven’t heard, I think it’s an exciting thing.”

Starr says: “It was the closest we’ll ever come to having him back in the room, so it was very emotional for all of us. It was like John was there, you know. It’s far out.”

Olivia Harrison, George’s widow, says: “Back in 1995, after several days in the studio working on the track, George felt the technical issues with the demo were insurmountable and concluded that it was not possible to finish the track to a high enough standard. If he were here today, [our son] Dhani and I know he would have whole-heartedly joined Paul and Ringo in completing the recording of ‘Now and Then.’”

Sean Ono Lennon, John’s son, says: “It was incredibly touching to hear them working together after all the years that Dad had been gone. It’s the last song my dad, Paul, George and Ringo got to make together. It’s like a time capsule and all feels very meant to be.”

“Now and Then” will be released as a double A-side single, paired, fittingly, with their first ever UK single, “Love Me Do.”

2. MGMT: “Mother Nature”

On Tuesday, MGMT (Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser) officially announced a new album, Loss of Life, and shared its first single, “Mother Nature,” via a music video. Loss of Life is due out February 23, 2024 via Mom + Pop and will be the band’s first new album in six years. Longtime collaborator Jordan Fish directed the “Mother Nature” video, which combines animation with live action. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

In a press release, MGMT collectively say that “Mother Nature” “outlines the archetypical MGMT mythology of one hero attempting to get the other hero to come on the journey that they ‘must’ go on. One part sounds like Oasis.”

The song’s video is about two animal friends, simply named Dog and Turtle, who “team up to take down an evil pet collector,” according to the press release.

“I hope the story makes people happy and feel connected to family, friends and the animal kingdom as well,” says Fish.

Loss of Life is the band’s fifth album and the follow-up to 2018’s Little Dark Age, which many viewed as a return to form and was released via Columbia (as were their previous albums). Little Dark Age’s title track became a viral hit during the pandemic and is the band’s third most streamed song of all-time, behind their early hits “Electric Feel” and “Kids.”

This time the duo worked with producer Patrick Wimberly (Beyoncé, Lil Yachty) and longtime collaborator Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, Spoon). As he’s done with all their previous albums, Fridmann mixed Loss of Life. There also additional production work done on the album by Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse) and James Richardson. Miles A. Robinson was also an associate producer and engineer on the album.

Loss of Life includes the first ever feature appearance on an MGMT album when Christine and the Queens appear on the song “Dancing in Babylon.”

MGMT had this to say about Loss of Life: “All joking aside (never!), we are very proud of this album and the fact that it was a relatively painless birth after a lengthy gestation period, and are happy to be releasing this baby into the world with Mom+Pop. Musically speaking, we are running at around 20% adult contemporary and no more than this, please.”

Writer/director/The Best Show co-host Tom Scharpling has written an essay about Loss of Life and had this to say: “Simply put, the guys did it again! They’re now five-for-five, which last time I checked gets you into virtually any Hall of Fame. This record projects an aura of undeniable warmth throughout, an album brimming with comfortable confidence. There are epic tracks and intimate portraits, a little bit of glam here, some psych-folk there. It’s a slice of magic that fits perfectly into the MGMT oeuvre while expanding the boundaries once again.”

The album’s cover artwork is a 2006 painting by John Baldessari, Noses & Ears, Etc. (Part Two): Two (Flesh) Faces with (Blue) Ears and Noses, Two (Flesh) Hands, and Hobby Horse, 2006.

Read our 2018 interview with MGMT on Little Dark Age.

3. Peter Gabriel: “And Still”

Peter Gabriel is releasing a new album, i/o, on December 1 via Real World. On Saturday he shared yet another song from it, “And Still.”

This album will be his first of original songs in over 20 years. Gabriel has already shared most of its songs.

Gabriel had this to say about “And Still” in a press release: “I wrote a song for my dad a number of years back, which I was actually able to play him, which was ‘Father, Son’. When my mum died, I wanted to do something for her, but it’s taken a while before I felt comfortable and distant enough to be able to write something.

“I was trying also to write a little bit in the style of the music that my parents responded to, so I think there is some music from the 40s probably that had an influence on the song. In the middle I wanted to write my mum a beautiful melody. She loved classical music, so we have a beautiful cello playing there. It took a while to get that right, it can’t be too emotional or too underplayed, but I think we got there in the end.”

For each single from the album, Gabriel is working with a different artist to do the cover artwork. Megan Rooney and one of her large-scale paintings “And Still (Time)” forms the single cover artwork for “And Still.”

Gabriel says: “The art this month is from one of my favorites, an artist called Megan Rooney.

“I first came across her when she was doing these very fast faces. She’d do one a day and they had so much character, I fell in love with those. Megan was the first person that was approached about this project and she showed me some of the abstract work that she’d been doing, which I thought was beautiful.

“There was one piece that I think we both thought felt right for the song, for the mood. Then, in fact, Megan said, ‘I really want to create something new for this,’ and she started it, but just like with my creative process she got to a point where she didn’t think she had quite nailed it. I know from my own work that sometimes I have to leave it and come back to it to find the right path.

“In the end Megan suggested ‘maybe we should use this existing one, instead,’ which is what we have done. I’m still hoping that we’ll get to the end with the other one, but this is a beautiful piece.”

Megan Rooney adds: “First only working from the memory of Peter’s song so that I could find my way into the world he had created. And slowly, as I started to listen to sections of the song, a feeling of longing grasped hold of me and I was transported back to my mother’s garden. I typically paint in rapid, concentrated bursts and Peter’s song has a slow, undulating pace to it. The song really cradles you in its arms as much as it lets you soar, so I had to be patient to find a way to respond.”

Previously Gabriel shared the album’s first single, “Panopticom,” which featured Brian Eno and was one of our Songs of the Week. That was followed by its second single, “The Court.” Then the album’s third single was “Playing For Time.” The fourth single was the album’s title track, “i/o.” The album’s fifth single was “Four Kinds of Horses,” which also made our Songs of the Week list. “Road to Joy” was the album’s sixth single and it also made our Songs of the Week list. Then he shared “So Much,” “Olive Tree,” “Love Can Heal,” and “This Is Home” (which was one of our Songs of the Week).

Gabriel’s last full-length album of original materials was 2002’s Up, although in 2010 he released the Scratch My Back covers album and in 2011 he released New Blood, which featured orchestral re-recordings of songs from across Gabriel’s career.

Also read our previous interview between Gabriel and Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry.

4. The Last Dinner Party: “On Your Side”

On Wednesday, buzzed about new British five-piece The Last Dinner Party announced their debut album, Prelude to Ecstasy, and shared a new song from it, “On Your Side,” via a music video. Prelude to Ecstasy is due out February 2, 2024 via Island and features all of the band’s previous three singles. Cal Mcintyre directed the “On Your Side” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

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 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.”

Of the new single, the band say: “‘On Your Side’ is a love song with its hands tied. It’s about being so devoted to someone that no matter what they do, no matter how much it hurts, how much you know you should leave, you can’t escape. The outro came from a wonderful improvised moment in the studio; James Ford had this synthesizer that warped and delayed and played with the fabric of whatever you put into it. So Aurora and Abigail sat in the studio after lunch and improvised some piano and vocal lines, letting the sounds build on top of each other until that final gasp. It turned into this wrenching shimmering section that sounds like the end of a poisonous relationship; dissolving, fragmenting, painful but also ultimately freeing.”

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.

Read our May interview with The Last Dinner Party, which is 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.

5. Mount Kimbie: “Dumb Guitar”

Yesterday, Mount Kimbie shared a new song, “Dumb Guitar,” and announced some 2024 tour dates for North America, the UK, and the EU. They have also expanded their lineup to a four-piece. Check out the tour dates here.

Mount Kimbie were a duo consisting of Dominic Maker and Kai Campos, but now they have added long-term collaborators Andrea Balency-Béarn and Marc Pell to the line-up.

“Dumb Guitar” was written in California’s Yucca Valley and a press release says it’s “loosely based around a couple’s futile attempt to save a doomed relationship.” The song will also be released as a 7-inch, with the song “Boxing” (which features King Krule) on the B-side.

The band’s most recent regular studio album, Love What Survives, came out in 2017 via Warp. Although in 2022 they released MK 3.5: Die Cuts | City Planning, a double album of sorts (or perhaps two solo albums, with one recored by Maker and the other by Campos, separately).

6. Sen Morimoto: “Pressure on the Pulse”

Chicago-based Japanese American multi-instrumentalist Sen Morimoto released his third studio album, Diagnosis, today via City Slang, in partnership with his own Sooper Records. On Tuesday he shared another song from it, “Pressure on the Pulse,” via a music video. Morimoto directed the video with New Trash and it’s considered the third part in a trilogy of videos. The video stars Chicago comedy, drag, and music icon Alex Grelle.

A press release describes the video in more detail: “The final installment of the trilogy ‘Pressure on the Pulse’ finds an evil record label executive (Alex Grelle) celebrating the profits of Sen’s posthumous album streams in an unhinged dance sequence, even as Morimoto resurrects from the dead. With visual references to films like Phantom of the Paradise, Clerks, and The Crow, the visual universe of Diagnosis calls back to MTV era Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry music videos, using humor to balance and deliver the album’s earnest message.”

Morimoto previously shared the album’s first single, “If The Answer Isn’t Love,” which was featured on our Songs of the Week. When the album was announced, he shared its title track, “Diagnosis,” via a music video. The song was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared another song from it, “Deeper,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week.

When explaining this album’s aim, Morimoto said in a previous press release: “I’ve now released a couple of albums in a time when the most commercially exploitable asset an artist has is their social identity and their trauma. Over this time the discussion of this pattern has come up repeatedly with peers who felt similarly tired of being expected to share every private detail of an immigrant household or to romanticize the struggle of their working class upbringing only to find questions on the craft itself reserved for artists without those burdens. While the songs on my third album range in topic from love to radicalization to spirituality and the internal effects of life under capitalism, every song on Diagnosis is, at its core, an attempt to flip the lens around. To hold a magnifying glass over the systems we live in and empower us to investigate them with the same scrutiny.”

7. Cheekface: “Largest Muscle”

This week, Los Angeles-based indie rock trio Cheekface shared a new song, “Largest Muscle.” It was shared via a lyric video and showcases the band’s signature wit.

The trio is Greg Katz (guitar/vocals), Amanda Tannen (bass), and Mark Edwards (drums). The song was recorded at New Monkey Studio in Los Angeles, which was set up by Elliott Smith before his death.

In a press release, singer/guitarist Greg Katz says the song was born out of a discussion with bassist Mandy Tannen.

“Despite the opening lyric, I’m pretty sure your heart is not actually your largest muscle,” says Katz in a press release. “Then again, you shouldn’t necessarily look to Cheekface songs for medical information. Better to check WebMD.”

Cheekface’s most recent album was 2022’s Too Much to Ask. It included the songs “Pledge Drive” and “We Need a Bigger Dumpster.”

8. TORRES: “I got the fear”

TORRES (aka MacKenzie Scott) is releasing a new album, What an enormous room, on January 24, 2024 via Merge. On Wednesday, he shared its second single, “I got the fear,” via a music video. Dani Okon directed the video.

Scott had this to say about the song in a press release: “A collective dread has been mounting. Everyone I know is having a brawl with the universe, with themselves…wars, climate catastrophe, a pandemic, the worldwide regression on human rights, the political hellscape—it affects everybody, and I know we’re all feeling it in waves of varying degree all the time. I think it’s really important that we find a way to get our hopes back up. I’m here to try to help light the way if I can. Most days I really believe humanity will find a way. But there’s a nagging anxiety that maybe that won’t happen. One has to wonder if it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that a species that believes it’s doomed will doom itself.”

Previously TORRES shared the album’s first single, “Collect,” via a music video. “Collect” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Scott produced the album with Sarah Jaffe, recording it last fall at Durham, North Carolina’s Stadium Heights Sound. Ryan Pickett engineered the album, which was mixed overseas in Bristol by TJ Allen, and mastered by Heba Kadry.

Julien Baker wrote the album’s bio and had this to say: “What I can say about TORRES is I think the music comes from a convicted place…. And I think it’s just incredibly good music to listen to.”

TORRES’ last album, Thirstier, came out in 2021 via Merge.

9. Get Wrong: “Too Late to Hide”

Get Wrong is the new project from Naomi Griffin (of Martha) and Adam Todd (of The Spook School). Their self-titled debut EP is due out December 1 via Father/Daughter (in America) and Alcopop! (in the UK). Peter Brewis of Field Music produced the EP. This week they shared another song from it, “Too Late to Hide.”

Todd had this to say about the song in a press release: “It went through loads of rewrites which is funny cause it’s probably the shortest and most simple song on the EP. It started with a demo of the chorus bassline and chords that I sent through to Naomi, and Naomi almost immediately sent it back with the vocal line and lyrics. Then we got stuck. We spent so long swapping in and out different verse ideas.”

Then Brewis advised them to cut straight to the chorus, which was the secret to completely the song.

“So that’s what we did,” says Todd. “I like to think that the unusual verse length adds a bit of surprise, a wee feeling of things being rushed or not quite right in a way that works quite well thematically with the song. The song is quite simply about getting in your head too much to the point that it ruins your night, but nothing that a little one-on-one time with a cutie can’t fix.”

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 9.

Cloud Nothings: “Final Summer”

Dating: “Rameses II”

Linying: “Porcupine”

Living Body: “NO DEBT”

Marnie Stern: “Til It’s Over”

Sharon Van Etten: “Close to You”

Wisp: “Once then we’ll be free”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 9 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions (the Dating song isn’t on Spotify, so it isn’t on the playlist):

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