Saturday, October 9th, 2021
10 Best Songs of Week: Mitski, Magdalena Bay, Tears For Fears, Big Thief, and More
Plus Sloppy Jane, Silverbacks, Lionlimb, Gang of Youths, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Oct 08, 2021
By Mark Redfern (with Joey Arnone)
Welcome to the 38th Songs of the Week of 2021. It was a solid week for new tracks, including the first single from the first album in 17 years from some 1980s icons.
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. Mitski: “Working for the Knife”
On Tuesday Mitski shared a new song, “Working for the Knife,” via a dramatic video for the single. She also announced some new 2022 tour dates. Long-term collaborator Patrick Hyland produced the song. Zia Anger directed the video, with Ashley Connor directing photography, and it was filmed at The Egg in Albany, NY. Check out the tour dates here.
Mitski had this to say about the song in a press release: “It’s about going from being a kid with a dream, to a grown up with a job, and feeling that somewhere along the way you got left behind. It’s being confronted with a world that doesn’t seem to recognize your humanity, and seeing no way out of it.”
It’s been over three years since the release of her last album, Be the Cowboy, back in August 2018 via Dead Oceans. It’s unclear if this is just a standalone single or the first taste of her next album.
In January 2020 Mitski shared the new song “Cop Car,” which was taken from the soundtrack to the horror film The Turning, which was a more modern version of Henry James’1898 horror novella The Turn of the Screw. “Cop Car” was one of our Songs of the Week.
Be the Cowboy was #2 on our Top 100 Albums of 2018 list and landed her on the cover of our print magazine.
Read our review of Be the Cowboy.
Read our review of Puberty 2.
2. Magdalena Bay: “Hysterical Us”
Los Angeles-based electro-pop duo Magdalena Bay (aka Mica Tenenbaum and Matthew Lewin) have released their debut full-length album, Mercurial World, today via Luminelle. On Tuesday they shared its fourth and final pre-release single, “Hysterical Us,” via a trippy video that features the band travel to a colorful world. Ian Clontz directed the video, which was filmed in New Orleans and features art by Milagros Collective.
In a joint press release statement the band say: “‘Hysterical Us’ is about our anxieties, paranoias and existential musings…. We loved being able to interpret all these heavy questions through the colorful world of MILAGROS Collective.”
Previously the band shared the album’s first single, “Chaeri,” via a video. “Chaeri” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its second single, “Secrets (Your Fire),” via a fun video that features the band getting sucked into a computer. “Secrets (Your Fire)” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared its third single, “You Lose!,” via an amusing video that features the band having a series of unfortunate events. “You Lose!” also made our Songs of the Week list.
Mercurial World is the follow-up to 2020’s A Little Rhythm and a Wicked Feeling EP. The band wrote, produced, and recorded the album themselves.
“We spend all of our time together, and in some ways Mercurial World is about that particular sense of madness in containment,” Lewin said in a previous press release. “We live together and make art together; this immerses you in our creative, insular universe.”
3. Tears For Fears: “The Tipping Point”
On Thursday Tears For Fears (seminal New Wave duo of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith) announced the release of their first album in 17 years. The new album, titled The Tipping Point, will be out on February 25, 2022 via Concord. The duo also shared a Matt Mahurin-directed video for its lead single and title track. Check it out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Orzabal speaks on the album’s creation in a press release, stating: “Before everything went so right with this album, everything first had to go wrong. It took years, but something happens when we put our heads together. We’ve got this balance, this push-me-pull-you thing—and it works really well.”
Smith adds: “If that balance doesn’t work on a Tears For Fears album, the whole thing just doesn’t work. To put it in simple terms, a Tears For Fears record and what people perceive to be the sound of Tears For Fears—is the stuff we can both agree on. When you’ve known each other as long as we have, and have worked together as long as we have, there’s a bond there that becomes familial. So, it’s different from a friendship. And it’s different from a marriage. It’s literally like that’s your brother. It’s the kind of bond that you can’t really break. It can fall apart at times. You separate for periods, which I also think is healthy, really. But in the end, we always seem to find each other again.”
The Tipping Point features musical contributions from frequent Tears For Fears collaborator Charlton Pettus, as well as producer/songwriters Sacha Skarbek and Florian Reutter. By Joey Arnone
4. Big Thief: “Change”
On Wednesday Big Thief shared a new song, “Change,” and announced some new 2022 North American tour dates. The delicate song seems to tackle the passage of time and death. “Would you live forever, never die?/While everything around passes?” frontwoman Adrianne Lenker asks in the song, later singing: “Death/Like a door/To a place/We’ve never been before.” The new tour dates encompass next April and May. Check out the tour dates here.
According to a new interview in the British print music magazine Mojo, Big Thief will be releasing a new double-LP in early 2022 that features 20 songs. There’s no word if “Change” is one of those songs.
“Change” follows “Little Things” and “Sparrow,” two singles Big Thief shared on the same day in August. “Little Things” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then in September they shared the new song “Certainty.”
Big Thief released two new albums in 2019, U.F.O.F. and Two Hands. Two Hands was released in October 2019 via 4AD and was the “sister album” to U.F.O.F., which was released in May 2019, also via 4AD. In May 2021 they released a new live EP, Big Thief – Live at the Bunker Studios, and shared a live video from the EP of the band performing “Shoulders.”
5. Sloppy Jane: “Jesus and Your Living Room Floor”
On Wednesday Sloppy Jane, the 11-piece avant rock act headed by Haley Dahl, shared a video for their new single, “Jesus and Your Living Room Floor.” It is the latest release from their forthcoming album Madison, which will be out on November 5 via Saddest Factory. Mika Lungulov-Klotz directed the video, which was filmed at Lost World Caverns in West Virginia where the album was recorded.
Dahl elaborates on the new song in a press release: “It’s about loneliness, mostly. It’s a fantasy about becoming greater in death—someone more interesting than I ever was, more loved than I ever was. It’s also about loving somebody so much that everything they touch becomes God; a photograph, a plastic horse, the floor of their living room. It’s all pretty toxic, honestly! But that’s the best part of writing songs, it’s like building an ugly feeling a pretty little house of its own so that it stops living in mine.”
Upon the album’s announcement last month, the band shared the song “Party Anthem.” By Joey Arnone
6. Silverbacks: “Archive Material”
On Wednesday Dublin post-punk five-piece Silverbacks announced a new album, Archive Material, and shared its title track, via a video for it. Archive Material is due out January 21, 2022 via Full Time Hobby, their first for the label. The band’s own Daniel O’Kelly directed and stars in the video for “Archive Material,” which was filmed in Dunkirk, France. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the band’s upcoming tour dates, here.
The band features Daniel O’Kelly (vocals/guitar), Kilian O’Kelly (guitar/vocals), Emma Hanlon (bass/vocals), Peadar Kearney (guitar), and Gary Wickham (drums).
Daniel O’Kelly had this to say about the title track in a press release: “The initial demo version started from a drum sample taken from the opening of Jean-Pierre Massiera’s ‘Bonne Annee.’ When we fleshed it out as a full band and Gary gave the track his usual kick up the arse, the song went full Les Baxter exotica mode.
“When writing the lyrics, I imagined a bunch of government officials in the deep underground of their building digging into archives. As the night continues, they get unusually aroused by the access they have to top secret information that the common folk never see.”
Archive Material is the band’s sophomore album and follows the 2020 release of their well-received debut album, Fad, which came out on Central Tones.
The album was recorded at Dublin’s Sonic Studios in November 2020. Girl Band bassist Daniel Fox produced Fad and also recorded the new album. Reference points/influences mentioned in the press release include Neil Young, Weyes Blood, Bradford Cox and Cate Le Bon, Television, and Gang of Four. Some of the songs deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.
The press release explains in more detail: “On several songs, the pandemic functions as a particularly effective prism through which to examine ideas of community. ‘A Job Worth Something’ finds Daniel reflecting on his real-life experiences working in insurance while his sister treated patients on a COVID ward, and the feelings of futility and guilt he felt at the time. ‘Different Kind of Holiday’ was inspired by the ways in which previously uncommunicative neighbors bonded with each other during periods of enforced confinement. Throughout, his observations arrived drenched in the same surreal strain of gallow’s humor that many of us were forced to adopt to lighten the toughest moments of the lockdown.”
Daniel O’Kelly further elaborates: “I can’t remember who it was, but I saw a musician who said that they’d be keeping away from writing anything about the pandemic, because who wants to hear about that? But I’d much rather hear about an event via someone who actually lived through it, rather than someone writing about it retrospectively.”
When Fad was announced the band shared a new song from it, “Muted Gold,” via an amusing video for the track. “Muted Gold” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. The Fad single “Up the Nurses” also made our Songs of the Week.
Read our 2020 The End interview with Silverbacks.
7. Lionlimb: “Ultraviolet”
On Tuesday Lionlimb (the project of Stewart Bronaugh) shared a lyric video for his new single “Ultraviolet.” It is the latest release from his forthcoming album, Spiral Groove, which will be out on November 12 via Bayonet.
Bronaugh elaborates on the new song in a press release: “This song is about those things you can’t see or hear but you know exist. It could be colors beyond our visual limits or the thoughts, dreams, and emotions of a stranger on the train. I think being an artist means to live in and explore that hidden world. Life wants us to stay on the surface. But if you can be still and relax your mind there is a whole other life that you can access at any time. The ‘ultraviolet light’ in this song is that other world.”
He adds, regarding the lyric video which he designed: “By layering images on top of each other I wanted to create a visual representation for this world within a world and the interconnected magic of everything. I also chose gouache watercolor because I think it best represents this feeling of being under the surface.”
8. Gang of Youths: “the man himself”
“The man himself” thematically deals with frontman Dave Le’aupepe’s grief over the loss of his father. Le’aupepe states in a press release: “If I ever have kids I’m not really sure how to raise them without my dad helping me out.” The song samples field recordings of Indigious Pacific music captured by David Fanshawe, giving the song a spiritual quality.
The band’s most recent music project, their total serene EP, came out earlier this year via Warner. By Joey Arnone
9. Flock of Dimes: “Through Me”
“‘Through Me’ is about losing sight of yourself in an attempt to find someone else,” says Wasner in a press release, “twisting your perception of reality until you’re not sure how to find your way back to what is real.”
Read our review of Head of Roses here.
Read our The End interview with Wasner about endings and death here.
Previously shared songs from Head of Roses are “Two” (which was one of our Songs of the Week), “Price of Blue” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week), “Hard Way” (which was also featured as one of our Songs of the Week), and “One More Hour” (once again one of our Songs of the Week).
Head of Roses was produced by Nick Sanborn (Sylvan Esso) and Wasner.
Wasner’s last project as Flock of Dimes was the EP Like So Much Desire, which came out last year on Sub Pop. Her last album as Flock of Dimes, her debut full-length under that name, was If You See Me, Say Yes, which came out in 2016 via Partisan.
Wye Oak are releasing Civilian + Cut All the Wires: 2009–2011, a new 10th anniversary reissue of their 2011 album Civilian plus a 12-song collection of rare and unreleased songs from the era, on October 22 via Merge.
10. Hannah Jadagu: “All My Time is Wasted”
Jadagu speaks about the new song in a press release, stating: “‘All My Time Is Wasted’ is a song I began writing last year during my first semester in college. The hook came to me after feeling very inadequate, despite the new adjustments, hard work, and risks I had been taking. Recently I finished writing it (the song) this summer post my first year at school, new job, and new opportunities. It’s a feeling I always feel!”
Earlier this year, Jadagu released the EP What Is Going On? via Sub Pop. By Joey Arnone
These songs almost made the Top 10.
Deap Vally: “Magic Medicine”
Curtis Harding: “With You” (Feat. SASAMI)
Lala Lala: “Utopia Planet”
Magdalena Bay: “Domino”
Marissa Nadler: “Couldn’t Have Done the Killing”
Sally Shapiro: “Forget About You”
Tonstartssbandht: “Pass Away”
Dean Wareham: “As Much As It Was Worth”
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:
Arca: “Born Yesterday” (Feat. Sia)
Billy Bragg: “Mid-Century Modern”
Cat Power: “Bad Religion” (Frank Ocean Cover) and “A Pair of Brown Eyes” (Pogues Cover)
Jarvis Cocker: “Paroles, Paroles” (Feat. Laetitia Sadier) (Dalida Cover)
Bryce Dessner & Aaron Dessner: “Someone to Say” (Feat. Haley Bennett and Víkingur Ólafsson)
Dinner: “Connection” (Featuring Molly Burch)
The Dodos: “With a Guitar” and “Pale Horizon”
Dave Gahan and Soulsavers: “Metal Heart” (Cat Power Cover)
Hand Habits: “Clean Air”
Hatchie: “Crush” (Jennifer Paige Cover)
Lily Konigsberg: “Proud Home”
Kristine Leschper: “Figure and I”
Little Scream: “People, People” (Feat. Kyp Malone, Martha Wainwright, Patrick Watson, and Richard Reed Parry)
Kylie Minogue: “A Second to Midnight” (Feat. Years & Years)
Pip Blom: “Different Tune”
Julia Shapiro: “Wrong Time”
Shibashi: “Open My Eyes” (Feat. Candi Staton)
Amanda Shires: “Gone for Christmas” (Feat. The McCrary Sisters)
Tambino: “Estos Dias”
Tame Impala: “Breathe Deeper (Lil Yachty Remix)”
Tasha: “Sorry’s Not Enough”
Trace Mountains: “Eyes on the Road” and “Heart of Gold”
Wye Oak: “Half a Double Man”
Classic Song of the Week:
The Charlatans: “Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over”
In honor of the vinyl reissue of The Charlatans’ 1995-released self-titled album, which came out today, here is one of its best songs, “Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over.” Read our review of the reissue here.