10 Best Songs of the Week: Jay Som, The Divine Comedy, Whitney, Temples, and More

10 Best Songs of the Week: Jay Som, The Divine Comedy, Whitney, Temples, and More

Plus Blanck Mass, Bon Iver, Japanese Breakfast, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Jun 07, 2019
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Welcome to another Songs of the Week. There were several notable albums announced this week, which meant some strong opening singles to choose from, as well as a few album tracks.

Elsewhere on the website this week we posted an interview with Cass McCombs, as well as a My Firsts with Yeasayer’s Chris Keating and a Self-Portrait feature with Hayden Thorpe (formerly of Wild Beasts).

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Craig Finn, Beast Coast, Broken Social Scene, Foxygen, and Cave In. Plus we posted reviews of various DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows.

The Divine Comedy’s Office Politics was this week’s Album of the Week.

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 10 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. Jay Som: “Superbike”

This week Jay Som (aka Melina Duterte) announced a new album, Anak Ko, and shared its first single, “Superbike,” via a video for the track. She has also announced some tour dates. Anak Ko is due out August 23 via Polyvinyl. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

For “Superbike,” Duterte’s aim was to merge Cocteau Twins and Alanis Morissette for a song that in a press release she says lets “loose over swirling shoegaze. I came up with the vocal melody while chopping onions during a rare snowstorm in Joshua Tree, definitely one of my favorite memories from making the album.”

Anak Ko is the follow-up to 2017’s acclaimed Everybody Works, also on Polyvinyl (which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017). Duterte was based in the Bay Area, but relocated to Los Angeles prior to recording the new album. She recorded Anak Ko at home as the sole producer, engineer, and mixer. A press points out that “in some songs, you can hear the washer/dryer near her bedroom.” Although it wasn’t a completely solitary affair, the album also features plenty of guests, including Vagabon’s Laetitia Tamko, Chastity Belt’s Annie Truscott, Justus Proffit, and Boy Scouts’ Taylor Vick, as well as her touring bandmates Zachary Elasser, Oliver Pinnell, and Dylan Allard.

The album’s title is pronounced “Ah-nuh Koh,” which means “my child” in Filipino. It was inspired by a text message from Duterte’s mother, who often addresses her as “anak ko.” “It’s an endearing thing to say, it feels comfortable,” Duterte says in a press release.

In the press release Duterte says the album is about the importance of patience and kindness and that those concepts have helped her growth as an artist. “In order to change, you’ve got to make so many mistakes,” she says. “What’s helped me is forcing myself to be even more peaceful and kind with myself and others. You can get so caught up in attention, and the monetary value of being a musician, that you can forget to be humble. You can learn more from humility than the flashy stuff. I want kindness in my life. Kindness is the most important thing for this job, and empathy.”

The album is due out in North America on Polyvinyl, in Australia/New Zealand/Asia via Pod/Inertia Music, and in the rest of the world via Lucky Number.

Back in February Jay Som shared a brand new song, “Simple,” that was released as part of the Adult Swim Singles series. That song is not featured on the new album. Last year Jay Som teamed up with Justus Proffit for a collaborative EP, Nothing’s Changed.

Read our 2017 Pleased to Meet You interview with Jay Som.

2. The Divine Comedy: “Philip and Steve’s Furniture Removal Company”

The Divine Comedy, the orchestral-pop project of Northern Irish singer/songwriter/composer Neil Hannon, has released a new album, Office Politics, today (stream it here).  It was our Album of the Week and a real return to form for Hannon. Only two singles were shared prior to the album’s release and they are not even the most interesting songs on Office Politics, which left plenty for us to choose from for this week’s Songs of the Week. It was very hard to pick a favorite, but we’ve settled on “Philip and Steve’s Furniture Removal Company.” The song imagines a theme for a sitcom about a young Philip Glass and Steve Reich in New York City in the early 1960s, with the iconic minimalist composers running a furniture moving business. It starts with an intro seemingly recorded on Hannon’s phone when he was out and about somewhere, before building to a section that could be considered a musical homage to the composers and then culminating with a male choir.

Previously Hannon shared Office Politics‘ first single, “Queuejumper.” Then this week he shared a video for “Norman and Norma,” the album’s second single (the audio for which was shared last month). The song is about the challenges of keeping the marriage spark alive as you get older and the black & white video illustrated the lyrics while also featuring images of Hannon performing the song on the piano.

Office Politics is the twelfth Divine Comedy album and the follow-up to 2016’s Foreverland. It’s billed as a double album. The deluxe edition includes Hannon’s original piano demos from the stage adaptation of Swallows and Amazons.

Read our 2017 The End interview with The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon.

3. Whitney: “Giving Up”

This week Whitney (Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek) announced a new album, Forever Turned Around, and shared a new song from it, the simply gorgeous “Giving Up.” Forever Turned Around is due out August 30 via Secretly Canadian. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.

Forever Turned Around is Whitney’s second album, the follow-up to 2016’s debut album, Light Upon the Lake. Last month they announced some new fall U.S. tour dates on top of their previously announced dates and earlier this week they shared a teaser video entitled “FTA,” which we now know stands for Forever Turned Around (the phrase “forever turned around” was repeated towards the end of the video).

Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Hand Habits) and Jonathan Rado (Foxygen, Weyes Blood, Father John Misty) co-produced the album, which was recorded in various sessions and includes material written on tour. At one point they reunited with original rhythm guitarist Ziyad Asrar in his basement studio in Chicago, which is where much of Light Upon the Lake came together. Chicago musicians Lia Kohland and OHMME’s Macie Stewart contribute strings to the album.
 
Whitney’s live band also features keyboardist Malcolm Brow, guitarist Print Chouteau, bassist Josiah Marshall, and trumpeter Will Miller, with Asrar also returning to the live band. 

A press release describes Forever Turned Around this way: “On the follow up to their much-beloved debut, 2016’s Light Upon the Lake, Ehrlich and Kakacek grapple with the anxiety and acceptance that time is limited and navigate questions of mortality, doubt, love, and friendship. It’s an album about partnership – romantic, familial, and communal, but most importantly a love in friendship: the bonds between two best friends and creative partners and the joy and stress that comes with it.”

 “Giving Up” is described in the press release as “a heart-rending and relatable song about the ups and downs of long-term relationships.”

Read our 2016 interview with Whitney about Light Upon the Lake. Plus read our review of Light Upon the Lake.

4. Temples: “Hot Motion”

This week British psychedelic pop trio Temples announced a new album, Hot Motion, and shared a video for its title track (also its opening track). Hot Motion is the band’s third album and is due out September 27 via ATO (their first for the label). Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the band’s tour dates, here.

Hot Motion follows 2014’s debut album, Sun Structures, and 2017’s sophomore album, Volcano. The band now consists of James Bagshaw (lead vocals/guitar), Thomas Walmsley (bass/vocals), and Adam Smith (keyboards/guitar/vocals). The album was recorded in a studio set up in an outbuilding of Bagshaw’s house in the midlands of England.

“We’ve gone from bedroom to living room to a dedicated space. We could all set up in the same room and allow things to play out a lot more like a band. That played a huge part in the sound of the record,” said Walmsley in a press release.

In terms of Hot Motion‘s sound, Walmsley had this to say: “It felt like there was a darker edge to what we were coming up with and we wanted to make sure that carried through the whole record. It’s not a 10 track, relentless rock record from start to finish, it’s got a lot of light and shade and more tender moments, but that heavier, darker sound is something we wanted to explore further.”

Of the lyrics, Bagshaw had this to say: “I’m really proud of ‘You’re Either On Something’ lyrically. On that track, I can hear influences of stuff that I listened to when I was growing up. There’s almost a nostalgia to that track, even though it’s very forward-looking. Equally, while the words on [album closer] ‘Monuments’ are a little cryptic, it’s very much about the time we live in. I wouldn’t say it’s a political song but you can’t help but write about the things that are happening.”

Read our 2013 interview with Temples and our 2014 interview with the band. Also read our 2017 interview with Temples on Volcano.

5. Blanck Mass: “House vs. House”

This week Blanck Mass (the solo project of Fuck Buttons’ Benjamin John Power) announced a new album, Animated Violence Mild, and shared its first single, “House vs. House.” Animated Violence Mild is due out August 16 via Sacred Bones. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Power had this to say about the album in a press release: “I believe that many of us have willfully allowed our survival instinct to become engulfed by the snake we birthed. Animated – brought to life by humankind. Violent – insurmountable and wild beyond our control. Mild – delicious.”

Animated Violence Mild is the follow-up to 2015’s Dumb Flesh and 2017’s World Eater. British five-piece Editors also recently released The Blanck Mass Sessions, which was a new version of their 2018 album Violence, a more electronic, version of the album featuring the original production work on the songs done by Blanck Mass.

6. Bon Iver: “U (Man Like)”

This week Bon Iver (the project of Justin Vernon) shared two new songs, “Hey Ma” and “U (Man Like),” via lyric videos for each track. They also announced some new tour dates and launched a new website (www.icommai.com). The songs feature a slew of special guests, including Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak and Flock of Dimes, Moses Sumney, and Bruce Hornsby. We were torn between the two, but settled on “U (Man Like)” as our favorite of the two, with “Hey Ma” an honorable mention below.

Check out the tour dates and cover art for each single here.

Vernon had this to say in a press release: “This project began with a single person, but throughout the last 11 years, the identity of Bon Iver has bloomed and can only be defined by the faces in the ever growing family we are.”

The official musician credits on “Hey Ma” are: Ben Lester – CP-70 Electric Piano. Psymun – Sampling. Justin Vernon – Matrix 6, Guitar. Brian Moen – Drums. Jenn Wasner – Voice, Guitar. Jake Luppen – Guitar. Buddy Ross – Synth. Rob Moose – Violin, Viola, String Arrangement, Worm Crew Arrangement, Conductor. Brad Cook – Basses. Worm Crew – Horns.

The official musician credits on “U (Man Like)” are: “Justin Vernon – Bass + Voice. Bruce Hornsby – Piano, Voice. Phil Cook – Piano and B3, Voice. Elsa Jensen – Voice. Moses Sumney – Voice. Jenn Wasner – Voice. Rob Moose – Violin, Viola, Octave Viola, String Arrangement, Worm Crew Arrangement. Worm Crew – Horns. Brooklyn Youth Chorus + Bryce Dessner – Choral.”

Bon Iver’s last album was 2016’s 22, A Million. Perhaps a new one is on the way in the not too distant future.

 

7. Japanese Breakfast: “Head Over Heels” (Tears For Fears Cover)

This week Japanese Breakfast (Michelle Zauner) shared a cover of the Tears For Fears classic “Head Over Heels” (from 1985). It was recorded for W Records, which is an imprint of W Hotels, and all proceeds are going to the ACLU, and follows “Essentially,” a brand new song Japanese Breakfast released via W Records back in April (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Curt Smith, co-founder of Tears For Fears, had this to say about the cover in a press release: “Japanese Breakfast has recorded a beautiful, ethereal reimagining of ‘Head Over Heels.'”

Like “Essentially,” the cover was recorded at the W Sound Suite at the W Hotel in Bali.       

Zauner had this to say about recording there in a previous press release: “I was originally going to record a different song but decided to write something on the fly once I arrived in Bali. I like the challenge of writing and arranging quickly and intuitively sometimes, and I had just bought a native instruments machine and wanted to explore a lot of the sample libraries it came with and work on the synths that were at the studio. It was a very idyllic place to work. I usually record in cold studios, so Bali was a pretty glamorous change. I felt so lucky the day I arrived just walking around the hotel.”

Anthony Ingham, Global Brand Leader, W Hotels Worldwide, had this to say: “Working with Japanese Breakfast on this track has been an incredible experience – collaborating with a passionate musician to support an important organization has really been rewarding. W Records has always been about inspiring musicians to get creative and it’s been amazing to see Japanese Breakfast’s journey and exploration with us at W. We are excited for the world to hear her rendition of ‘Head Over Heels’ and help support the work of the ACLU.”

Japanese Breakfast released her sophomore album, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, in July 2017 via Dead Oceans (it was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017). In February she announced that she has signed a book deal with the publishing company Knopf and is writing a memoir entitled Crying in H Mart. A press release described the book as such: “Crying in H Mart is Zauner’s story about growing up Korean-American, losing her mother too young, searching for identity in a hybrid culture, and finding a passion for her ancestry and Korean cooking as a way to heal and return to her roots in the wake of loss.”

Zauner’s writing has also previously appeared in Glamour and The New Yorker. There’s no word on when Crying in H Mart will be published. She’s also an accomplished music video director.

Read our 2017 interview with Japanese Breakfast on Soft Sounds From Another Planet.

8. (Sandy) Alex G: “Gretel”

This week (Sandy) Alex G (aka Philadelphia-based singer/songwriter Alex Giannascoli) announced a new album, House of Sugar, and shared a video for its first single, “Gretel.” House of Sugar is due out September 13 via Domino. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

House of Sugar is Giannascoli’s ninth album overall and his third for Domino. It’s the follow-up to 2017’s Rocket. Jacob Portrait, who mixed both Rocket and 2015’s Beach Music, also worked on House of Sugar. Zev Magasis directed the “Gretel” video.

9. Ty Segall: “Taste”

The ever-prolific Ty Segall has announced yet another new album this week, First Taste, and shared a video for its first single, “Taste.” First Taste is due out August 2 via Drag City. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as Segall’s upcoming tour dates, here.

A press release says First Taste features instrumentation previously unexplored by Segall, including “koto, recorder, bouzouki, harmonizer, mandolin, saxophones and brass, voices, and a sprinkling of keys.” Also, when the drums are heard on the left speaker it’s Segall playing, but when they are heard on the right speaker it’s Charles Moothart playing the kit. 

Segall’s most recent albums before this one were the covers album, Fudge Sandwich, and the live album, Deforming Lobes.

10. The Soft Cavalry: “Bulletproof”

The Soft Cavalry are a new duo featuring Rachel Goswell of legendary ’90s shoegazers Slowdive alongside her husband Steve Clarke. They are releasing their self-titled debut album on July 5 via Bella Union. This week they shared another song from the album, “Bulletproof,” via a video for the track. The striking black & white video features the band performing the song via sign language.

Goswell had this to say about the video in a press release: “For a long time now I have wanted to do a video that incorporates BSL (British Sign Language) due to my son being Profoundly Deaf with no hearing. He also has additional needs with CHARGE Syndrome that brings many added complications. I live within two worlds both Hearing and Deaf; and have learned a lot in the last nine years about the many barriers Deaf people can face in our society. One of the main points I was taught very quickly is how music is accessible to Deaf people. Of course music can be felt through vibration but visually I feel so much more could be done to enhance the experience. We made this video with the support of Sign Up BSL to translate ‘Bulletproof’ so that the song flows properly in BSL. Sometimes with signing videos – they can be a literal translation of the words (Sign Supported English) which will make little sense to the Deaf viewer. Our hope is that we have achieved this and also that one day as my son gets older and develops his language skills he will be able to understand this song.” 

Previously they shared its first single, “Dive,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they have shared a video for “Dive.” Hand Held Cine Club directed the video, which fittingly featured a man contemplating taking a high dive into a public swimming pool.

Slowdive released a new album, a self-titled affair and their first full-length in 22 years, in 2017 via Dead Oceans. It was our Album of the Week and one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017.

Clarke has been a musician since the late ’90s, playing bass and singing backup vocals with various bands live and in the studio. But The Soft Cavalry is the first album he’s been in creative control of. He’s also been a tour manager, which is how he met Goswell, managing one of Slowdive’s reunion tours in 2014. He had been divorced since 2011 when he met her.

In a press release Clarke sets the scene for when he first met Goswell: “I was hung-over in the back of my van trying to work out how I was going to fit all the band’s gear into this confined space whilst I still had all of mine from the show that I’d played in London the night before. The second of two sold-out shows at Hammersmith Apollo with David Brent!”

A year later, Clarke and Goswell were living together. They got married in 2018. In the press release Clarke says that Goswell inspired him to focus more on his own music.

“I’d always had ideas but never felt that anything I had to say was worthy of anyone’s attention, let alone my own,” he says. “I wish that I could have done this 15 years ago but, in reality, I simply couldn’t have. But I’m not one to overly wallow. I’d rather plough the various levels of confusion into songs.”

Of the theme of the album, Clarke says: “It’s recovery versus new doubt. I’m there, in the middle. The word that kept coming back to me was ‘resilience.’ With the right mentality and people around you, especially family, we get through, and find a level of hope.”

Clarke’s brother Michael Clarke produced the album, which also features keyboardist Jesse Chandler (Mercury Rev, Midlake), guitarist Tom Livermore, and drummer Stuart Wilkinson.

Read our 2017 interview with Goswell about the making of Slowdive.

If you’re an Under the Radar Patreon supporter then revisit our 2003 interview with Slowdive.

Goswell was also in the supergroup Minor Victories with Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, Editors’ Justin Lockey, and Hand Held Cine Club’s James Lockey. The band’s self-titled debut album came out in 2016 via Fat Possum in the U.S. (and [PIAS] in the rest of the world).

Read our 2016 interview with Goswell and Braithwaite about Minor Victories.

 

Honorable Mentions:

These nine songs almost made the Top 10.

Bleached: “Kiss You Goodbye”

Bon Iver: “Hey Ma”

Channel Tres: “Sexy Black Timberlake”

The Divine Comedy: “Office Politics” and “When the Working Day is Done”

Dude York: “Box”

Liam Gallagher: “Shockwave”

Girl Band: “Shoulderblades”

Pixies: “On Graveyard Hill”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

Erykah Badu & James Poyser: “Tempted” (Squeeze Cover)

Bedouine: “One More Time”

BTS & Charli XCX: “Dream Glow”

Bill Callahan: “Confederate Jasmine,” “Call Me Anything,” “Son of the Sea,” “Camels,” and “Circles”

Daphni: “Sizzling” 

Katie Dey: “Stuck”

Jai Paul: “Do You Love Her Now” and “He”

Shannon Lay: “Nowhere”

Lost Under Heaven: “Teen Violence”

 

Madonna: “Dark Ballet”

Priests: “Mother” (Danzig Cover)

Sir Babygirl: “Praying” (Kesha Cover)

Spirits Having Fun: “Gift Shopping”

Chris Stapleton: “The Ballad Of The Lonesome Cowboy”

Tei Shi: “A Kiss Goodbye”

Devon Welsh: “Faces”

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