Saturday, March 27th, 2021
12 Best Songs of the Week: black midi, John Grant, Iceage, Field Music, and More
Plus Anna Fox Rochinski, Beachy Head, Sons of Raphael, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Mar 26, 2021
By Mark Redfern (with Joey Arnone)
Welcome to the 11th Songs of the Week of 2021. Another week, alas another high profile mass shooting. This week a gunman killed 10 people in a grocery store in Boulder, CO only one week after a different gunman killed eight people in Atlanta, GA. And another potential mass shooting this week was narrowly averted when another man was caught with six guns, including an AR-15, in the bathroom of another grocery store, this time in Atlanta (luckily cops stopped him before anything happened). Cue Republican calls for “thoughts and prayers” and mental health reform (which they never seem to see as a serious enough problem to do anything about) and Democratic calls for gun control legislation (which they never seem to have the votes to pass). One of the upsides of the COVID-19 lockdown might have been less mass shootings, with less people gathering in public, but everyone stuck at home has also aggravated mental health problems for some. If nothing much changed after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it seems unlikely much meaningful reform will happen now. But maybe Biden can push something through.
In music news, Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters was accused of sexual misconduct by seven more women in a piece by Pitchfork, which follows accusations made against by three other women last August in another Pitchfork article. Har Mar Superstar was also accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women in a Star Tribune article. It’s good that these men are finally being held accountable, but sad that it’s taken this long (some of the Kozelek allegations date back to the ’90s).
In geek movie news, it was a good week for fans of DC Comics, with Zack Snyder’s four-hour director’s cut of Justice League being well received and the first trailer for James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad being released today. Plus Pierce Brosnan (aka James Bond) was cast as Doctor Fate in the Black Adam movie (which stars Dwayne Johnson as the title character) and Ron Livingston was cast as the father in The Flash. Not to be outdone, Marvel’s new TV show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier broke Disney Plus streaming records.
Now onto this week’s songs. It was a strong week for new tracks and so we present a Top 12 this week, rather than our usual Top 10.
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 12 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. black midi: “John L”
On Tuesday, black midi announced a new album, Cavalcade, which will be out on May 28 via Rough Trade. The band also shared a video for the album’s lead single “John L.” Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
It’s hard to separate “John L” from its astounding video, which will surely appear high on many Best Music Videos of 2021 lists come year’s end. Nina McNeely directed the crazy clip. But the song itself is just as bonkers, a kind of free-jazz-infused rock journey to who knows where.
Cavalcade, which is described as depicting “a line of larger than life characters” in a press release, is further explained by bassist Cameron Picton: “When you’re listening, you can imagine all the characters form a sort of cavalcade. Each tells their story one by one and as each track ends they overtake you, replaced by the next in line.”
The majority of the album was recorded at Hellfire Studios in Dublin under the supervision of sound engineer John “Spud” Murphy. Frontman Geordie Greep elaborates on the process behind its creation: “It worked really well with John. We wanted a natural, open sound combined with fourth wall breaks—for lack of a better expression. Do you know on record when you can hear the tape screeching, the things that make you aware that you’re listening to a recording? [With a lot of records] it feels like either you’re listening to the ECM, high-fidelity, 25 mic amazing sound or you have the lo-fi album full of crazy effects. And I thought, ‘Why not have an album where you combine the two?’ That was one of the main ideas going into it and John was very keen on that idea.”
The band’s debut album, Schlagenheim, came out in 2019 on Rough Trade, and made it to #30 on our Top 100 Albums of 2019 list. By Joey Arnone
2. John Grant: “Boy from Michigan”
On Wednesday, John Grant announced a new album, Boy from Michigan, and shared its title track via a video for it. Boy From Michigan was produced by Welsh musician Cate Le Bon and is due out June 25 via Partisan in the U.S. (and Bella Union in the U.K.). Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Boy from Michigan is the follow-up to 2018’s Love Is Magic and 2015’s Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. A press release says the album is Grant’s “most autobiographical and melodic work to date” and the lyrics of “Boy from Michigan” paint a vivid picture of Grant’s childhood.
Casey and Ewan directed the animated video for “Boy from Michigan.”
Grant had this to say about the new single in the press release: “I discovered the chord progression in the chorus of ‘Boy from Michigan’ on my OB6 back when I was working on ‘Love is Magic,’ and while I knew it would eventually become a song, I didn’t know what to do with it yet. Sometimes you just know you need to take your time with certain ideas. The song sprang from a moment I experienced when I was about 11 and we were about to move to Colorado from Michigan; my best buddy took me aside and warned me about ‘the world out there’ – so the song is about the transition from childhood to adulthood, the simplicity and innocence of childhood and the oftentimes rude awakening that occurs when one crosses over into adulthood. It’s also about romanticizing the past, which can be dangerous. I don’t believe one can or should live in the past, but if you ignore it, well, you know. I also have to say there are moments when I actually relive the scent of early spring as the snow was beginning to melt revealing the wet Earth beneath. It’s incredible.”
Last year Grant also sang guest vocals on the Lost Horizons song “Cordelia.”
Also be sure to read our in-depth 2013 article on Grant, one of the most honest and personal interviews we’ve ever done.
Plus read our The End interview with John Grant.
3. Iceage: “Shelter Song”
On Wednesday, Iceage shared a video for their new single “Shelter Song.” It is the third single to be released from their upcoming album, also titled Seek Shelter, and features vocal contributions by the Lisboa Gospel Collective (which give it a bit of Primal Scream vibe). Seek Shelter will be out on May 7 via Mexican Summer.
Director Catherine Pattinama Coleman speaks about creating the video in a press release, stating: “Iceage asked me if I wanted to direct the video for ‘Shelter Song.’ As a childhood friend of theirs, it was important for me to showcase our friendship and the people we share everyday life with. So instead of making a video full of symbolism or a staged performance, I wanted to make a private and personal video close to our hearts. After a crazy year of COVID-19, the world in flames and structural racism peaking at such an extent, I wanted to create a meaningful piece, especially being a woman of color and fully in my third trimester. In the midst of a pandemic it’s important to remember that those of us who are privileged enough to have a roof over our heads, food, security, love and care, is something of great value. Love is not something one should not take for granted.”
4. Field Music: “Not When You’re In Love”
English rock band Field Music (led by brothers Peter and David Brewis) are releasing a new album, Flat White Moon, on April 23 via Memphis Industries. On Wednesday, they shared the album’s third single, “Not When You’re In Love,” via a video for the track. Andy Martin directed the video, which features images from old movies while one brother plays piano and the other sings the song from an old TV screen.
The album includes “Orion From the Street,” a new song the band shared in January that was one of our Songs of the Week. Then when the album was announced they shared its second single, “No Pressure,” via an amusing tutorial music video that shows fans how to achieve the band’s signature sound. “No Pressure” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list.
Speaking of the album as a whole in a press release, David Brewis says: “We want to make people feel good about things that we feel terrible about.”
Peter Brewis says he was inspired by Beck’s Odelay and De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising. “I love how they use samples on those albums, taking parts that are obviously played—that are gestural—and then reconstruct them.”
The band’s last couple of albums were fairly complicated, with this one they wanted to be a bit looser and perhaps, despite the pandemic upending live music, make something that comes off well onstage.
“We don’t usually record a song thinking about how we’re going to play it live,” says David. “We’re not that kind of band. But there was a sense that it would be fun to do new songs which didn’t have those complications.”
“We say it all the time: You make music with your ears and your brain first,” Peter adds. “But I trust my ears and my brain, so let’s make something which just feels good and feels physical.”
In December, Field Music released “Home For Christmas,” a song for Memphis Industries’ holiday compilation Lost Christmas. They released their last album, Making a New World, in January of last year on Memphis Industries.
5. Anna Fox Rochinski: “Everybody’s Down”
On Tuesday, Anna Fox Rochinski (of Quilt) shared a clever video for her new single “Everybody’s Down.” It is the third single to be released from her upcoming album, Cherry, which is out today on Don Giovanni.
Rochinski speaks about the concept behind the song in a press release: “‘Everybody’s Down’ is a song that’s meant to be a little abstract but is generally about feeling run down and bewildered by rampant complicity during catastrophic times. EVERYBODY’S down, including you and me. And yes, also, ‘down’ like bummed, if that speaks to you. And yes, also ‘down’ as in, just casually down to do something, like, down to go grab food with your homies or whatever. It’s a triple entendre. We all feel all of these things every day. It’s a lot. Literally all I can do anymore to stay sane is have a sense of humor and laugh at stuff. I am so much less randomly sentimental than I used to be, but I think it’s because I have learned what really deserves my love and attention.”
She adds: “There was a primordial version of this song that I brought in to [album producers] Carlos [Hernandez] and Julian [Fader], but in the studio, we would visit it at the end of the night after all our serious work was done and throw stuff at the wall to see what would stick. It was like a way to release tension, and we didn’t take it very seriously. We made this minimal, weird, scuzzy instrumental with bass, guitar, synth and programmed drums, and I then took this raw creation home and worked out the structure and the melody and lyrics. In the end, I fell in love with this song, much to my surprise.”
6. Beachy Head: “Destroy Us”
On Tuesday, Beachy Head (a newly-announced band consisting of Rachel Goswell and Christian Savill of Slowdive, Matt Duckworth of The Flaming Lips, Steve Clarke of The Soft Cavalry, and Ryan Graveface of Black Moth Super Rainbow) announced a new self-titled album, which will be out on April 30 via Graveface. The band has also shared a song from the album titled “Destroy Us.”
According to The Line of Best Fit, the project began when Savill started writing and demoing songs and then the other members got involved. The band’s name is inspired by a chalk cliff in the UK that is both a popular tourist spot, but also known as a place where people take their own lives.
Goswell was also in The Soft Cavalry with Clarke and the two are married.
Check out our 2019 interview with The Soft Cavalry, along with our 2017 interview with Goswell on the making of Slowdive’s self-titled album. By Joey Arnone
7. Sons of Raphael: “Revolution”
This week, Sons of Raphael (the duo of brothers Loral and Ronnel Raphael) announced their debut album, Full-Throated Messianic Homage, which is set for release on May 21 via Because Music. They also shared a new song from the album titled “Revolution,” via a W.I.Z.-directed video. “Revolution” has a bit of an MGMT vibe. Check out the tracklist and cover art for the album here.
Full-Throated Messianic Homage was mixed by the late French DJ/producer Philippe Zdar of Cassius. Previously released songs from the album are “Siren Music” and “He Who Makes the Morning Darkness.”
A press release describes the album as such: “The album is an endless futuristic wall of sound built on classical orchestral arrangements contrasted with fuzz machines and modular synthesizers. Beneath this inviting exterior is a debut which is a four-part hymn to life, death, sin, love and resurrection.”
8. serpentwithfeet: “Heart Storm” (feat. NAO)
Experimental R&B/gospel vocalist serpentwithfeet (aka Josiah Wise) has released a new album, DEACON, today via Secretly Canadian. On Monday, he shared another song from it, “Heart Storm,” which features NAO.
Wise had this to say about the song in a press release: “I love a little magical realism. In this song I’m saying that there is so much love and power every time me and my man unite, even the heavens rejoice. Here, we welcome the storm.”
Previously serpentwithfeet shared DEACON’s first single, “Fellowship,” via a video for the track (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Then he shared its second single, “Same Size Shoe” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week). Then he shared a video for “Same Size Shoe.”
DEACON is serpentwithfeet’s second album, the follow-up to his acclaimed debut album, soil, from 2018.
A press release sets the scene for the album: “With DEACON, serpent is not only imagining but exploring a world wherein Black love is paramount. It’s a study rather than a story delving into Black, gay love and the tenderness present in the best companionships, romantic or otherwise.”
“I originally approached this project wanting to make something that felt very sensuous. Something a lot softer, a lot more gentle than my previous work,” adds Wise in the press release.
The album’s title comes from the position in the Christian church. “I wanted to create something that felt calm and restrained. This was my way of tapping into the energy many deacons possess,” Wise explains.
“Fellowship” was co-written and co-produced by Wise with Sampha and Lil Silva. Kordae Jatafa Henry directed the video, which features Wise and his partner on the beach.
“I dedicate ‘Fellowship’ to anyone who has had a good friend or been a good friend,” says Wise.
In 2019 serpentwithfeet shared a brand new song, “Receipts,” that featured Ty Dolla $ign and was one of our Songs of the Week. In 2020 he released a new EP, Apparition, which featured the single “A Comma.”
9. Lost Girls: “Losing Something”
Norwegian duo Lost Girls (the collaboration between Jenny Hval and Håvard Volden) released their debut album, Menneskekollektivet, today via Smalltown Supersound. On Monday, they shared another song from it, the ominous slow-burner “Losing Something.” According to a press release, Hval’s lyrics cite The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed, which is “a 1984 collection of poems and short prose created by a computer program named Racter.”
Previously Lost Girls shared the album’s first single, 12-minute title track “Menneskekollektivet,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Menneskekollektivet is out digitally today (with a physical release a month later, on April 23).
Hval and Volden have collaborated going on 10 years now, but this is their first full-length album as Lost Girls and the first time they’ve worked in the studio together. The album was recorded at Norway’s Øra Studios in March 2020. The album’s title translates to “human collective” in Norwegian.
10. Braids: “Sailor Moon”
On Wednesday, Montreal trio Braids shared the song “Sailor Moon.” The song was recorded during the sessions for their most recent album, 2020’s Shadow Offering, and was premiered Tuesday night by the band during a livestream concert on YouTube.
Frontwoman Raphaelle Standell-Preston talks about the inspiration behind the song in a press release: “‘Slayer Moon’ is inspired by a Sailor Moon phone case I bought in Tokyo, at 3am while on tour in Japan. Growing up I was obsessed with Sailor Moon, particularly with the ability to magically transform from a normal girl into a full-on mystical and powerful Sailor Scout, battle-ready to combat the evil forces of the world. Sailor Scouts have the longest legs ever drawn—so long that I drew a parallel between their immaculate legs, and our frenetic modern minds, lost in the ego abyss of the infinite scroll.”
This week they also shared another new song, “2020,” which makes our honorable mentions list below.
Read our Self-Portrait interview with the band. By Joey Arnone
11. Bachelor: “Stay in the Sun”
On Wednesday, Bachelor (a duo between Melina Duterte of Jay Som and Ellen Kempner of Palehound) announced their debut album, Doomin’ Sun. They also shared a new song from it, “Stay in the Car,” via a video for the single. Doomin’ Sun is due out May 28 via Polyvinyl. Haoyan of America directed and edited the “Stay in the Car” video. The album’s tracklist and cover art can be found here.
Kempner had this to say about Stay in the Car” in a press release: “I wrote the lyrics to ‘Stay In the Car’ back in December of 2019 when I was in Florida for my partner’s top surgery. I had run out one afternoon, post op, while he was healing to grab lunch for us and as I was gathering my stuff in the parking lot, a big car pulled up and this absolutely beautiful woman got out. She was dressed all in red, dripping with jewelry and had the most wild fiery mane I’d ever seen. She was yelling at the man behind the wheel asking him what he wanted from the store and I wished I was that man. I wanted to be a part of her life, her best friend, her driver, whatever she wanted me to be. I was completely mesmerized.”
Duterte adds: “We wanted this song to be a visceral listening experience, inspired by The Pixies and The Breeders. For the music video, we worked on a two-day shoot with Haoyan of America in Poughkeepsie in extremely cold weather. We all collaborated on the idea that our friendship should be portrayed in a fun and stylish way. Haoyan captured that energy in his own unique and creative lens through his collection of 80s/90s/00s props and toys, CGI, and anything car-themed.”
The album was written and recorded over the course of two weeks in January 2020 in Topanga, CA. It also features Big Thief’s Buck Meek and James Krivchenia and Annie Truscott of Chastity Belt (who is Duterte’s partner and also in the side-project Routine with her).
In February, Kempner shared a new single, “How Long.” Last November, Duterte released an EP with the aforementioned Annie Truscott of Chastity Belt under their Routine moniker titled And Other Things.
12. Small Black: “Driftwood Fire”
New York City chillwave four-piece Small Black are releasing a new album, Cheap Dreams, on April 9 via 100% Electronica. On Wednesday, they shared another song from it, “Driftwood Fire.” The song is inspired by frontman Josh Kolenik’s uncle, a passionate surfer who died of a stroke on the beach in 2015 and was the inspiration for much of the new album. The band’s debut album was utilized his attic in Long Island for its creation.
Frontman Josh Kolenik talked about the new song in a press release: “‘Driftwood Fire’ is a song told from two perspectives. One surfer looking out at the water and another looking back at the shore. The verse offers a conversation between a master and his apprentice in the water, while the chorus marks the cold realization by the novice that they’ll have to put these lessons into practice all by themselves going forward. We wanted to contrast the classic dance elements of the track with the natural world of the lyrics—letting the synthetic interlocking arpeggios & vocoder harmonies interact with the image of a fire on the beach at night. The song lives in the same Rockaway world as ‘The Bridge’, navigating the swell with the big city looming in the distance.”
Last year, the band shared the album’s lead single, “Tampa.” When the album was announced, they shared a stop-motion video for its next single, “Duplex.” Then they shared the album’s third single, “The Bridge,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.
Their most recent album, Best Blues, was released back in 2015 via Jagjaguwar.
These seven songs almost made the Top 10. Beabadoobee came closest.
beabadoobee: “Last Day on Earth”
Kolezanka: “Vegan Sushi”
Major Murphy: “Real”
Mannequin Pussy: “Control”
Rone, Casper Clausen, and Mélissa Laveaux: “Closer”
Alan Vega: “Fist”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
Azure Ray: “Remedy”
black midi: “Despair”
Brockhampton: “Buzzcut” (Feat. Danny Brown)
The Bruce Lee Band: “Division in the Heartland”
CFCF: “Heaven” (Feat. Sarah Bonito)
Bradford Cox: “Mountain Battles” (The Breeders Cover)
Madi Diaz: “New Person, Old Place”
Dry Cleaning: “Oblivion” (Grimes Cover)
Du Blonde: “Pull the Plug”
FACS: “Strawberry Cough” and “General Public”
Future Islands: “The Moon is Blue” (Colourbox Cover)
Glass Animals: “Heat Waves” (Feat. Iann Dior)
Andrew Hung: “Space”
Jenny Hval: “Sunbathing” (Lush Cover)
Mia Joy: “Freak”
The Joy Formidable: “Into the Blue”
Kele: “Smalltown Boy” (Bronski Beat Cover)
Molly Lewis: “Oceanic Feeling”
Luminous Kid: “Mountain Crystals” (Feat. Phoebe Bridgers)
Bill MacKay and Nathan Bowles: “Dowsing”
Manchester Orchestra: “Keel Timing”
Paul McCartney: “Find My Way (Beck Remix)”
Meet Me @ The Altar: “Hit Like a Girl”
Metronomy: “The Look (MGMT Remix)”
Moby: “Porcelain (Reprise Version)” (Feat. Jim James and The Budapest Art Orchestra)
Georgia Anne Muldrow: “Mufaro’s Garden”
Dawn Richard: “Jacuzzi”
Shamir: “Dsharpg” (Sharon Van Etten Cover)
Andy Stott: “The Beginning”
Matt Sweeney & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy: “My Blue Suit”
Taylor Swift: “You All Over Me (From The Vault)” (Feat. Maren Morris)
Rosie Tucker: “Habanero”
UV-TV: “Distant Lullaby”
Matthew E. White and Lonnie Holley: “Broken Mirror (A Selfie Reflection)/Composition 9”
Ric Wilson: “Woo Woo Woo” and “Everybody Red in the Face”
Xiu Xiu: “Sad Mezcalita” (Feat. Sharon Van Etten)
(Thanks to Joey Arnone for helping to put this week’s list together.)