9 Best Songs of the Week: The Smile, Mannequin Pussy, J Mascis, William Doyle, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, July 17th, 2024  

9 Best Songs of the Week: The Smile, Mannequin Pussy, J Mascis, William Doyle, and More

Plus Everything Everything, Laetitia Sadier, SPRINTS, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Nov 17, 2023 Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the 38th Songs of the Week of 2023. This week Andy Von Pip, Caleb Campbell, Mark Moody, Matt the Raven, Scott Dransfield, and Stephen Humphries all helped me decide what should make the list. We settled on a Top 9 this week. Note: We won’t do a Songs of the Week next week because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

In the past week or so we also posted interviews with The Polyphonic Spree, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene, Shame, Drop Nineteens, Emma Anderson, John Cale, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Slaney Bay, Thurston Moore, 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 Smile: “Wall of Eyes”

On Monday, The Smile (Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, and Sons of Kemet’s Tom Skinner) announced a new album, Wall of Eyes, and shared its first single, title track “Wall of Eyes,” via a Paul Thomas Anderson-directed music video. They have also announced some UK and EU tour dates. Wall of Eyes is due out January 26, 2024 via XL. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, followed by the tour dates, here.

Wall of Eyes includes the eight-minute “Bending Hectic,” a new song the band shared in June that was one of our Songs of the Week (at #1). Sam Petts-Davies produced the album, which was recorded in Oxford and at Abbey Road Studios. It features string arrangements by the London Contemporary Orchestra.

Wall of Eyes is the fairly quick follow-up to The Smile’s 2022 debut A Light For Attracting Attention, which made our top 100 Albums of 2022.

The Smile also previously released a vinyl-only EP, Europe: Live Recordings 2022. By Mark Redfern

2. Mannequin Pussy: “Sometimes”

Philadelphia-based indie punk band Mannequin Pussy are releasing a new album, I Got Heaven, on March 1, 2024 via Epitaph. On Tuesday, they shared its third single, “Sometimes,” via a music video. They also announced some 2024 North American tour dates.

The band’s Marisa Dabice had this to say about the new song in a press release: “‘Sometimes’ is the internal conversation and subsequent battle that comes with facing your own desires. It is a song about the struggle of feeling a deep need for one’s independence while at the same time accepting that you are longing for someone who would understand you and be enough to draw you away from your solitude. It is the anger you feel at someone for making you feel desire. For allowing that desire to distract you from your work and your self and your mission.”

The band shared the album’s title track, “I Got Heaven,” in September via a music video. It was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. When the album was announced they shared its second single, “I Don’t Know You,” via a music video. It was also #1 on our Songs of the Week.

Mannequin Pussy is Colins “Bear” Regisford, Kaleen Reading, Maxine Steen, and Marisa Dabice. John Congleton produced the new album.

Of releasing an album in such trying times, Dabice says: “There’s just so much constantly going on that feels intentionally evil that trying to make something beautiful feels like a radical act. The ethos of this band has always been to bring people together.”

She adds: ”We’re supposed to be living in the freest era ever so what it means to be a young person in this society is the freedom to challenge these systems that have been put on to us. It makes sense to ask, what ultimately am I living for? What is it that makes me want to live?”

Mannequin Pussy’s last album, Patience, came out in 2019 on Epitaph. In 2021 they released the Perfect EP. By Mark Redfern

3. J Mascis: “Can’t Believe We’re Here”

On Tuesday, J Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr.) announced a new solo album, What Do We Do Now, and shared its first single, “Can’t Believe We’re Here,” via a music video that features Fred Armisen, David Cross, Eugene Mirman, Bully, IDLES, and others. What Do We Do Now is due out February 2, 2024 via Sub Pop. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

What Do We Do Now is the follow-up to 2018’s Elastic Days. Mascis recorded the album at his Bisquiteen studio in Western Massachusetts.

“When I’m writing for the band,” he says in a press release. “I’m always trying to think of doing things Lou and Murph would fit into. For myself, I’m thinking more about what I can do with just an acoustic guitar, even for the leads. Of course, this time, I added full drums and electric leads, although the rhythm parts are still all acoustic. Usually, I try to do the solo stuff more simply so I can play it by myself, but I really wanted to add the drums. Once that started, everything else just fell into place. So it ended up sounding a lot more like a band record. I dunno why I did that exactly, but it’s just what happened.”

The album features Ken Mauri of The B-52s on keysboards and Matthew “Doc” Dunn on steel guitar.

“Ken is great, and he plays all the keys. I tried playing some keyboards on the first Fog album, but I’m really only comfortable playing the white notes, so it’s kind of limiting,” Mascis says, laughing. “Nowadays, I could just turn the pitch on a mini Mellotron to play different sounds, but black keys just seem hard. For whatever reason, I just like banging on the white ones. Seems like it’s harder to figure out how to stretch your fingers around the other ones.”

Adam Bale edited the “Can’t Believe We’re Here” video

Read our 2014 joint interview between Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis and The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus. By Mark Redfern

4. William Doyle: “Relentless Melt”

On Wednesday, William Doyle (formerly known as East India Youth) announced a new album, Springs Eternal, and shared a new song from it, “Relentless Melt.” Springs Eternal will be released on February 16, 2024 via Tough Love. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as Doyle’s upcoming tour dates, here.

Doyle had this to say about “Relentless Melt” in a press release: “The term ‘time’s relentless melt’ struck me as a great phrase within Susan Sontag’s essay ‘On Photography.’ Sontag writes of the ability for a photograph to freeze a moment in someone’s life while also documenting the unrelenting movement of time itself. It was something I was thinking a lot about while making this album. One remedy I’ve found for the feeling that the end of time is hurtling towards us is in the refuge that songs and albums can offer me. Songs are rooms in which one has the ability to have their sense of time pleasurably distorted. There’s a couple of moments in this song where I tried to create a literal interpretation of that very distortion. Can you hear it? It’s coming up over the horizon.”

Springs Eternal is the follow-up to 2021’s Great Spans of Muddy Time. Mike Lindsay of Tunng and LUMP co-produced the album at his MESS studio in Margate and it features contributions from Alexander Painter, Genevieve Dawson, and Brian Eno.

“Most of the songs are in the first-person, but rather than being autobiographical, I was trying to imagine hyperreality versions of myself,” Doyle says. “What if decisions I made in my life had resulted in the self of each particular song? How many degrees of separation am I from those realities? It’s a frightening thought, and frightening thoughts often make for good songs.”

The album was a recurring theme of water and flooding, in part in relation to the global climate crisis. “It wasn’t until we were mixing the record that I realized how many water references there are,” Doyle says. “I guess there’s a fluid border between our inner selves and the outside world that allows things to flood in, in unstoppable or perhaps irresistible ways.”

Last month, Doyle shared the album’s first single, “Surrender Yourself.”

Check out our The End interview with Doyle from 2020.

Read our 2015 interview with Doyle. By Mark Redfern

5. Everything Everything: “The Mad Stone”

British art-rockers Everything Everything are releasing a new album, Mountainhead, on March 1, 2024 via BMG. Today, they shared its second single, “The Mad Stone.”

Everything Everything features frontman Jonathan Higgs, Jeremy Pritchard (bass, keyboards), Michael Spearman (drums), and Alex Robertshaw (lead guitar, keyboards).

Higgs had this to say about “The Mad Stone” in a press release: “This song sets out the grand narrative of the album, wherein a society is forever building an immense mountain, at the cost of living in the resulting giant hole (quarry). Alex created an orchestral accompaniment and we recorded a lot of group vocals to give it a kind municipal choral sound.”

Previously the band shared Mountainhead’s first single, “Cold Reactor,” via a music video. “Cold Reactor” was one of our Songs of the Week.

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

6. Laetitia Sadier: “Une Autre Attente”

On Monday, Stereolab vocalist Laetitia Sadier announced a new solo album, Rooting For Love, and shared a new song from it, “Une Autre Attente,” via a music video. She’s also announced some 2024 North American tour dates. Rooting For Love is due out February 23, 2024 via Drag City. Spencer Bewley directed the “Une Autre Attente” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as her upcoming tour dates, here.

Rooting For Love is the follow-up to Find Me Finding You, which was released under the name Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble in 2017 via Drag City. The new album includes, “New Moon,” a new song shared in 2021 (at the time the new album was teased for a 2022 release). “New Moon” was one of our Songs of the Week.

The album features bassist Xavi Muñoz, among other players. Hannes Plattemier and Emma Mario took turns mixing the tracks on Rooting For Love.

In 2021, Sadier guested on Jarvis Cocker’s cover of Dalida’s 1973 duet with Alain Delon, “Paroles, Paroles.” It was featured on Cocker’s album, Chansons D’Ennui Tip-Top, which was a companion piece to Wes Anderson’s film, The French Dispatch.

Also read our 2014 interview with Sadier or our 2010 interview where Sadier and Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox interviewed each other. By Mark Redfern

7. SPRINTS: “Shadow of a Doubt”

On Wednesday, Dublin’s SPRINTS shared “Shadow of a Doubt,” the latest single from their hotly-anticipated debut album, Letter to Self, set for release Jan 5, 2024 via City Slang. Listen below, followed by the band’s upcoming tour dates.

On the new single, Karla Chubb, SPRINTS’ lead vocalist, says: “‘Shadow of a Doubt’ is our most vulnerable moment to date. It very bluntly deals with the experience of trauma, depression, and the aftermath. It was written quite selfishly—to take the weight of some of those feelings off myself by placing them on a page in an attempt to feel like I was healing, or ridding myself of them. An entirely cathartic process.

“The slow and intensifying build, the crashing drums, swirling guitars and chaotic climax all symbolize that pure terrifying fall into darkness and the almost silent call for help. It’s the feeling of loneliness, abandonment and exile. It’s shouting out into the void and thinking everyone can hear you, but they can’t.

“The vocal was recorded in three takes with jagged breaths and some mis-stepped lyrics purposefully left in. Here, we felt emotion was more important than perfection.” By Andy Von Pip

8. Thy Slaughter: “Lost Everything” (Feat. Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice)

Thy Slaughter is the new project of A. G. Cook and EASYFUN. This week they announced their debut album, Soft Rock, and shared two songs from it, “Lost Everything” and Reign.” “Lost Everything” was co-written by the late musician SOPHIE and Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell also had a hand in writing it and sings on the track. It’s the song that makes this week’s list.

Soft Rock is due out December 1 via PC Music and it is the last new release from the label, which is shifting to archival releases next year. Jacob Hulmston directed video for “Lost Everything.” The album also features Charli XCX, Caroline Polachek, and Alaska Reid. By Mark Redfern

9. Car Colors: “Old Death”

Car Colors is the new project from Charles Bissell, formerly of The Wrens. Today he shared its first single “Old Death,” along with two B-sides, “And It’s All Guns and Arrows (alt. take)” and “I’ll Bear.” The debut Car Colors album is due out early next year via Absolutely Kosher (details are TBA).

The Wrens imploded after it took the band many, many years to follow-up the band’s beloved 2003 album, The Meadowlands. The Wrens’ Kevin Whelan went on to form a new project, Aeon Station, releasing its debut album, Observatory, on Sub Pop in 2021. It featured some songs originally intended for the follow-up to The Meadowlands.

Bissell had this to say about the new single in a press release: “‘Old Death’ is, like the rest of the album, sort of a sequel to The Meadowlands before it and like that one, is about time, how one chooses to spend it, what those choices cost. That means for me, the song (and album) is also about making the album itself. It’s about death, maybe obviously, but it’s really about my dumb life. And because so much of that life lined up weirdly well to The Odyssey, it’s all sorta hung on Homer’s narrative framework (while I unlike say, Ulysses, in my case it’s all very non-fictional/auto-biographical). However like Ulysses, every song is written in a stream-of-consciousness mode. Or for me, really more of a stream-of-memories: that time this happened, that other-time-this-reminds-me-of happened etc. Hence, the parenthetical dating throughout the lyrics as those memories pop in and out. So basically like, unlike, like and then unlike Ulysses - ha.” By Mark Redfern

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 9.

Birthmark: “Rodney”

Brittany Howard: “Red Flags”

Jaakko Eino Kalevi: “Hell & Heaven” (Feat. Faux Real)

Kissing Party: “Graceless”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 9 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

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