Tuesday, March 16th, 2021
10 Best Songs of the Week: Lucy Dacus, Crumb, Colleen, London Grammar, and More
Plus Tony Allen, Ryley Walker, Sophia Kennedy, Everything Everything, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Mar 12, 2021
By Mark Redfern (with Joey Arnone)
Welcome to the ninth Songs of the Week of 2021. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill was signed into law by the president yesterday and many Americans will soon be receiving new $1400 stimulus checks, as well as other relief.
Personally, the wife and I got our vaccine on Tuesday, the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Never have we been so happy to both have moderate asthma (thus putting us in the 1B category), never have we been so excited to get a shot! The side-effects were real, with both of us feeling pretty rotten with fevers, headaches, body aches, and fatigue for the next day-and-a-half, but it was totally worth it. We’re also almost at the finish line on our new print issue. So it was a good week in the world of Under the Radar. It wasn’t the most breathtaking week for new songs, but there were definitely some we liked.
In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums.
To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 10 best the last week had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last seven days. Check out the full list below.
1. Lucy Dacus: “Thumbs”
Dacus narrates the song from the perspective of someone accompanying a friend (or lover) as the friend reconnects with their estranged father. Dacus paints a vivid picture, as they meet the deadbeat dad in a bar. “He hadn’t seen you since the fifth grade/Now you’re 19 and you’re five-eight,” Dacus sings. “He said, ‘Honey, you sure look great/Do you get the checks I send on your birthday?’” Fake smiles cover up true pain and her friend’s nails dig deep into Dacus’ knee, with the singer offering: “I would kill him/If you let me/I would kill him/Quick and easy.” Then Dacus imagines pressing her thumbs into the father’s eyes, eyes the same color as her friend’s. It’s a surprisingly dark song and an interesting salvo in a new album cycle, if that’s what she is launching here (right now it’s just a standalone single).
Dacus had this to say about the song in a press release: “Like most songs I write, I wasn’t expecting it and it made me feel weird, almost sick. It tells the story of a day I had with a friend during our freshman year of college, a significant day, but not one that I had thought of for years. I started playing it live a month or so later during the boygenius tour after Phoebe [Bridgers] and Julien [Baker] encouraged me to. I knew I wanted a long time to get used to playing it since it made me feel shaky, so I ended sets with it for about half the shows I played in 2019. Before I played it, I would ask the audience to please not record it, a request that seems to have been respected, which I’m grateful for.”
2. Crumb: “Trophy”
On Thursday, Brooklyn-based rock band Crumb shared a video for their new song “Trophy.” This marks the band’s first release of new music since their 2019 album Jinx. The video was directed by Haoyan of America and features animation by Truba Animation.
The band consists of Lila Ramani (guitar, vocals), Jesse Brotter (bass, vocals), Brian Aronow (synth, saxophone), and Jonathan Gilad (drums). By Joey Arnone
3. Colleen: “Implosion-Explosion”
On Tuesday, Colleen (aka Cécile Schott) shared a new single titled “Implosion-Explosion.” It will be featured on her upcoming album The Tunnel and the Clearing, which is due out May 21 via Thrill Jockey.
Schott speaks about the new song and album in a press release, stating: “The album is a sonic translation of the highly emotional state and the heightened sense of perception that come in the wake of a breakup and a period of great changes, with the subsequent necessary reconstruction this entails. ‘Implosion-Explosion’ is an attempt at expressing both the sensation of being completely ‘see-through’ once out alone in the outside world, and the combined feelings of pain and anger at what cannot be changed. The song, paying homage to dub, is an exploration in rhythm and heavy filtering and delaying: it features two rhythms in unison from the rare 1969 Elka Drummer One drum machine going through the legendary Roland RE-201 Space Echo, with Japanese Ace Tone organ whistling and roaring through Moog filter and delay, and swirling, echoing vocals.”
Schott’s most recent album as Colleen, A flame my love, a frequency, came out in 2017 on Thrill Jockey. By Joey Arnone
4. London Grammar: “How Does It Feel”
On Tuesday, British trio London Grammar shared a new single entitled “How Does It Feel.” It was produced by multi award-winning producer Steve Mac and is the latest release from their upcoming album Californian Soil, which will be out on April 16 via Ministry of Sound/Columbia.
Frontwoman Hannah Reid talks about the song in a press release: “I’ve always loved pop music. Some of my favorite writers and singers are female, many who are younger than me but who are absolutely smashing the pop world with amazing songs. This song started off as an experiment, and ended up being one of my favorites on the record. Along with our alternative side, this creates a light and shade on our album that I’ve always wanted to achieve.”
Previously released singles from the upcoming album are “Baby It’s You” (which was one of our Songs of the Week) and “Lose Your Head” (also one of our Songs of the Week). The band’s most recent album, Truth Is a Beautiful Thing, came out in 2017 on Ministry of Sound/Metal & Dust.
Also read our 2013 interview with London Grammar. By Joey Arnone
5. Tony Allen: “Cosmosis” (Feat. Skepta & Ben Okiri)
Afrobeat legend Tony Allen passed away last year and today a new posthumous album from Allen, There Is No End, was announced. Its first single, “Cosmosis” (which features Skepta and Ben Okiri) was also shared, via a video. The song was produced Allen, Damon Albarn, and Remi Kabaka. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
“Cosmosis” was borne out of the sessions for Gorillaz’s 2020 album, Song Machine: Season One – Strange Timez, which featured both Allen and Skepta (and was of course led by Albarn). Okiri wrote his lyrics in tribute to Allen.
Allen, Vincent Taeger, and Vincent Taurelle all produced the album, which also features guest vocals from Sampa The Great, Danny Brown, and Lava La Rue.
Allen was a Fela Kuti collaborator and also a member of The Good, The Bad, & The Queen alongside Albarn, Paul Simonon (of The Clash), and Simon Tong (of The Verve). And Albarn has collaborated on Allen’s solo work, such as singing guest vocals on “Every Season,” from 2002’s Home Cooking.
6. Ryley Walker: “Axis Bent”
Previously Walker shared its first single, “Rang Dizzy,” which was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. John McEntire of Tortoise produced, engineered, and mixed the album, which was recorded in Portland, OR at McEntire’s Soma West studio. According to the press bio accompanying the album, Walker half-jokingly calls Course in Fable his “prog record.” Although Walker is pretty much eschewing press photos and publicists for this album, it seems.
Walker’s most recent original solo album was Deafman Glance, which came out in 2018 on Dead Oceans. Later that year, he released The Lillywhite Sessions, a cover album of an unreleased 2001 Dave Matthews Band album.
7. Sophia Kennedy: “I Can See You”
On Thursday, Hamburg-based (but Baltimore-born) artist Sophia Kennedy shared a video for her new single “I Can See You.” The video, directed by Timo Schierhorn, pays homage to a scene from Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
Schierhorn speaks about the video in a press release: “I’ve been trying to reenact the Lambo scene for a music video for a few years now. The idea was very well received by various bands, but the male performers were always afraid to compete with Leo’s acting skills. Sophia is the best cast we could have asked for in this remake.”
Kennedy adds: “The song is about overcoming and confrontation and also about the euphoria that can arise from a supposed defeat. Musically it was intended to be powerful while the voice seems to have fallen out of time. Vocally I orientated myself a bit on the wonderful Karen Dalton in the verse, she has the great ability to combine abysmal, melancholy and hope in one.”
“I Can See You” will be featured on Kennedy’s second album, Monsters, which is due out on May 7 via City Slang. Previously she shared the album’s “Cat On My Tongue” and “Orange Tic Tac.” By Joey Arnone
8. Everything Everything: “Supernormal”
Higgs speaks about the process of creating the video in a press release: “At this point I’d learned texturing, modelling, rigging, animating, how virtual cameras and lights work, so the path to creating ‘Supernormal’ was a matter of putting it all together, alongside some new experiments in physics simulations. The idea was to make dozens of tiny, explosive shots of action, ugly and extreme naked characters being distorted, surreal objects and animals, over-saturated colors, bright lights; all these impossible, grotesque images coming at you far too fast to comprehend. I adjusted and experimented until I saw things that excited or disgusted me, then repeated the process over and over again until I was satisfied.”
Higgs adds: “‘Supernormal’ is about supernormal stimuli; highly exaggerated triggers that create a stronger reaction in us than evolution ever intended. Our animal brains can’t help but reach for the bigger, brighter, tastier, sexier, bloodier, more intense experiences. I wanted to create an extremely overwhelming experience in this song and video, it’s about being a slave to our instincts no matter how extreme they become.”
Re-Animator came out last year on Infinity Industries and made it to #40 on our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list. It featured the songs “Arch Enemy,” “Planets,” “Violent Sun,” and “Big Climb,” all of which were featured on our Songs of the Week.
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 Joey Arnone
9. Skullcrusher: “Storm in Summer”
On Monday, Skullcrusher, the musical moniker of LA-based singer/songwriter Helen Ballentine, announced a new EP, Storm in Summer, and shared its title track, via a video for the new single. Check out the EP’s tracklist and cover art here.
Ballentine had this to say about the new song in a press release: “I wrote ‘Storm in Summer’ after releasing the first Skullcrusher EP. Over that summer I thought a lot about what it means to really put myself out there and share something personal. I felt so vulnerable and overwhelmed by the fact that these songs I had written in private were exposed and likely being misinterpreted or disliked. I think the song really tries to communicate these anxieties in a cathartic way while also leaning more into the beauty of relinquishing part of myself.”
The EP includes “Song for Nick Drake,” a new track she shared in February via a video for it. The EP was made with Ballentine’s regular collaborator Noah Weinman.
“These are words I wrote down in my room, and I didn’t think people would listen to them at all,” Ballentine says of the EP. “But when people are suddenly interpreting them, you think, ‘Fuck, I shouldn’t have even released this.’”
Last October she released “Farm,” a new single that was one of our Songs of the Week. At the same time she also released a cover of Radiohead’s “Lift.” They followed her self-titled debut EP, released in June 2020 via Secretly Canadian.
10. Remember Sports: “Materialistic”
Frontwoman Carmen Perry speaks about the meaning behind the song in a press release: “It’s about the feedback loop of me caring about my possessions because they hold special memories, and alternately thinking I’m a bad person for caring about a mostly meaningless pile of junk. This song is special to us because we left a lot of room for Jack to do what he does best, and Nadia Hulett of Nadine made us all cry when she laid down her unimaginably angelic vocals in one take.”
The band previously shared another song from the album titled “Pinky Ring” upon the album’s announcement last month. Their last album, Slow Buzz, came out in 2018. By Joey Arnone
These four songs almost made the Top 10.
Current Joys: “Amateur.”
Roddy Woomble: “Lo Soul”
Jenny Owen Youngs: “Dungeons and Dragons”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
The Accidentals: “Wildfire”
The Breeders: “The Dirt Eaters” (His Name Is Alive Cover)
The Chills: “Destiny”
Citizen: “Black and Red”
CIVIC: “Tell the Papers”
Jason Collett: “Crab Walking Home In the Rain”
Danny Elfman: “Kick Me”
Fasano: “The Other Day”
Fresh: “Girl Clout”
Ethan Gold: “Alexandria & Me”
Cory Hanson: “Bird of Paradise”
Aldous Harding: “Revival” (Deerhunter Cover)
Hiss Golden Messenger: “If It Comes In the Morning”
Ibeyi: “Recurring Dream”
IDLES: “Peace Signs” (Sharon Van Etten Cover)
Jenny Lewis & Serengeti: “Idiot”
Tkay Maidza: “Where Is My Mind?” (Pixies Cover)
Major Murphy: “Unfazed”
Mitski: “The Baddy Man”
The Natvral: “Sun Blisters”
Sarah Neufeld: “With Love and Blindness”
New Madrid: “Queen for a Day”
Gary Numan: “I Am Screaming”
Oddisee: “No Trouble”
Esther Rose: “Songs Remain”
Xenia Rubinos: “Did My Best”
Smile: “Different Kind of Fog”
Jorja Smith: “Addicted”
Maria Somerville: “Seabird” (Air Miami Cover)
Spoon: “Breakdown” (Live Tom Petty Cover) and “A Face In The Crowd” (Live Tom Petty Cover)
Gwen Stefani: “Slow Clap”
Twin Shadow: “Johnny & Jonnie”
U.S. Girls: “Junkyard” (The Birthday Party Cover)
Leon Vynehall: “Snakeskin ∞ Has Been”
(Thanks to Joey Arnone for helping to put this week’s list together.)