Saturday, October 24th, 2020
10 Best Songs of the Week: Hot Chip and Jarvis Cocker, Nilüfer Yanya, Arlo Parks, and More
Plus Badge Époque Ensemble, Julien Baker, Ela Minus, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Oct 23, 2020
By Christopher Roberts
Welcome to the 41st Songs of the Week of 2020. This week there was a second and final presidential debate that, unlike the first one, was an actual debate. President Trump didn’t make a fool of himself like he did at the first debate, but he didn’t win any empathy points, especially when talking about the kids separated from their families at the border, with hundreds of them still to be reunited with their families. Former Vice President Biden, meanwhile, more than held his own with a solid debate performance. As millions of Americans have already voted and there likely aren’t that many truly undecided voters left, the debate probably won’t make too much of an impact on the election anyway. Still, today we posted an election message for our readers from Sharon Van Etten.
In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Jeff Tweedy, Deep Sea Diver, PUP, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Clipping, Black Bra, This Is the Kit, Gord Downie, Siv Jakobsen, and beabadoobee. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).
Remember that we recently 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.
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. Hot Chip: “Straight to the Morning” (Feat. Jarvis Cocker)
Hot Chip have enlisted Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker for a brand new song, “Straight to the Morning,” which was shared to day via a video for it. The song will be available on a limited edition 10-inch vinyl on January 15, 2021 via Domino. Réalité directed the video, which features a teenage girl sleepover gone bad. Hot Chip originally intended the song for Dua Lipa, but when the band were DJing together with Cocker at Paris’ Les Bains-Douches they hatched the idea to get him involved instead.
Hot Chip collectively had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Straight to the Morning’ is a disco anthem about going out, for a time when people really can’t, and it features our friend Jarvis Cocker urging us to go ‘straight through until the break of dawn.’ Somehow he seems an unlikely figure in this all, and we like it that way.”
Cocker had this to say: “This was the very last musical session I was involved in before lockdown. It felt very poignant to be singing a song about dancing all night long in a club whilst knowing it wouldn’t be possible to do such a thing for the foreseeable future. We danced around the studio quite a lot in the meantime though. It was fun to be a member of the Straight Through Crew for a day.”
The limited edition 10-inch will include the original version, along with a Mighty Mouse remix and some playing cards.
Earlier this month Hot Chip were the latest artists to take part in the Late Night Tales series, in which musicians are tasked with putting out a chilled out mix to be listened to late at night. Their Late Night Tales album featured four previously unreleased Hot Chip tracks and was previewed by one of them, a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Candy Says.”
Hot Chip’s last album, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, came out in June 2019 via Domino (stream it here and read our positive review of the album here). The album was the follow-up to 2015’s Why Make Sense?, although in 2018 Taylor released a new solo album, Beautiful Thing, also via Domino.
In July, Cocker released a new album Beyond the Pale under his new band’s moniker JARV IS…. JARV IS… recently did a set at London’s Barbican Centre in their exhibition “Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer.” They covered The Velvet Underground and The Fall and did some originals. Watch that session here.
Also pick up Under the Radar’s current print issue (Issue 67) to check out our interview and photo shoot with Cocker on Beyond the Pale and the quarantine.
2. Nilüfer Yanya: “Crash”
On Tuesday, Nilüfer Yanya announced a new EP, Feeling Lucky?, and shared its first single, “Crash,” via a video for it. “Crash” was co-written by label-mate Nick Hakim. Feeling Lucky? is due out December 11 via ATO. Check out the EP’s tracklist and cover art here.
“The video for ‘Crash’ takes place on a flight,” says Yanya in a press release. “Last year, doing a lot of touring I found myself becoming more and more anxious each time I boarded a plane, something which was new for me as I’ve never had a fear of flying. With each flight we took it felt like the turbulence was getting worse and I was convinced my luck was due to run out. I didn’t write ‘Crash’ about being on an aeroplane but I really like it visually as an embodiment of the song.”
Of the themes on the EP, Yanya adds: “One of the songs had the theme of luck in it as a concept but then I realized they all do. That got me thinking about luck in general; good and bad. Things out of our control and things in control of us, how often we put acts and happenings down to the fortune of good luck or bad luck when things exceed our expectations or don’t go according to plan.”
Yanya released her debut album, Miss Universe, in March 2019 via ATO. In October 2019 she shared a new single, “H34T RISES,” via a video for the track. The song was a reworked version of the album’s “Heat Rises” and featured The Invisible’s Dave Okumu on production and backing vocals (he was Yanya’s first guitar teacher).
3. Arlo Parks: “Green Eyes” (Feat. Clairo)
On Tuesday rising British musician Arlo Parks announced her debut album, Collapsed In Sunbeams, and shared a new song from it, “Green Eyes,” via a Louis Bhose-directed video for the track (which features Clairo). Collapsed In Sunbeams is due out January 29, 2021 via Transgressive. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art (as well as the single’s cover art) here.
Parks had this to say about “Green Eyes” in a press release: “This is a song about self-discovery, self-acceptance, and adolescence. It is supposed to uplift and comfort those going through hard times.”
Parks grew up in South West London. She’s half Nigerian, a quarter Chadian, and a quarter French. She learned to speak French before English. “I’m a black kid who can’t dance for shit, listens to emo music, and currently has a crush on some girl in my Spanish class,” she remembers in a press release. As she reached 17 Parks had worked out that she was bisexual and had written and produced an album’s worth of material.
“My album is a series of vignettes and intimate portraits surrounding my adolescence and the people that shaped it,” Parks says. “It is rooted in storytelling and nostalgia—I want it to feel both universal and hyper specific.”
Parks previously shared Collapsed In Sunbeams’ “Hurt,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. “Hurt” followed her cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” and her singles “Black Dog” and “Eugene” (the latter landed on a Michelle Obama playlist). In 2019 Parks released a pair of EPs: Sophie and Super Sad Generation. Parks also recently teamed up with Phoebe Bridgers to cover the Radiohead classic “Fake Plastic Trees” (from The Bends), performing it in a church, with Parks on piano, for BBC Radio 1’s Chillest Show with Phil Taggart. She also sang guest vocals on a new version of Glass Animals’ “Tangerine” (the original version was on their recent album Dreamland).
4. Badge Époque Ensemble: “Unity (It’s Up To You)” (Feat. James Baley)
Toronto’s Badge Époque Ensemble are releasing a new album, Self Help, on November 20 via Telephone Explosion. On Tuesday they shared another song from it, “Unity (It’s Up To You),” via a video for the track (which features James Baley). Alex Kingsmill directed the stop-motion animated video.
“The appeal of writing a song about ‘unity’ is its slipperiness as a concept,” says the band’s Maximilian Turnbull in a press release. “It can be used as a dividing line, giving form to the particularity of things defined in opposition of one another, or we may zoom out wide enough to find all matter and all energy under its purview. It is a word which requires a frame. A recorded song is sympathetically flexible in its compression. We can single out a lead vocalist (easy to do on this song with returning BÉE guest, the incomparable James Baley) or soloist (guitar from Chris Bezant), or, as I am inclined, we can choose to hear the song as one sound. As the song says, it’s up to you.”
Kingsmill had this to say about the video: “‘Unity’ is an exploration into correlation, symbiotic cohabitation, and the relationships that are an essential part of being in a sensory world. The video probes the ways in which we imagine, invent and impart meaning onto these interconnections- an immersion into systems, layers, sensations, emotions and feelings that we navigate everyday in our lives, and that sometimes overwhelm us. This project brings to life ideas I’ve been eager to explore with clay for a number of years, guided by the stunning music of Badge Époque Ensemble.”
Self Help was recorded live over three weekends in the months before lockdown at Toronto’s Palace Sound Studio. Badge Époque Ensemble features Turnbull (Rhodes, clavinet, and synthesizers), Karen Ng (saxophone), Chris Bezant (guitar), Giosuè Rosati (bass), Ed Squires (conga, percussion), Jay Anderson (drums), and Alia O’Brien (flute). Previously they shared the album’s first single, “Sing a Silent Gospel,” which features Meg Remy (U.S. Girls) and Dorothea Paas.
5. Julien Baker: “Faith Healer”
On Wednesday, acclaimed singer/songwriter Julien Baker announced a new album, Little Oblivions, and shared its first single, “Faith Healer,” via a Daniel Henry-directed video for it. Little Oblivions is due out February 26, 2021 via Matador. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Because the video features some somewhat distracting side effects, we’ve included both the video version of the song and the regular audio version from Bandcamp.
Baker released her last album, Turn Out the Lights, back in 2017 via Matador, her first for the label. It was our Album of the Week and more importantly it was #2 on our Top 100 Albums of 2017 list. Little Oblivions is her third studio album (her debut was 2015’s Sprained Ankle). Little Oblivions was recorded in December 2019 and January 2020 in Baker’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Calvin Lauber engineered the album and Craig Silvey mixed it, both of whom worked on Turn Out the Lights. Baker plays most of the instruments on the album, which a press release says fleshes out and expands were previously stripped back sound.
Of the new single, Baker had this to say in a press release: “Put most simply, I think that ‘Faith Healer’ is a song about vices, both the obvious and the more insidious ways that they show up in the human experience. I started writing this song two years ago and it began as a very literal examination of addiction. For awhile, I only had the first verse, which is just a really candid confrontation of the cognitive dissonance a person who struggles with substance abuse can feel—the overwhelming evidence that this substance is harming you, and the counterintuitive but very real craving for the relief it provides. When I revisited the song I started thinking about the parallels between the escapism of substance abuse and the other various means of escapism that had occupied a similar, if less easily identifiable, space in my psyche.
“There are so many channels and behaviors that we use to placate discomfort unhealthily which exist outside the formal definition of addiction. I (and so many other people) are willing to believe whomever—a political pundit, a preacher, a drug dealer, an energy healer– when they promise healing, and how that willingness, however genuine, might actually impede healing.”
In 2019 Baker released a 7-inch single on Record Store Day featuring the new songs “Red Door” and “Conversation Piece.” Later in 2019 she shared two new songs, “Tokyo” and “Sucker Punch” as part of the Sub Pop Singles Club
In 2018 Baker also teamed up with fellow singer/songwriters Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers to form supergroup Boygenius, whose self-titled debut EP was released via Matador. Read our interview with Baker and boygenius.
6. Ela Minus: “dominique”
Colombian-born and Brooklyn-based singer Ela Minus (aka Gabriela Jimeno) released her debut album, acts of rebellion, today via Domino. On Tuesday she shared one last pre-release single from it, “dominique.”
A press release says the song chronicles Jimeno’s time making acts of rebellion in solitude and that it exemplifies the album’s “call to embrace the beauty of tiny, every day acts of revolution by carving out a personal space to expand on personal identity and creative endeavors.”
Jimeno did the whole album herself—producing it, recording it, and playing everything on it. After growing up in Colombia and moving to the U.S, where she attended Berklee College of Music, Jimeno found power and the ability to demand change in the DIY scene.
“I deeply identify with club culture, and want to make music to dance to,” she said in a previous press release announcing the album. “I also want to make songs in the more traditional sense, with melodies, lyrics, and singing. I want to make songs that stay with people through the years.”
Acts of rebellion includes “they told us it was hard, but they were wrong,” her debut song for Domino that was shared back in April. “They told us it was hard, but they were wrong” made our Songs of the Week list. Then in July she shared another song from the album, “megapunk,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week. When the album was announced in August Jimeno shared another song from it, “el cielo no es de nadie,” via a video for the track (which made the Top 4 of our Songs of the Week).
7. The Besnard Lakes: “Raindrops”
On Thursday, Montreal, Canada’s psych rockers The Besnard Lakes announced a new album, the impressively titled The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings, and shared its first single, “Raindrops,” via a video. The 72-minute long album is their sixth and is due out January 29, 2021 via FatCat in the U.S. and Flemish Eye in Canada, their first release for both labels (the band was previously on Jagjaguwar for much of its career). Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
The band collectively had this to say about “Raindrops” in a press release: “This song and video details a psychedelic flight through the mind while deep in an altered state. The song lyrically references the death of Mark Hollis from Talk Talk (‘Garden of Eden spirited’) and also describes the idea of evolution determining the story of the Garden of Eden.”
The band’s last album was 2016’s A Coliseum Complex Museum, after which the band and Jagjaguwar mutually decided to sever ties, giving the band the freedom and time to work on a new album at their own pace. The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is a double album and each vinyl side has a title: “Near Death,” “Death,” “After Death,” and “Life.”
Also read our 2013 interview with The Besnard Lakes.
8. Skullcrusher: “Farm”
On Monday, Skullcrusher, the musical moniker of LA-based singer/songwriter Helen Ballentine, has shared a new song, “Farm,” via a video, and also released a cover of Radiohead’s “Lift.” They follow her self-titled debut EP, released in June via Secretly Canadian. Silken Weinberg, Angela Ricciardi, and Jeremy Reynoso all directed the “Farm” video, with set design by Leigh Dagan, and it was filmed via Super 8 film. “Farm” makes the main list, while the Radiohead cover can be found further below.
Ballentine had this to say about “Farm” in a press release: “‘Farm’ was created out of time I spent reflecting on my childhood and family. The process of developing it to its current version ended up being really tied to these reflections. Noah [Weinman] and I were visiting my family on the East Coast when the decision was made to release it in the coming months. We went up to a studio in Woodstock, a couple hours from where I grew up, and recorded the song in a day. I was able to gather a lot of really nostalgic sounds from the area: crickets, cicadas, the beach in CT, and the creaking of old homes. I had the ability to really talk through the memories and emotions of the song and how they could be manifested sonically.”
Of the video, Ballentine says: “The video also developed out of ideas from my childhood. Silken, Jeremy and I wanted to create a performance like a children’s play with handmade sets and props. Angela shot it on Super 8 in a black box theater called The Yard. The Super 8 really makes it feel like a videotaped play. Leigh built custom sets for us out of cardboard to create three scenes: a boat rocking in the waves at night, an autumn farm scene and a music box in the clouds. We choreographed all of the scene changes to really make it feel like a live performance.”
“Lift” was performed live by Radiohead when touring The Bends and was recorded in the sessions for 1997’s OK Computer but didn’t make the final album. It was finally released as part of the 20th anniversary reissue of the album, OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017.
Skullcrusher featured four tracks, written by Ballentine and produced by Noah Weinman, all about the influx of media she consumed after leaving her 9-5 day job. Previously we shared the EP’s “Day of Show,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then we shared the video for “Trace.”
9. Midnight Sister: “Doctor Says”
This week, Midnight Sister, the Los Angeles-based duo of Juliana Giraffe and Ari Balouzian, announced a new album, Painting the Roses, and shared a new song from it, “Doctor Says,” via a video for it. Painting the Roses is due out January 15, 2021 via Jagjaguwar. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
The video for “Doctor Says” was a bit of a family affair, as Giraffe, her mother, and sister all styled and designed it. Furthermore, a press release says that Giraffe’s “makeup is based on different plaster casts of her family members, with each character being a nod to both her family and her heritage.” The song was also partly inspired by Giraffe visiting family in Argentina.
Painting the Roses is the duo’s second album, the follow-up to their 2017-released debut album, Saturn Over Sunset, also released by Jagjaguwar. Midnight Sister’s art-pop would appeal to fans of Broadcast, influential ’60s pioneers such as The United States of America and The Free Design, and Charlie Hilton.
Read our 2017 interview with Midnight Sister.
10. Bright Eyes: “Miracle of Life” (Feat. Phoebe Bridgers and Flea)
Earlier today, Bright Eyes shared a new song for Planned Parenthood, “Miracle of Life,” which features backing vocals from Phoebe Bridgers, as well as featuring Jon Theodore and Flea. The song is available on Bandcamp and all proceeds from downloads, streams, and syncs will go to Planned Parenthood.
Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst had this to say about the song in a press release: “This song should not exist in 2020 America. It is a protest song, I guess. Or maybe just a little story about what was, what still is in many parts of the world and what could be again here in this country if the GOP is successful in reshaping the Supreme Court and rolling back all of the hard fought progress made for reproductive rights in the last fifty years. Hopefully, if we all work together and vote, it will make this song sound as irrelevant and outdated as it should.”
In August, Bright Eyes (Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Nathaniel Walcott) released their first album in nine years, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, via Dead Oceans
Bridges put out a new album, Punisher, earlier this year. Bridgers is on one of the two covers of our current print issue (Issue 67). Bright Eyes are interviewed in the same issue. Find out all about it here.Honorable Mentions:
These five songs almost made the Top 10. Lael Neale came closest to making the main list.
Tim Burgess: “The Ascent of the Ascended”
Seamus Fogarty: “Jimmy Stewart”
Lael Neale: “Every Star Shivers in the Dark”
Sigur Rós: “Dvergmál”
The Staves: “Good Woman”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
Adulkt Life: “New Curfew” and “JNR Showtime”
Beauty Pill: “Instant Night”
Mal Blum: “Nobody Waits”
Boris With Merzbow: “Away From You”
Erika de Casier: “No Butterflies, No Nothing”
El Perro Del Mar: “The Bells”
Ariana Grande: “Positions”
Marika Hackman: “All Night” (Beyoncé Cover) and “Between the Bars” (Elliott Smith Cover)
HÆLOS: “I’m There”
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: “Automation”
Jesse Kivel: “Desert, Moonlight”
Lambchop: “Golden Lady” (Stevie Wonder Cover)
Sondre Lerche: “Foreign Heart” (Feat. Delicate Steve)
Liturgy: “Lonely OIOION”
Greta Morgan: “When the Sun Comes Up”
Graham Nash: “Vote”
Lawrence Rothman: “Decent Man” (Feat. Lucinda Williams)
Pynch: “The Whole World’s Going Crazy (For Love)”
Quarter-Life Crisis: “Waterfall” (Feat. Hovvdy’s Charlie Martin)
Skullcrusher: “Lift” (Radiohead Cover)
Chris Stapleton: “Arkansas”
Tigers Jaw: “Cat’s Cradle”
Suzie True: “Carmen”
Yaeji: “When In Summer, I Forget About The Winter”