12 Best Songs of the Week: Bruce Springsteen, Lucy Dacus, Marika Hackman, Ride, and More
Plus FKA twigs, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Japanese Breakfast, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Welcome to another Songs of the Week. There were a plethora of strong tracks to choose from this week, thanks in part to both some new albums that were announced this week and some other albums that were released today. So much so that we have expanded it to a Top 12 this week (as we’ve done from time to time in the past).
In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Aldous Harding, SOAK, Jade Bird, Ex Hex, and The Chemical Brothers. Plus we posted reviews of various DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows.
To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 12 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. Bruce Springsteen: “Hello Sunshine”
Bruce Springsteen is releasing a new solo album, Western Stars, on June 14 via Columbia. It’s his first studio album in five years, since 2014’s High Hopes, and was just announced yesterday. As previously announced, today he shared a lyric video for its first single, “Hello Sunshine.” The string-backed song features slide guitar and has a late ’60s and early ’70s country vibe à la Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell, with a bit of Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’.” Springsteen is an undeniable legend, but we’re as surprised as anyone that a 2019 song from him is topping our Songs of the Week list. It’s such as poetic song (“You fall in love with lonely, you end up that way”) and so immaculately produced that it was an undeniable Song of the Week.
The album features 13 original songs by Springsteen and was primarily recorded at his home in New Jersey, with additional recording in California and New York. A press release says that Springsteen’s 19th studio album draws “inspiration in part from the Southern California pop records of the late ’60s and early ’70s” and that the tracks “encompass a sweeping range of American themes, of highways and desert spaces, of isolation and community and the permanence of home and hope.”
Springsteen produced the album alongside Ron Aniello, who also plays bass, keyboard, and other instruments. Patti Scialfa provides vocals and contributes vocal arrangements on four tracks. The musical arrangements include strings, horns, pedal steel and contributions from
The album also features more than 20 other players, such as Patti Scialfa (who does vocals and vocal arrangements on four tracks), Jon Brion (on celeste, Moog, and farfisa), David Sancious, Charlie Giordano, and Soozie Tyrell. Tom Elmhirst mixed the album.
Springsteen had this to say about the album in a press release: “This record is a return to my solo recordings featuring character driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements. It’s a jewel box of a record.”
2. Lucy Dacus: “My Mother & I”
Lucy Dacus previously announced a singles series entitled 2019 where she will release seven songs this year, each timed to a different holiday. It’ll be a mix of covers and originals. This week she shared its second installment, “My Mother & I,” which is fittingly timed to Mother’s Day and Taurus season. It’s not just a song about her mother, but one that tackles body image, as she sings about how her mother hates her own body shape but loves Lucy’s. Until we heard Springsteen’s song, this was our definite #1, mainly down to the lyrics rather than the sonics.
Dacus had this to say about the song in a press release: “Being adopted has encouraged me to consider what mothers pass on through blood and body, and what they impart in the way of socialization and context. We — daughters, and all children — easily inherit the shame and fear of our mothers, but also the pride, self-assurance, and lessons of love. This song focuses on body image and the distinction between the body and the soul, which I can hardly claim to have clarity about to this day. I also reflect on traits my mother and I share as Taurean women — how we are steadfast but headstrong, empathetic but grounded, and dedicated to finding and giving reliable love and comfort.”
The first offering of 2019 was a cover of Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose,” timed to Valentine’s Day. Dacus’ take was a mix of French and English lyrics. The other 2019 songs will be released timed to Independence Day, Springsteen’s Birthday, Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s. Then they will all be collected at the end of the year in a physical EP.
Dacus had this to say about the project in a previous press release: “These songs are self-contained, not indicative of a new direction, just a willingness to do something different and sometimes even out of character.”
Pick up our current print issue (Issue 65) to read our interview with Dacus and boygenius.
3. Marika Hackman: “i’m not where you are”
This week British singer/songwriter Marika Hackman shared a new song, “i’m not where you are” (it’s intentionally styled as all lowercase). It’s the first single from her upcoming new album on Sub Pop (details are still forthcoming). The album will be the follow-up to her 2017-released breakthrough release, sophomore release I’m Not Your Man. Hackman co-produced the song with David Wrench (Frank Ocean, The xx, Let’s Eat Grandma).
In a press release Hackman says the song “is about breaking up with people, or self-sabotaging relationships. That feeling of not trusting one’s emotions because you can’t seem to get to the same place as the other person. On the surface, it seems like an arrogant ‘everybody falls in love with me’ kind of song but its actually incredibly lonely, introspective, and self-deprecating.”
4. Ride: “Future Love”
This week British shoegazing icons Ride announced a new album, This Is Not a Safe Place, and shared its first single, “Future Love.” This Is Not a Safe Place is due out August 16 via Wichita. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Ride reformed in 2014 to do some touring and finally released their first new album in 21 years, Weather Diaries, in 2017 via Wichita. That was followed by the 2018 EP, Tomorrow’s Shore. As with those two releases, Erol Alkan produced This Is Not a Safe Place. Alan Moulder mixed the album, the fourth Ride album he has mixed. The band came together at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. A press release says Ride were influenced by “the Jean Michel Basquiat exhibition at London’s Barbican Centre and the post-punk sound of The Fall and Sonic Youth, for an album rich in their trademark shoegaze atmosphere, whilst simultaneously sounding rejuvenated and creatively ambitious.”
Until Weather Diaries Ride hadn’t released a new studio album since 1996’s Tarantula, which was put out after the band split up and was poorly received. The quartet’s original run lasted from 1988 to 1996 and included four studio albums (Nowhere, Going Blank Again, Carnival of Light, and Tarantula). In 2015 they also released Nowhere25, a 25th anniversary reissue of their 1990-released debut album Nowhere. A few years ago we interviewed Ride’s Mark Gardener and Andy Bell about Nowhere and you can read that article here. And then in 2015 in another interview we did with Gardener he went through Nowhere track-by-track and you can read that here.
5. FKA twigs: “Cellophane”
This week FKA twigs shared a brand new song, “Cellophane,” via its cinematic video. Andrew Thomas Huang directed the clip, which has a fantasy vibe. FKA twigs wrote and produced “Cellophane” with Jeff Kleinman and Michael Uzowuru. The song is the first taste of her new album, which will be the long-awaited follow-up to her 2014-released debut album, LP1. The single is out now via Young Turks. If this was a videos of the week list then this would surely be #1, but judged without the visuals it doesn’t quite chart as high.
FKA twigs had this to say about the song in a press release: “When I wrote ‘Cellophane’ over a year ago a visual narrative came to me immediately, I knew I had to learn how to pole-dance to bring it to life, and so that’s what I did. Thank you @andrewthomashuang, for elevating my vision beyond words. You are a visionary. @kellyvon thank you for being with me every step of the way on my precious pole yellow brick road. Working with you both on this is a dream come true.”
6. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: “Read My Mind”
Melbourne, Australia five-piece Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever shared a new song, “In the Capital,” back in February (it was one of our Songs of the Week) and announced that it would be released as a 7-inch today via Sub Pop. This week the B-side, “Read My Mind,” was shared via a video for the track. Warwick Baker directed the video, which features black & white slow motion footage of a rodeo.
The band simply had this to say about the video in a press release: “We gave the song to our close friend Baker, a respected Australian photographer, to interpret visually.”
Baker said this: “I hoped to observe and document the spectacle of the rodeo, focusing on the performers rather than the audience. Being a vegetarian I found the event confronting, but wanted to document the theater and ritual of the rodeo without glorifying or condemning it.”
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever released their debut album, Hope Downs, back in June 2018 via Sub Pop. Hope Downs was our Album of the Week, one of our Top 100 Albums of 2018, and our #1 Debut Album of 2018. You can also read our review of it.
7. Japanese Breakfast: “Essentially”
Today Japanese Breakfast (Michelle Zauner) shared a brand new song, “Essentially.” It was recorded for W Records, which is an imprint of W Hotels, and all proceeds are going to the ACLU. It was recorded at the W Sound Suite at the W Hotel in Bali, is the first completely original track created for W Records, and is the first of two songs Zauner has recorded for the label. The upcoming music video for “Essentially” was partially filmed at W Hotel in Philadelphia, which is set to open next year.
Zauner had this to say about the song in a 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 song has really illustrated the goal of our music program – supporting an incredible musician from concept to final product, from recording at W Bali to getting this stunning track out into the world today. W Records was conceived to inspire musicians to do what they do best – get creative. It’s been amazing to see Japanese Breakfast write, record, produce and explore with us at W. It was (and continues to be) an inspiring journey with her and each of our W Records artists. We’re ready for the world to hear what we’ve been working on.”
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.
8. Kirin J Callinan: “It Takes a Muscle (To Fall In Love)” (Spectral Display Cover)
This week Australian experimental musician Kirin J Callinan announced a new covers album, Return to Center, and shared a new track from it, “It Takes a Muscle (To Fall In Love),” a cover of a 1982 song by Spectral Display. Return to Center is due out June 21 via Terrible Records. It includes “The Whole of the Moon,” which is a cover of a 1985 song by Scotland’s The Waterboys that Callinan shared a video for in March (it was one of our Songs of the Week, despite being a cover). The album also includes covers of mainly ’80s songs by the likes of Momus, Opus, Randy Newman, Robert Wyatt, Billy Field, Ultravox, and others. We don’t usually include covers in the main Songs of the Week list, but Callinan’s version is different enough to the original that we’re making another exception.
Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art (which spoofs the Guitar Center logo), as well as Callinan’s upcoming tour dates, here.
A press release describes the album this way: “On Return to Center, Callinan’s trademark flamboyance is cut with a newfound fragility that comes curled up in an attempt to do justice to the songs he holds nearest and dearest. Callinan, and the albums zeitgeist producer Francois Tetaz, rework both all-time favorites and last-minute spontaneous additions, songs that have shaped the artist he is today amongst songs that were jammed out of the blue in their Silverlake garage come studio, spilling onto the street with ideas, gear and talent.”
Callinan had this to say about the album in a press release: “In August 2018 I embarked upon my most ambitious solo album to date. I, along with producer Francois T, said label head honcho Ethan S., creative consorts and L’Angeleno shred pigs, set out to purchase the most spartan assembly of instruments and studio equipment deemed necessary. That night, day zero, in an east LA garage; Travis, my trusted engineer, and I would set it all and power it up. Boxes stacked n’ stocked away with price tags still intact, we began in earnest, honestly, on what would become an album worth of tunes that were and are even more so now some of the nearest and dearest songs to me. All within 14 days. All before our eventual eviction from that garage on 1024 Manzanita Street. All before our inescapable…Return to Center.”
Check out our 2017 interview with Kirin J Callinan on Bravado and the accompanying photo-shoot we did with him as he was getting a shave and a haircut at a Washington DC barbershop.
9. Better Oblivion Community Center: “Sleepwalkin’ (Daydreamin’ Version)” (Plus “Little Trouble”)
Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes) recently teamed up as the new band Better Oblivion Community Center and in January they surprise released their self-titled debut album via Dead Oceans. This week they shared two new tracks, “Little Trouble” and “Sleepwalkin’ (Daydreamin’ Version).” We liked both tracks, but “Sleepwalkin’ (Daydreamin’ Version)” gets the edge. Sure, it’s a remix, but we prefer it to the album version. The tempo is sped up and it’s more electronic in nature. “Little Trouble” makes the honorable mentions list.
“Little Trouble” and “Sleepwalkin’ (Daydreamin’ Version)” were originally released on a tour-only 7-inch, but are now available digitally. They were recorded in December by Mike Mogis.
This week they also did a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR Music. For the uninitiated, Tiny Desk Concerts are stripped down sets recorded at the desk of Bob Boilen, the host of NPR’s All Songs Considered. For it the band performed “My City,” “Exception to the Rule,” and “Dylan Thomas.” Check out their session here.
Oberst recently announced some solo tour dates for July.
Pick up our current print issue (Issue 65) to read our interview with Bridgers and boygenius.
10. Aldous Harding: “Designer” (Plus “Weight of the Planets”)
New Zealand singer/songwriter Aldous Harding has released a new album, Designer, today via 4AD. She only shared two pre-release singles from the album, so now that the album is out there are several album tracks worth including on this list. We’ve gone with its title track, but also worth hearing is “Weight of the Planets,” so that’s below too as an honorable mention.
Previously she shared a strange video for its first single, “Barrel” (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Then she shared another song from the album, opening track “Fixture Picture,” also via a video for the song. Harding co-directed the striking video with Jack Whiteley, which was filmed on the Cliffs of Dover in England and featured Harding dressed in bright red, while her all-male backing band are all clad in black, sometimes with their faces covered. “Fixture Picture” was also one of our Songs of the Week.
Designer is the follow-up to 2017’s Party. As with that album, John Parish produces again. The album also features Huw Evans (H. Hawkline), Stephen Black (Sweet Baboo), drummer Gwion Llewelyn, and violinist Clare Mactaggart.
11. Kevin Morby: “Savannah”
Kevin Morby released a new album, Oh My God, today via Dead Oceans. Now that the album is out, we can include one of its better album tracks not already released as a single, “Savannah,” in which Morby sings to a friend he’s convinced would’ve died by now.
Previously Morby shared a video for Oh My God‘s first single, “No Halo” (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Then he shared another song from the album, “Nothing Sacred / All Things Wild,” also via a video (it was also one of our Songs of the Week). Then he shared another new song from it, “OMG Rock n Roll,” via a video for the track (it was also one of our Songs of the Week).
Oh My God is billed as Morby’s “first true concept-album” and tackles religion. Morby released two excellent albums in back-to-back years: Singing Saw in 2016 and City Music in 2017, both via Dead Oceans, but then took a break from releasing a new album in 2018. Previous collaborator Sam Cohen produced the album in his Brooklyn studio. It started as a four-day recording session, but soon blossomed into something more ambitious than just making another album like his last two.
“Sam suggested that we make songs that sound like sonic pop-art that only have a few colors, like a Keith Haring piece,” Morby said in a previous press release. “My other records had tons of colors, so we decided to keep this stark, like a painting that’s black-and-white with one vibrant blue.”
The press release described the album like this: “Throughout his past work, Morby has noticed the ubiquity of an apparent religious theme. Though not identifying as ‘religious’ in the slightest, Morby recognizes in himself a somewhat spiritual being with a secular attitude towards the soulful. And so, in an effort to tackle that notion head-on and once-and-for-all, he sat down in his form of church-on planes and in beds-and wrote what would become his first true concept-album. If Singing Saw was Kevin’s LA record, and City Music was his ode to New York City, then Oh My God lives in the sky, above the weather, both nowhere and everywhere at once.”
Morby further elaborated in the press release: “Religion is around all of us. It’s a universal language and there is profound beauty in it. I’ve found it a useful tool within songwriting, as it’s something everyone can relate to on some level. There are religious themes or imagery in a lot of what I’ve done, so I wanted to get all of that out and speak only that language for a whole record. It’s not a born-again thing; it’s more that ‘oh my god’ is such a profound statement we all use multiple times a day and means so many different things. It’s not about an actual god but a perceived one, and it’s an outsider’s view of the human experience in terms of religion.”
12. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: “The Bird Song”
Prolific Melbourne psych-rock adventurers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have released a new album, Fishing for Fishies, today via ATO/Flightless. This week they shared one last pre-release single from it, “The Bird Song.”
Fishing for Fishies includes “Cyboogie,” which was shared back in January via a retro-looking video and was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared a Jason Galea-directed video for its title track, “Fishing for Fishies” (which was our #1 Song of the Week). Then they shared another song from it, “Boogieman Sam,” which has a bit of a blues-rock vibe. The band also shared a violent video for the non-album track “Planet B.”
The band released five albums in 2017, so who can blame them for taking 2018 off in terms of putting out new albums (although they did reissue some earlier records). Fishing for Fishies is the band’s fifteenth album (and keep in mind that’s over the course of only seven years).
Frontman Stu Mackenzie had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “We tried to make a blues record. A blues-boogie-shuffle-kinda-thing, but the songs kept fighting it – or maybe it was us fighting them. Ultimately though we let the songs guide us this time; we let them have their own personalities and forge their own path. Paths of light, paths of darkness. This is a collection of songs that went on wild journeys of transformation.”
These seven songs almost made the Top 12.
Beak>: “Life Goes On”
Bedouine: “Echo Park”
Flying Lotus: “Spontaneous” (Feat. Little Dragon) and “Takashi”
Mark Lanegan Band: “Stitch It Up”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
Allah Las: “Raspberry Jam”
The Black Keys: “Eagle Birds”
James Blake: “Mulholland”
L7: “Stadium West”
Mannequin Pussy: “Drunk II”
Middle Kids: “Beliefs and Prayers”
Miss Grit: “Running Slow”
Connan Mockasin and Andrew VanWyngarden: “Bad Boys”
Willie Nelson: “Ride Me Back Home”
Richard Reed Parry: “Long Way Back”
Sons of An Illustrious Father: “Sons of An Illustrious Father”
Stormzy: “Vossi Bop”
Taylor Swift: “ME!” (Feat. Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco)