Saturday, November 14th, 2020
14 Best Songs of the Last Three Weeks: Casper Clausen, Kiwi Jr., RINSE, Sleaford Mods, and More
Plus Kevin Morby, Crowded House, Django Django, and a Wrap-up of the Last Three Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Nov 13, 2020
By Christopher Roberts (with Joey Arnone)
Welcome to the 42nd Songs of the Week of 2020. We haven’t done a Songs of the Week in three weeks. Because of last week’s presidential election there were hardly any new songs of note released and we were too on edge awaiting the outcome to be decided to focus on new music. The week before was the run up to Halloween and there were certainly some worthy songs then, but for whatever reason we didn’t get Songs of the Week finished in time and abandoned it. So this week’s Songs of the Week covers the last three weeks, but mainly songs from this week and two weeks ago.
A lot has happened in the world in the last three weeks, namely that Joe Biden won the election and almost a week since it was called for him, President Donald Trump has still refused to concede, claiming election fraud the GOP can’t prove, even as leaders around the world acknowledge Biden as President-Elect. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases have hit record highs in the U.S. and the Trump administration is too caught up in filing frivolous election lawsuits with no hope of changing the results to do anything about it.
In the last three weeks on our website we also posted interviews with The Cranberries, David Byrne, Paris Berelc and China Anne McClain of the movie Hubie Halloween, Kim Dawson and Bobby Herbeck (the producer and writer of 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie), and Austra.
In the last three weeks we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Jesse Kivel, Queen + Adam Lambert, The Mountain Goats, MOURN, Secret Machines, Rich Aucoin, Surfer Blood, Catherine Anne Davies & Bernard Butler, Matt Berninger, EELS, L7, The Rolling Stones, Future Islands, Tom Petty, PJ Harvey, Loma, and others. 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 three weeks, we have picked the 14 best the last three weeks had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last three weeks. Check out the full list below.
1. Casper Clausen: “Used to Think”
Two weeks ago Casper Clausen, frontman of Danish trio Efterklang, announced his debut solo album, Better Way, and shared its first single, the nearly nine-minute long “Used to Think.” Better Way is due out January 9, 2021 via City Slang. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Better Way was recorded in Lisbon, Portugal, where Clausen has been living for several years. Pete Kember (aka Sonic Boom) co-produced and mixed the album.
“My very first introduction to him was listening to the Spacemen 3 song ‘Big City’ in Berlin at 8mm bar years ago—there’s a little nod to ‘Big City’ on ‘Used to Think,’” Clausen says in a press release. “I went out to meet him and his partner in their house. It’s magical. We decided to mix and produce the album there, in his studio. I was fortunate to co-pilot, while he was warping the sound of the record, I admire his incredible ear-mind. I learned a lot from him.”
Clausen also had this to say about the new single: “‘Used to Think’ was one of the first songs I wrote for Better Way a couple of years ago. I had a run of some small shows around Portugal testing the new songs I was working on at the time, and this one became one of my favorites, I really like the energy of it. It was also the song that made me reach out to the producer Sonic Boom. He ended up mixing/co-producing the entire album. There is some inspiration from his band Spacemen 3 luring around in there and he lives in Sintra, very close to Lisbon where I’ve been the past couple of years, so it all made sense.
“To me ‘Used to Think’ is like a Kaleidoscope with interchangeable lenses, each section of the song, a different pallet of colors and shapes. Before I stopped thinking I thought, open up, share more and think less.”
Eftkerklang released their first new album in seven years, Altid Sammen, in 2019 via 4AD.
2. Kiwi Jr.: “Cooler Returns”
This week Toronto-based band Kiwi Jr. announced a new album, Cooler Returns, and shared the album’s title track via a Sean Egerton Foreman-directed video. Cooler Returns will be released on January 22, 2021 through Sub Pop (with the exception of Canada, where it will be released through the band’s Kiwi Club imprint).
Singer Jeremy Gaudet had this to say about the video in a press release: “No one is able to play live shows, so using the latest technology we have replicated the most accurate version possible of what Kiwi Jr. shows once looked like.”
Kiwi Jr. released their debut album Football Money earlier this year on Persona Non Grata. By Joey Arnone
3. RINSE: “Back Into Your Arms” (Feat. Hatchie)
RINSE is the new project from Australia’s Joe Agius, who is known for his work with fellow Aussie Hatchie (aka Harriette Pilbeam), co-writing with Pilbeam and performing in Hatchie’s band. Two weeks ago the debut RINSE EP, Wherever I Am, was announced for release on March 5, 2021 and its first single, “Back Into Your Arms,” was shared via a video. The song and video both feature Hatchie and “Back Into Your Arms” skews fairly close to Hatchie’s dream-pop/shoegaze blueprint.
“I originally started writing ‘Back Into Your Arms’ as a possible song for Hatchie last year, but enjoyed singing it too much myself and decided to make it my own,” Agius said in a press release. “Harriette’s vocals sounded so great accompanying mine on the demo we decided it would be a perfect opportunity to make her an official feature, since we both loved the song so much.
“I finished the lyrics earlier this year after watching a lot of my friends’ struggle to maintain long distance relationships through the pressures brought on by COVID-19 and the past year. Each verse is from a different person’s view during different stages of a relationship, while the choruses fantasize about the idea that just being in each other’s arms is enough to make it work.”
Agius self-directed the video, which was shot in a makeshift graveyard. “I’ve always dreamt of creating a big prop theatre-esque music video and accidentally stumbled across a warehouse in Brisbane with a treasure trove of old sets and backdrops one day while trawling online classifieds,” he explained in the press release. “I struck up a deal with the owner and we loaded up a truck all by ourselves of graveyard props big and small. I shot the video in a mad frenzy over a single day with the help of a lot of friends.”
Jorge Elbrecht (Ariel Pink, Japanese Breakfast, Wild Nothing, Sky Ferreira) produced Wherever I Am.
4. Sleaford Mods: “Mork N Mindy” (Feat. Billy Nomates)
Two weeks ago English electronic punk duo, Sleaford Mods (Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn) announced a new album, Spare Ribs, and shared its first single, “Mork N Mindy,” via a video for it. The song and video feature Billy Nomates. They also performed the song on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Spare Ribs is due out January 15, 2021 via Rough Trade. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the Seth Meyers performance, here.
Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Free Fire, and Netflix’s new adaptation of Rebecca) directed the “Mork N Mindy” video. The album also features Amy Taylor of Australian punks Amyl and The Sniffers.
Spare Ribs’ title was inspired by the pandemic, as Williamson explains in a press release: “the idea of the amount of people that died from the first wave of coronavirus; human lives are always expendable to the elites… We’re in a constant state of being spare ribs.”
Back in May the band released a career-spanning retrospective, All That Glue. Before that, their last album was 2019’s Eton Alive.
5. Kevin Morby: “US Mail”
Kevin Morby released a new album, Sundowner, last month via Dead Oceans. Two weeks ago he shared a new standalone single, “US Mail,” which is a tribute to the United States Postal Service. There’s a studio version of the song, as well as a video of him performing it live (check out the video here).
Morby had this to say about the song in a press release:
“‘US Mail’ is a song I wrote about a mother communicating with her daughter via the USPS from within an inpatient rehab facility. Restricted from any forms of electronic communication, the two must rely on postcards carried by the United States Postal Service to reach one another.
My PO BOX is featured on the track artwork—please feel free to write me a letter and continue sending mail to your loved ones to support the USPS. Its service has been integral to my career and I have been passionate about both sending and receiving physical mail since I was a child. It is simply one of my favorite things. I will do my best to write you back, but even if I don’t, please know that your letters mean the world to me and that I read and cherish them all.
Though we had originally intended to record this song in studio while mixing Sundowner, when the lockdown went into effect and the session was cancelled we decided to do it remotely instead, with Brad recording the music and me recording the vocals from our respective homes.
This release is dedicated to mothers and their children—and all postal workers everywhere.
KM, Kansas City 2020”
6. Crowded House: “Whatever You Want”
Two weeks ago New Zealand’s Crowded House, who released a slew of successful albums and songs in the 1980s and 1990s (including 1986’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” which hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100), returned with their first new song in 10 years, “Whatever You Want.” It was accompanied by a music video starring, of all people, Mac DeMarco.
Crowded House’s last album was 2010’s Intriguer. Since then, frontman Neil Finn has released various albums, including 2018’s Light Sleeper, which was a collaborative album with his son, Liam Finn, who is now also in Crowded House. The elder Finn was also a touring member of Fleetwood Mac for a while.
Crowded House’s current lineup also features founding member Nick Seymour (bass) along with producer and keyboardist Mitchell Froom and drummer Elroy Finn. Nina Ljeti directed the “Whatever You Want” video, in which DeMarco tries to piece together the events of a wild party the night before, aided by inanimate objects that talk to him.
7. Django Django: “Glowing in the Dark”
This week Django Django announced a new album, Glowing in the Dark, and shared its title track, via a video for it. Glowing in the Dark is due out February 12, 2021 via Because Music. One song on the album features Charlotte Gainsbourg. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Glowing in the Dark includes “Spirals,” a new song they shared in September via a kaleidoscopic video. “Spirals” was one of our Songs of the Week. Following “Spirals,” Django Django also shared a remix of the song by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio as an Amazon Music exclusive. Then they shared another new song, the instrumental track “The Ark,” which was the B-side to “Spirals” but is also featured on the new album. Then they shared a remix of “Spirals” by MGMT (Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser), who stretched out the song to nearly eight minutes.
Glowing in the Dark is the band’s fourth album, the follow-up to 2018’s Marble Skies and Winter’s Beach EP. A press release says Glowing in the Dark “has a running theme of escape: from despair, from constraints, from small town life, and even, in dreams, from the Earth.”
NYC artist and illustrator Braulio Amado directed the “Glowing in the Dark” video, directing frontman Vincent Neff remotely.
In a press release Neff had this to say about the video: “He gave me some loose directions of what he wanted me to do via email. Then me and my brother in law got a tripod, my phone and a speaker and went to a deserted industrial estate around the back of my house and shot a bunch of stuff then turned the footage over to Braulio. We love what he’s done with it and how the energy and vibe of the visuals really lock with the track.”
Amado had this to say: “I didn’t want to be literal and do something *glowing in the dark*, so in my head the video is somewhat an abstract representation of the song title without being too obvious. I wanted it to feel organic, I wanted it to feel trippy, vibrant and colourful. This was done during the pandemic, with Vinny shooting himself on a greenscreen at home with his iphone, so I just wanted to take him out of the weird world and time we are all living through right now and transport him to a more fun place far away from here.”
Django Django also features producer/drummer David Maclean, bassist Jimmy Dixon, and synthesizer operator Tommy Grace. Marble Skies was the follow-up to the band’s 2015 sophomore album, Born Under Saturn, and their 2012-released Mercury Prize-nominated self-titled debut.
8. Nation of Language: “A Different Kind of Life”
This week Brooklyn-based synth-pop trio Nation of Language shared a new song, “A Different Kind of Life,” produced by Nick Millhiser, one half of fellow Brooklyn synth-pop duo Holy Ghost! This is the trio’s first new original music since the release of their critically acclaimed debut album, Introduction, Presence, which was released back in May. They also released a cover of Pixies’ “Gouge Away” in August.
Songwriter/vocalist Ian Devaney speaks a bit on the inspiration behind “A Different Kind of Life” in a press release: “This song first started to come together in the early days of the Trump administration, but was never quite finished and got a bit lost as time went by. When the demo resurfaced during the pandemic, the song struck a chord not just in its intended political context but in the context of so many people losing family members, jobs, or any semblance of normality—whatever might be left of it after the past few years. I had seriously hoped that by the time the song came out it would be slightly less relevant than when I first wrote it, but defeating Trump was always going to be just one step in the fight to make the country a more just and decent place. So, no matter what, the core message still resonates with me deeply.”
Nation of Language consists of Ian Devaney (vocals, guitar, and percussion), Aidan Noell (synth and vocals), and Michael Sue-Poi (bass). By Joey Arnone
9. Still Corners: “Crying”
Still Corners are releasing a new album, The Last Exit, on January 21, 2021 via the band’s own Wrecking Light label. Two weeks ago they shared another song from it, “Crying,” via a video for the track, which was written while under quarantine during the pandemic.
Still Corners are the male/female American/British duo of Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray and The Last Exit is their fifth album, the follow-up to 2018’s Slow Air, 2016’s Dead Blue, and 2013’s Strange Pleasures (a criminally under-appreciated dream-pop gem released via Sub Pop).
Murray had this to say about “Crying” in a press release: “The only constant in life is change, this song is about a breakup during a difficult time but it’s also about coping with a fast-moving, uncertain world. Our video shows the immense universe and inevitable change of the seasons. Everything is in flux and that’s the only thing that is certain.”
10. The Antlers: “It Is What It Is”
This week The Antlers shared a new song, “It Is What It Is,” via a video for the horn-backed track. Derrick Belcham and Emily Terndrup directed the video, which features contemporary dancers Bobbi-Jene Smith and Or Schraiber.
“‘It Is What It Is’ is a song about hindsight,” The Antlers’ lead singer and songwriter Peter Silberman says in a press release. “It considers what might have changed had you handled things differently back then, and the reluctant acceptance that it’s too late for all that now. It’s the inevitability of changing seasons, transitions that feel like loss in the moment, but come to represent growth over time.
“It Is What It Is” follows “Wheels Roll Home,” a new song The Antlers shared in October that was the band’s first new song in six years. Their last album was 2014’s fifth record, Familiars. The band also features drummer Michael Lerner.
11. James Yorkston and The Second Hand Orchestra: “Struggle”
Two weeks ago James Yorkston announced new album with James Yorkston and The Second Hand Orchestra, The Wide, Wide River, and shared a video for its first single, “Struggle.” The Wide, Wide River is due out January 22, 2021 via Domino. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Swedish producer Karl-Jonas Winqvist is the leader and conductor of The Second Hand Orchestra. The band also features Peter Morén (Peter, Bjorn & John), Cecilia Österholm (described in a press release as “one of Sweden’s best-known nyckelharpa players”), Emma Nordenstam (piano & cello), and Ulrika Gyllenberg (violin).
Yorkston had this to say about recording “Struggle” in a press release: “The band were sat by in the studio by themselves, looping the verses over and over. I was in the control room, drinking sweet tea. I just had to wait for the right moment and jump on board, like when I’m pushing my kids round on a roundabout in the local park. I love that everyone was singing along so freely when we recorded this. There were vocal mics for everyone, and people would just lean in with a harmony, every now and then. It gives it a very communal feeling.”
Yorkston’s last solo album was 2019’s The Route to the Harmonium. At the start of 2020 he released Navarasa : Nine Emotions, a new album with Yorkston/Thorne/Khan, a trio consisting of Yorkston (guitar/nyckelharpa/vocals), Jon Thorne (double-bass/vocals), and Suhail Yusuf Khan (sarangi/vocals)
12. Badge Époque Ensemble: “Just Space For Light” (Feat. Jennifer Castle)
This week Toronto’s Badge Époque Ensemble shared a new song, “Just Space For Light” (which features Jennifer Castle). It is the latest single from their upcoming album, Self Help, which will be out November 20 on Telephone Explosion. This follows two previous single releases for the album: “Sing a Silent Gospel,” which featured Dorothea Paas and U.S Girls, and “Unity (It’s Up To You),” which featured James Baley and was accompanied by an eye-catching claymation video. “Unity (It’s Up To You)” was one of our Songs of the Week.
Bandleader Maximilian Turnbull states in a press release: “‘Just Space For Light’ weaves a few BÉE themes together. The collision of disparate moods between sections, lyrics which touch on the meditative experience, and collaboration with a distinctive vocalist; in this case Jennifer Castle, who’s soulful presence on our album is a blessing.”
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). By Joey Arnone
13. Mogwai: “Dry Fantasy”
Two weeks ago Scotland’s Mogwai announced a new album, As the Love Continues, and shared its first single, “Dry Fantasy.” As the Love Continues is due out February 19, 2021 via Temporary Residence Inc.
As the Love Continues is the follow-up to 2017’s Every Country’s Sun. Dave Fridmann produced the album, which features Atticus Ross (on “Midnight Flit”) and Colin Stetson (on “Pat Stains”). The album was recorded earlier this year and was originally supposed to be recorded in America, but the pandemic adjusted those plans, with the band recording in the UK and Fridmann producing remotely.
Even though Mogwai won’t be able to tour the album anytime soon and travel is limited due to the pandemic, in a press release the band’s Stuart Braithwaite says he hopes the music will transport listeners to a different place, “unless you are somewhere really amazing and then why are you listening to some weird music like this?”
14. Brijean: “Day Dreaming” (Feat. Toro y Moi)
This week Oakland-based duo Brijean, comprised of percussionist Brijean Murphy and multi-instrumentalist Doug Stuart, announced a new album, Feelings, and shared a video for its first single, “Day Dreaming” (which features Chaz Bear, aka Toro y Moi, on keyboards and engineering). Feelings is due out February 26, 2021 via Ghostly International. The video, shot on an iPhone in Los Angeles by the duo, features editing and psychedelic visual effects by flatspot ___•.
After the release of their mini-album, Walkie Talkie (available on Native Cat Recordings), Murphy and Stewart continued collaborating in Oakland with several of their fellow artist friends, including astronauts, etc. frontman Tony Peppers, singer/songwriter Chaz Bear (aka Toro y Moi), and drummer Hamir Atwal. These collaborations provided the crux for the new record’s creation. “We improvised on different feels for hours,” says Murphy. “Nothing quite developed at first but we had seeds. We re-opened the sessions a couple months later, after returning from tours, and spent a month developing the songs in a little 400 square foot cottage.” By Joey Arnone
These seven songs almost made the Top 10.
The Avalanches: “Interstellar Love” (Feat. Leon Bridges)
Billie Eilish: “Therefore I Am”
Foo Fighters: “Shame Shame”
Quarter-Life Crisis: “Comfortable” (Feat. Hand Habits)
Routine: “Cady Road”
WARBLY JETS: “NASA”
Yung: “Above Water”
Other notable new tracks in the last three weeks include:
Andrew Bird: “Christmas In April”
Phoebe Bridgers: “Kyoto (Copycat Killer Version)”
Phoebe Bridgers and Maggie Rogers: “Iris” (Goo Goo Dolls Cover)
Rosie Carney: “Just” and “Black Star” (Radiohead Covers)
John Carpenter: “Weeping Ghost”
The Drums & Jonny Pierce: “Nadia”
Cabaret Voltaire: “What’s Goin’ On”
Danny Elfman: “Happy”
Empress Of: “You’ve Got To Feel” (Feat. Amber Mark)
Chilly Gonzales (Feat. Jarvis Cocker and Feist): “Snow Is Falling In Manhattan” (Purple Mountains Cover)
HAIM: “Feel the Thunder”
Carly Rae Jepsen: “It’s Not Christmas Till Somebody Cries”
Charlie Hickey: “No Good At Lying” (Feat. Phoebe Bridgers)
Jesse Kivel: “Burning Man”
Mary Lattimore: “Hold Your Breath”
Maps: “Sleep Today”
Cass McCombs: “Don’t (Just) Vote” (Feat. Angel Olsen, Bob Weir, And Noam Chomsky)
Myd: “Moving Men” (Feat. Mac DeMarco)
Aidan Noell: “Prepositional Phrase”
The Notwist: “Where You Find Me”
Palberta: “Corner Store”
Parquet Courts: “Hey Bug”
Peter Bjorn and John: “Season of Defiance”
Rhye: “Black Rain”
Run The Jewels: “No Save Point”
The Smashing Pumpkins: “Ramona” and “Wyttch”
Indigo Sparke: “Baby”
Superchunk: “There’s a Ghost” and “Alice” (Sisters of Mercy Cover)
Sylvan Esso: “Ferris Wheel (Terrace Martin Remix)” (Feat. Robert Glasper)
System of a Down: “Protect the Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz”
Teenage Fanclub: “Home”
Tegan and Sara: “Make You Mine This Season”
Yard Act: “Peanuts”
(Thanks to Joey Arnone for helping to put this week’s list together.)