Saturday, October 23rd, 2021
10 Best Songs of Week: All We Are, Alex Lahey, Animal Collective, Nation of Language, and More
Plus Aeon Station, Boy Harsher, Beauty Pill, Clinic, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Oct 22, 2021
By Mark Redfern (with Joey Arnone)
Welcome to the 40th Songs of the Week of 2021.
In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums.
We also posted the latest episode of the Under the Radar podcast, featuring an interview with SPELLLING.
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. All We Are: “Eden”
On Tuesday, Liverpool trio All We Are shared a self-directed video for their new single, “Eden,” in which the band sings “The Garden of Eden is a little overpriced.” The song was produced by Al Doyle and Joe Goddard of Hot Chip, and it is the trio’s first new music since the release of their third studio album, 2020’s Providence. The band self-directed the spooky and funky video.
The band elaborates on the song and video in a press release, stating: “‘Eden’ is a groovy, slinky, sly tune for those temptress moments. What is to live, if not to eat and drink and breathe and to love? We’ve always wanted to direct and shoot a music video ourselves, and this felt like the perfect tune. The eerie synths, cascading guitar lines and the lyrical rejection of a manicured ideal for the Garden of Eden took us to a fun and spooky place—a sort of underworld Halloween party!”
2. Alex Lahey: “Spike the Punch”
“‘Spike The Punch’ is a song about the fun that comes with self-sabotage and reckless abandon. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s fun, it’s its own beast,” states Lahey in a press release. “There are some super sinister tones in there, rubbing up against really bright anime style guitar harmonies (guitarmonies, anyone?) and shout choruses. ‘Spike’ feels like a raucous bookend to navigating these cruelly unpredictable times. Touch wood.”
Lahey adds, regarding the video: “The ‘Spike The Punch’ video is perhaps my favorite video I’ve ever been a part of. I’m incredibly grateful to Matt Sav and his team for pulling this together while I’ve been locked down in Melbourne. Matt and I spoke about how we wanted to capture a sense of freedom, fluidity and fun in this video along with hurtling forward momentum. Matt Pope, the brilliant performer who stars in the video, completely harnesses the direction and puts on a hell of a show. It gives me chills every time I press play.”
3. Animal Collective: “Prester John”
On Wednesday, Animal Collective announced the release of a new studio album, Time Skiffs. It will be out on February 4, 2022 via Domino. The group also shared a video for the album’s lead single, “Prester John,” and announced a spring 2022 U.S. tour. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well the tour dates, here. “Prester John” is a bit more open and more accessible than Animal Collective’s work of their last few albums and all the better for it.
The band’s previous studio album was 2016’s Painting With. In 2019, they released a live album, Ballet Slippers, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of their landmark album, Merriweather Post Pavilion. By Joey Arnone
4. Nation of Language: “The Grey Commute”
On Wednesday, Brooklyn-based synth-pop trio Nation of Language shared a video for their new single “The Grey Commute.” It is the latest release from their forthcoming album, A Way Forward, which will be out on November 5 via [PIAS].
Frontman Ian Devaney elaborates on the song and video in a press release: “In some ways ‘The Grey Commute’ is one of the more upbeat songs of the record, but in truth it’s one that was born out of much more depressing stuff. As I was working on the lyrics I had a kind of fixation on terrible tax policies, our cultural addiction to meaningless consumption, and it all got swept together into this punchy, kind of fun track.
“To give a sense of time: the Republican tax plan, under which we’re currently living, was just being passed and it was pretty clear just how mind-bindingly stupid it was. Such deep cuts to the taxes of the hyper-wealthy and corporations were both shocking and not shocking at all, and it was difficult to comprehend that anyone thought it wouldn’t lead to the exacerbation of the inequality and instability that defines our time. But here we are. You can see everything I felt then pretty clearly represented on the page when absent any backbeat and melody, but the rant gets dressed up a bit with some bounciness on the final cut to help serve as a bit of a Trojan horse to hopefully get the sentiment across.
“The video’s overt absurdity serves a similar purpose in trying to compliment the absurdity of the subject matter. We turned the task of hitting that particular note over to our friend Gary Canino, who has been churning out amazing videos for his own musical project (Dark Tea) for some time. We’d been devouring his work over the past year, and Aidan actually ended up in the video for his song ‘Buying A Gun.’ He’s able to use humor in a way that has thus far eluded me when it comes to making our own videos, and this really felt like the right song to bring some of that energy to.”
Previously shared singles from A Way Forward are “Across That Fine Line” (one of our Songs of the Week), “Wounds of Love” (another one of our Songs of the Week), “This Fractured Mind” (also one of our Songs of the Week), and “A Word & A Wave” (also a Song of the Week). The band’s debut album, Introduction, Presence, was released in 2020. By Joey Arnone
5. Aeon Station: “Leaves”
On Tuesday, Aeon Station (the project led by Kevin Whelan of The Wrens) shared a new song, “Leaves.” It is the latest release from their forthcoming debut album, Observatory, which will be out on December 10 via Sub Pop.
Whelan speaks about the new song in a press release: “‘Leaves’ is about finding the courage to leave negative people or situations behind. It is not about giving up or feeling defeated. It’s about learning self-love, finding your voice, and setting on a path for a chance at something better.”
Upon announcement of the new album last month, the band shared its lead single, “Queens.” By Joey Arnone
6. Boy Harsher: “Tower”
On Tuesday, Northampton-based electronic duo Boy Harsher (Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller) announced the release of their new album, The Runner (Original Soundtrack), which will be released with an accompanying horror short film of the same name written and directed by the duo. They also shared a video for the album’s lead single, “Tower,” in addition to sharing new tour dates for next year. The Runner (Original Soundtrack) will be out on January 21, 2022 via Nude Club/City Slang. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art and list of dates here.
Matthews elaborates on the new song in a press release, stating: “We wrote ‘Tower’ several years ago and although it’s evolved over the years, its initial intent remains the same—that feeling of being enveloped, suffocated, entrapped in a relationship, which in turn manifests into reckless attack. What you love the most can make you into a monster. And that’s what this song is about, being a paralyzed fiend.”
7. Beauty Pill: “You Need a Better Mind”
On Wednesday, Beauty Pill announced the release of a new EP, Instant Night, which will be out on December 3 via Northern Spy. They also shared a video for their new song, “You Need a Better Mind.” Check out the EP’s tracklist and cover art here.
Frontman Chad Clark elaborates on the new song in a press release: “The Roland TB-303 is an old Japanese synthesizer that was designed to convincingly mimic the sound of a bass guitar. It was introduced in 1981, it sounded like a toy and failed miserably, and it was ultimately discontinued in 1984. It makes freaky, wiggly, cartoony sounds. It sounds fuck-all like a bass guitar. Why am I telling you this? One ended up in my hands for a week. I did a lot of silly stuff with it. I did come up with this one worthwhile riff, which I built a song around. The song is called ‘You Need a Better Mind.’
“It was recorded with my band in a single take at the end of a recording session for another song. We were tired. None of us cared that much if we failed. The fun spirit you hear in this song is mostly exhaustion…that kind of punchy exhaustion you get late at night when you’ll laugh at anything. The lyrics were inspired by the spooky/funny 10-minute movie Rachel. The song is about the scourge of American loneliness. It is by far the fastest, easiest song Beauty Pill has ever created. We hope you like it.”
Last year, Beauty Pill shared a video for the EP’s title track. Their most recent release, the Please Advise EP, came out last year.
8. Clinic: “Refractions (In the Rain)”
A press release describes the song in more detail: “‘Refractions’ nods to The Human League with its strident synthesizer lines, danceable beats, and Clinic’s signature groovy, swaggering menace, as the singer growls, ‘Take us into the future say the people that play the music.’ At the fore are the new additions to Clinic’s sonic palette: an acid bass machine, a 1970s cocktail rhythm unit, a Casio digital horn, and space drum.”
Fantasy Island includes “Fine Dining,” a new song the band shared in June via a video for it. “Fine Dining” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then when the album was announced Clinic shared its second single, title track “Fantasy Island,” also via a video (and also one of our Songs of the Week). Then they shared its third single, which was a cover of Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain.”
Clinic’s last album was 2019’s Wheeltappers and Shunters, which was their first new album in seven years. Since their last album the quartet has become a duo, with Ade Blackburn and Jonathan Hartley listed as members in a press release, but no mention of Brian Campbell or Carl Turney. The lineup had remained the same since the band’s 1997 formation, until now.
Fantasy Island was recorded in the summer of 2019. Claudius Mittendorfer (Parquet Courts, Neon Indian) mixed the album. In a previous press release the band said they are embracing “the idea of looking at the future and the different ways it can unfold.” The press release called it “their most electronic and pop record to date” and name drops The Human League, Fun Boy Three, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and early 1980s pop music as influences on the album.
9. Parquet Courts: “Homo Sapien”
Sympathy for Life follows the band’s acclaimed 2018 album Wide Awake!, also released via Rough Trade. In June the band released a new limited edition 12-inch single, “Plant Life,” that isn’t currently available digitally. “Plant Life” is included on the album.
When Sympathy for Life was announced they shared its next single, “Walking at a Downtown Pace,” via a frantic video for it featuring New York City street life. “Walking at a Downtown Pace” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its next single, “Black Widow Spider,” via an animated claymation video for it. “Black Widow Spider” was also one of our Songs of the Week.
For Sympathy for Life the band worked with producers Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, Hot Chip, David Byrne) and John Parish (PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, Dry Cleaning). The album was made mainly from improvised jams and inspired by New York clubs, Primal Scream, and Pink Floyd.
“Wide Awake! was a record you could put on at a party,” said co-frontman Austin Brown in a previous press release. “Sympathy For Life is influenced by the party itself. Historically, some amazing rock records have been made from mingling in dance music culture—from Talking Heads to [Primal Scream’s] Screamadelica. Our goal was to bring that into our own music. Each of us, in our personal lives, has been going to more dance parties. Or rather, we were pre-pandemic, which is when this record was made.”
“Most of the songs were created by taking long improvisations and molding them through our own editing,” Brown added. “The biggest asset we have as artists is the band. After 10 years together, our greatest instrument is each other. The purest expression of Parquet Courts is when we are improvising.”
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10. Beirut: “Fisher Island Sound”
On Wednesday, Beirut (aka Zach Condon and his band) announced the release of a new compilation album, Artifacts, which will be out on January 28, 2022 via Condon’s label Pompeii. Condon also shared the previously unreleased song “Fisher Island Sound” as well. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Condon initially sought to compile a few Beirut EPs for the compilation, but decided to expand the project and include older and never-before-heard recordings into the final product. As he states in the album’s liner notes: “When the decision came to re-release this collection, I found myself digging through hard drives looking for something extra to add to the compilation. What started as a few extra unreleased tracks from my formative recording years quickly grew into an entire extra records’ worth of music from my past, and a larger project of remixing and remastering everything I found for good measure.”
He also elaborates on the new song in a press release: “This song was written while staying in band member Ben Lanz’s old family cottage on the coast of Connecticut, on the Fisher Island Sound. I played with the lines for years before trying to record versions of it in Brooklyn with the band. Perrin Cloutier had taught himself how to play a new button accordion beautifully, and the band was really sounding their best. I, however, struggled in those years to put vocals on the songs and ended up scrapping a lot of the music from that era in this part of the collection due to fear, stress and self-doubt. I’ve come to rediscover some of these old songs in a different light since then, but they do remain a heavy reminder of unsteady times.”
The most recent Beirut album, Gallipoli, came out in 2019 via 4AD. By Joey Arnone
These songs almost made the Top 10.
Bonobo: “Tides” (Feat. Jamila Woods)
Richard Dawson & Circle: “Methuselah”
Ellevator: “Charlie IO”
La Luz: “I Won’t Hesitate”
Obongjayar: “Message in a Hammer”
Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 10 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
ABBA: “Just a Notion”
alt-J: “U&ME (Baauer Remix)”
Beach Fossils: “Down the Line (Piano)”
Bedouine: “The Solitude”
Cheval Sombre: “Althea” (Grateful Dead Cover)
Deserta: “I’m So Tired”
Dijon: “Rodeo Clown”
Duran Duran: “Give It All Up” (Feat. Tove Lo)
Wendy Eisenberg: “Evening Song”
Foyer Red: “Blood”
Dave Gahan & Soulsavers: “The Dark End of the Street” (James Carr Cover)
Beverly Glenn-Copeland: “Ever New (Re-Worked by Bon Iver & Flock of Dimes)”
HEALTH & Poppy: “DEAD FLOWERS”
Hiss Golden Messenger: “Grace”
Jackson + Sellers: “Fair Weather”
Ladyhawke: “Time Flies”
Mastodon: “Sickle and Peace”
Carson McHone: “Hawks Don’t Share”
Prince Daddy & The Hyena: “Curly Q”
Real Estate: “Days” (Television Cover)
The Rolling Stones: “Come to the Ball”
Self Esteem: “You Forever”
Strange Ranger: “It’s You”
Swedish House Mafia & The Weeknd: “Moth to a Flame”
U.S. Girls: “Good Kinda High”
Wet: “Bound” (Feat. Blood Orange)
Jack White: “Taking Me Back”
Classic Song of the Week:
The Cardigans: “Sick & Tired”
The Swedish indie pop’s band’s biggest hit may be 1996’s “Lovefool” (thanks in part because of its inclusion in the film Romeo + Juliet), but before that there was 1994’s “Sick & Tired.” It was originally featured on the band’s debut album Emmerdale, but it was also included on the international versions of their sophomore album Life released outside of Sweden and Japan. Emmerdale wasn’t originally released outside those countries and so the international version of Life contained the best songs from both albums. “Sick & Tired” was my first exposure to The Cardigans, when I saw its video on MTV Europe when I was staying with my dad in London, and it remains one of my favorites by the band. The Cardigans haven’t released an album since 2005’s Super Extra Gravity. They still play the odd show, but alas in a 2018 interview frontwoman Nina Persson said there were no plans to record a future album. By Mark Redfern