Saturday, September 5th, 2020
10 Best Songs of the Week: Deep Sea Diver, Arab Strap, Temples, Thurston Moore, and More
Plus John Jeffrey, Kevin Morby, BUMPER, Adrianne Lenker, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Sep 04, 2020
By Christopher Roberts
Welcome to the 35th Songs of the Week of 2020. This week’s list is a bit more scaled back than usual, but there was still much to like.
Our big news this week was that today we announced our long-awaited new print issue, with Phoebe Bridgers and Moses Sumney on the two covers. Find all the info here and buy a copy directly from us here.
In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Tricky, Throwing Muses, Lomelda, Big Black Delta, Girl Friday, Disclosure, and The Killers. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including 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 eight 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. Deep Sea Diver: “Impossible Weight” (Feat. Sharon Van Etten)
Deep Sea Diver (the band led by Jessica Dobson) is releasing a new album, Impossible Weight, on October 16 via High Beam/ATO. This week she shared its title track, “Impossible Weight,” which features a guest verse from Sharon Van Etten. It was shared via a video featuring both Dobson and Van Etten.
“For this video I thought, well… if we cant play shows right now then I’m going to take my light box (a prop we bring on tour that I stand on top of when I play guitar solos) and I’m going to bring it into a myriad of untraditional places,” says Dobson in a press release. “We wanted to create scenes of absolute beauty, of loneliness, of power—of the human spirit being fully alive, even in a time of sadness and uncertainty.”
Dobson continues: “I chose the Neptune as the final shot because that is the venue in which I saw Sharon Van Etten play at the night before we recorded the song. I’ve been a huge fan or hers for quite some time and I was deeply moved and inspired by that show. The next day, I literally said out loud as we were recording, ‘I wonder if Sharon would ever sing on this?’ Having never met her, it was definitely a pipe dream question that somehow ended up working out and I’m eternally grateful for it. She brought so much to this song and brought it alive even more.”
Dobson’s Deep Sea Diver bandmates include her husband Peter Mansen (drums), Garrett Gue (bass), and Elliot Jackson (guitar, synth). Impossible Weight is the band’s third album. The band entered the studio not long after the touring cycle for their sophomore album, 2016’s Secrets.
“We went into the studio pretty quickly after the tour ended, and I sort of hit a wall where I was feeling very detached from making music, and unable to find joy in it,” Dobson reveals. “I realized I had to try to rediscover my voice as a songwriter, and figure out the vocabulary for what I needed to say on this album.”
Eventually she regrouped and co-produced the album with Andy D. Park (Pedro the Lion, Ruler), recording it at Seattle’s Studio X and The Hall of Justice. Previously Impossible Weight’s first single “Lights Out” was shared.
Dobson has also performed in The Shins and in Beck’s band.
2. Arab Strap: “The Turning of Our Bones”
On Tuesday Scottish duo Arab Strap (Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton) returned with their first new song in 15 years, “The Turning of Our Bones.” The band broke-up amicably in 2006 after the release of their 2005 album The Last Romance album, but reformed in 2016 for some reunion gigs. The song will be released on a 7-inch on October 23 via Rock Action, with a B-side entitled “The Jumper.” Check out “The Turning of Our Bones” below.
“‘The Turning of Our Bones’ is an incantation, a voodoo spell to raise the dead,” Moffat said in a press release statement. “Inspired by the Famadihana ritual of the Malagasy people of Madagascar, in which they dance with the corpses of loved ones; it’s all about resurrection and shagging.”
Arab Strap were interviewed in Under the Radar’s very first print issue in 2001, for The Red Thread, and album released the same year.
3. Temples: “Paraphernalia”
This week British psychedelic pop four-piece Temples shared a brand new song, “Paraphernalia,” that was produced by Sean Ono Lennon. Considering the music of the 1960s has a strong imprint on Temples’ sound, it must’ve been an honor to work with the son of two musical titans from that decade. Dave Fridmann (Tame Impala, The Flaming Lips, MGMT) mixed the song, which sounds a bit like Tame Impala at a 1970s disco. It’s out now via ATO.
Lennon’s band The Claypool Lennon Delirium is also on ATO and the two artists connected at the Desert Daze festival in 2019, although Lennon was already very much familiar with the band. “I’d always been a fan of the band. Had seen them play some pretty great shows over the years,” he says in a press release.
Temples released their last album, Hot Motion, in 2019 via ATO (their first for the label). The label asked the band if they had any leftover tracks intended for Hot Motion they could record as a new single. “When I first heard the demo for ‘Paraphernalia’ I knew they had a great tune,” says Lennon.
“We couldn’t think of any greater mind than his to create with on this track,” says Temples’ bassist Tom Walmsley of working with Lennon.
“Paraphernalia” was written by Temples’ lead singer/guitarist James Bagshaw and it’s about “the disconnect between reality and the online world.”
Hot Motion was the band’s third album and followed 2014’s debut album, Sun Structures, and 2017’s sophomore album, Volcano. The band also features Adam Smith (keyboards/guitar/vocals) and Rens Ottink (drums). The album was recorded in a studio set up in an outbuilding of Bagshaw’s house in the midlands of England.
4. Thurston Moore: “Siren”
Thurston Moore (ex-Sonic Youth) is releasing a new album, By the Fire, on September 25 via Daydream Library. This week he shared a new song from it, the 12-minute long “Siren.” At first you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking it’s an instrumental track, but then Moore’s vocals come in later in the song.
By the Fire also features Deb Googe (My Bloody Valentine) on bass and backing vocals, Jon Leidecker (aka ‘Wobbly’ of Negativland) on electronics, James Sedwards on guitar, and Jem Doulton amd Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley alternating on drums. It is Moore’s seventh solo album and recorded in North London earlier this year, just before the COVID-19 quarantine.
Moore and Daydream Library have released this statement about the album: “By the Fire is music in flames. 2020 is our time for radical change and collective awareness and Thurston Moore has written nine songs of enlightenment, released to a world on fire. Taking a cue from Albert Ayler’s ‘music is the healing force of the universe,’ this recording offers songs as flames of rainbow energy, where the power of love becomes our call. These are love songs in a time where creativity is our dignity, our demonstration against the forces of oppression. By the Fire is a gathering, a party of peace—songs in the heat of the moment.”
5. John Jeffrey: “Leaving Franklin”
This week John Jeffrey, the drummer for Moon Duo, announced his debut solo album, Passage, and shared its first single, the eight-minute long instrumental “Leaving Franklin.” Passage is due out October 30 via Jean Sandwich (a Portland-based label). Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Passage consists of four lengthy jazz-influenced instrumental songs and a press release says Jeffrey was inspired by Alice Coltrane and Canadian painter Takao Tanabe.
“I didn’t want to have a structure in place, in order to be guided in a specific direction,” says Jeffrey in a press release. “Everything was developed around simple rhythmic patterns.”
When on touring breaks in 2018 and 2019 Jeffrey returned home to Vancouver Island, BC and recorded a series of sessions at The Hive with engineer Colin Stewart.
6. Kevin Morby: “Campfire” (Feat. Katie Crutchfield)
On Tuesday Kevin Morby announced a new album, Sundowner, and shared its first single, “Campfire,” via a video for the song that also features his real life romantic partner, Katie Crutchfield (aka Waxahatchee), who has a brief vocal part in the middle of the video. Sundowner is due out October 16 via Dead Oceans. Johnny Eastlund and Dylan Isbell directed the video, which was shot at Castle Rock in Kansas. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Morby has also announced a virtual tour via Noon Chorus where he’ll be performing each of his albums in order, each Thursday, starting September 10. Those dates are here.
Sundowner was written and recorded after Morby moved from Los Angeles to his hometown of Kansas City, KS. When they weren’t both on tour, Crutchfield would join him there. “They shared many things, including a mutual melancholy that seemed to appear every night around sunset,” a press release explains. “They began to refer to themselves as ‘sundowners.’”
Morby wrote the album on a Four Track Tascam model 424. “I wrote the entire album wearing headphones, hunched over the 424, letting my voice and guitar pass through the machine, getting lost in the warmth of the tape as if another version of myself was living on the inside, singing back at me,” he says in the press release. “I was mesmerized by the magic of the four track not only as a recording device, but also an instrument, and considered it my songwriting partner throughout the whole process.”
In January 2019 Morby recorded the album at Texas’ Sonic Ranch with producer Brad Cook. “My end goal was to capture the cadence of what I had found inside the four track but make it three dimensional, and Brad seemed perfect for the job,” says Morby. Morby played most of the instruments on the album, including lead guitar, mellotron, and “a slightly out-of-tune pump organ.” Cook also contributed bass and keys, with Big Thief’s James Krivchenia playing drums towards the end of the session.
Morby released his last album, Oh My God, in 2019 via Dead Oceans. It was billed as Morby’s “first true concept-album” and tackled religion. Morby took time away from Sundowner to tour Oh My God, but returned to the album this March, as the world went into quarantine, mixing the album remotely with Cook and Jerry Ordonez (from Sonic Ranch).
Morby describes the album as such: “It is a depiction of isolation. Of the past. Of an uncertain future. Of provisions. Of an omen. Of a dead deer. Of an icon. Of a Los Angeles themed hotel in rural Kansas. Of billowing campfires, a mermaid and a highway lined in rabbit fur. It is a depiction of the nervous feeling that comes with the sky’s proud announcement that another day will be soon coming to a close as the pink light recedes and the street lamps and house lights suddenly click on.”
Waxahatchee released a new album, Saint Cloud, in March via Merge.
7. BUMPER: “Black Light”
Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast and Ryan Galloway of Crying have teamed up for the new side-project BUMPER and on Thursday they surprise-released their debut EP, pop songs 2020. You can stream the 4-song EP here. “Black Light” was probably the highlight and makes our Songs of the Week.
Zauner and Galloway only live three blocks away from each other in New York, but haven’t actually seen each other since the start of the COVID-19 quarantine. In early June they started trading tracks over email. A press release says the songs on the EP “mix the playful quirks of Cibo Matto with the bombastic power of late ’80s Janet Jackson.”
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). Last year 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. Adrianne Lenker: “anything”
On Wednesday Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief announced two new solo albums, one simply titled songs and another simply titled instrumentals, and shared the former’s first single, “anything.” Both albums are due out October 23 via 4AD. Check out both albums’ tracklists and cover art (which are watercolor paintings by Lenker’s grandmother, Diane Lee) here.
Both albums were written and recorded in April while under quarantine. After Big Thief’s European tour ended early due to COVID-19, Lenker retreated to a one room cabin in the mountains of western Massachusetts and set up a studio there with the aid of engineer Philip Weinrobe.
“I grew really connected to the space itself,” says Lenker in a press release. “The one room cabin felt like the inside of an acoustic guitar—it was such a joy to hear the notes reverberate in the space.”
“We wanted to make a record that put you, the listener, in the most intimate position possible,” explains Weinrobe.
“I had a handful of songs that I was planning on recording, but by the time Phil arrived I was on a whole new level of heartsick and the songs were flying through my ears,” adds Lenker. “I was basically lying in the dirt half the time. We went with the flow. A lot of the focus was on getting nourishment from our meals. We cooked directly on the woodstove, and we went on walks to the creek every day to bathe. I’m grateful that this music has come into existence. These songs have helped me heal. I hope that at least in some small way this music can be a friend to you.”
In 2018 Lenker released her last solo album, abysskiss, via Saddle Creek. Big Thief meanwhile released two new albums in 2019, U.F.O.F. and Two Hands. The two albums were the follow-up to 2017’s Capacity and 2016’s debut album, Masterpiece.
These five songs almost made the Top 10.
Anjimile: “In Your Eyes”
Badge Époque Ensemble: “Sing a Silent Gospel” (Feat. Meg Remy & Dorothea Paas)
Hen Ogledd: “Crimson Star”
Lo Tom: “Outta Here”
Plants and Animals: “Le Queens”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
Actress: “Walking Flames” (Feat. Sampha)
Blue States: “Archival”
A. G. Cook: “Xxoplex”
EELS: “Who You Say You Are”
Evian Christ: “Ultra”
The Goodbye Party: “December Boys”
Hey Colossus: “The Mirror” (Feat. Mark Lanegan)
Hot Chip: “Candy Says” (The Velvet Underground Cover)
Hot Snakes: “Not In Time”
Insides: “Ghost Music”
Colin Meloy: “Slint, Spiderland”
Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes: “Pueblo”
Osees: “Scramble Suit II”
Sun June: “Singing”
Julia Stone: “Unreal”
SZA: “Hit Different” (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign)