Saturday, January 9th, 2021
6 Best Songs of the Week: Lost Horizons, The Weather Station, Bell Orchestre, and More
Plus Viagra Boys, London Grammar, Shame, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Jan 08, 2021
By Mark Redfern
Welcome to the first Songs of the Week of 2021. And what a week it’s been! It started with the Democrats gain control of the Senate, with Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock both winning their runoff races in Georgia, and ended with talk of Donald Trump being impeached for the second time and him being banned from all his major social media accounts (including Twitter). In between domestic terrorists (aka rioting Trump supporters) invaded the Capitol while Joe Biden’s presidential win was being certified and COVID-19 continued to ravage the country while the vaccine roll out was slow. Plus Ariel Pink and John Maus got cancelled for attending the riot (and in Pink’s case, opening supporting Trump and thus getting dropped from his label, Mexican Summer). In an era filled with trying times, it was a particularly dark week to be an American. Luckily there’s less than two weeks before Biden is inaugurated.
We’re scaling back Songs of the Week a little bit in 2021, so it’s not quite so much work to put together each Friday, but we will still highlight our favorite songs each week when we can.
To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the six best the last week had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last week. Check out the full list below.
1. Lost Horizons: “In Quiet Moments” (Feat. Ural Thomas)
Lost Horizons are releasing a new two-part double album, In Quiet Moments—part one came out in December and part two is due out February 26 via Bella Union. Now they have shared a new song from part two, jazzy title track “In Quiet Moments,” which features Ural Thomas, an 82-year-old Portland-based soul singer. It’s a simply gorgeous and timeless track. It was shared via a video.
Lost Horizons is a duo featuring former Cocteau Twins member (and Bella Union label head) Simon Raymonde and drummer Richie Thomas (who has played with Dif Juz, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Felt, and Cocteau Twins).
Raymonde also had this to say about “In Quiet Moments” in a press release: “Sometimes you just have a clear vision for a song and then try as you might, it doesn’t quite hit the mark and other times, you’re not quite sure where it’s going and then all of sudden it’s like The Matrix and you’re buzzing! I’d been talking to Ural and his team since I heard about him earlier that year, and they were all working on a new Ural Thomas and The Pain album, but just as I finished the bass part on our piece, which Richie had started at a session in London, my inner voice was screaming ‘ASK URAL TO SING!’ Scott and Brent who are his producers and write with Ural and in his band too, responded very positively to my enquiry and said Ural was into it, and it looked like they could do it all at their studio in Portland , AND film him at the same time as they were making a documentary about him! I couldn’t believe my luck. After he was done with the first half of the song I asked if he could make the ending spoken-word in the style of Gil Scott-Heron and he did something ad-libbed which I loved. I then asked Wendi Rose who sings with Spiritualized to add some of her beautiful vocals and I think this took it all to the next level. Paul Gregory and Jonathan Wilson also played some delicious guitar parts which were the fairy dust on top!”
Thomas added: “When I first heard the song, I thought it was such a wonderful thing, both open and calm, with that steady, insistent groove. The chords go from looming to embracing then back again, like a sad, friendly giant. It took a quiet moment to go over it in my mind and then we were off and running with the tune. At times I feel strong and one with the world. At other times I feel tiny and solitary. In a way they’re two parts of the same feeling. That sense of being closed in and defined by walls became more real just a short while after we worked on the song. But we’re all those other things, too—connected, hopeful, with a long arc that will go beyond this time.”
Previously Lost Horizons shared part one’s atmospheric single, “Cordelia,” which featured guest vocals from John Grant and was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another song from it, “One For Regret,” which featured Porridge Radio. It was shared via a video featuring Porridge Radio’s Dana Margolin. “One For Regret” was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another song from it, “Every Beat That Passed,” which featured Swedish singer/producer Kavi Kwai.
The album also includes “I Woke Up With An Open Heart,” which features The Hempolics and was released in September via a video. In Quiet Moments also features C Duncan, Marissa Nadler, Penelope Isles, Tim Smith of Midlake, and more.
In Quiet Moments is the follow-up to Lost Horizons’ 2017-released debut album, Ojalá, also on Bella Union. Ojalá was also filled with guest vocalists, including Sharon Van Etten, Marissa Nadler, Horse Thief’s Cameron Neal, Liela Moss of The Duke Spirit, Hilang Child, and Tim Smith of Midlake.
2. The Weather Station: “Atlantic”
The Weather Station (the project of Toronto-based singer/songwriter Tamara Linderman) is releasing a new album, Ignorance, on February 5 via Fat Possum. This week she shared another song from it, “Atlantic,” via a self-directed video for the track.
Linderman had this to say about the song in a press release: “Trying to capture something of the slipping feeling I think we all feel, the feeling of dread, even in beautiful moments, even when you’re a little drunk on a sea cliff watching the sun go down while seabirds fly around you; that slipping feeling is still there, that feeling of dread, of knowing that everything you see is in peril. I feel like I spend half my life working on trying to stay positive. My whole generation does. But if you spend any time at all reading about the climate situation circa now, positivity and lightness are not fully available to you anymore; you have to find new ways to exist and to see, even just to watch the sunset. I tried to make the band just go crazy on this one, and they did. This is one where the music really makes me see the place in my mind; the flute and the guitar chasing each other, wheeling around like birds, the drums cliff like in their straightness; I love the band on this one.”
Ignorance includes “Robber,” a new song The Weather Station shared in October via a self-directed video for it in her directorial debut. “Robber,” an atmospheric horn- and string-backed track, was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. When the album was announced in November, Linderman shared its second single, “Tried to Tell You,” via a self-directed video for the track (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).
Ignorance is the follow-up to The Weather Station’s acclaimed self-titled and self-produced fourth album, released in 2017 by Paradise of Bachelors.
In a previous press release, Linderman said the album was built on rhythm. “I saw how the less emotion there was in the rhythm, the more room there was for emotion in the rest of the music, the more freedom I had vocally,” she says.
Linderman, who plays guitar and piano on the album, was aided in this cause by drummer Kieran Adams (DIANA), bassist Ben Whiteley, percussionist Philippe Melanson (Bernice), saxophonist Brodie West (The Ex), flutist Ryan Driver (Eric Chenaux), keyboardist Johnny Spence (Tegan and Sara), and guitarist Christine Bougie (Bahamas). Linderman co-produced Ignorance with Marcus Paquin, who also mixed the album.
3. Bell Orchestre: “V: Movement”
This week Bell Orchestre (which features Arcade Fire’s Sarah Neufeld and Richard Reed Parry) announced their first new album in 12 years, House Music, and shared a new track from it, “V: Movement.” House Music is due out March 19 via Erased Tapes. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
A press release says the album was “created almost entirely from a single improvisational session between its members.” It was recorded in Neufeld’s rural Vermont house with the aid of engineer Hans Bernhard. The band features Neufeld (violin, vocals), Parry (bass, vocals), Pietro Amato (French horn, keyboards, electronics), Michael Feuerstack (pedal steel guitar, keyboards, vocals), Kaveh Nabatian (trumpet, gongoma, keyboards, vocals), and Stefan Schneider (drums).
Neufled had this to say in a press release: “If you sliced away the front wall of the house and looked in, you’d see the horn section—with so many different things going on— down on the first floor of what would normally be the living/dining room, and it was full chaos with tables and tables of kalimbas and harmonicas and synthesizers and horns. Then you travel up a floor, and there’s me and Richie in an empty, warm sounding wooden bedroom. Mike was on pedal steel in the bathroom, on the same floor as us. And then up the stairs, through the ceiling and in the attic, was Stefan, alone on drums. It’s a big piece of land, and if you went outside to take a break, you’d look over and hear all of this crazy shit coming out of all the different floors, and it filled this valley, and there were lots of rocks so the sound would bounce around. It was spooky and glorious.”
Parry had this to say: “Most of my favorite recordings have some element of an explorative and accidental feeling within the music, a feeling which reflects the truth of musical minds which are partially super focused on specific musical ideas and partially wandering, exploring the musical world surrounding those ideas. I think it’s really satisfying as a listener when you can hear a musical mind exploring an idea—not just a musician who has pre-formed an idea and rehearsed it 100 times until it’s totally perfect and ironed out. In this recording, every one of the six of us is simultaneously exploring our own ideas, deeply listening to each others’ wide open minds and also totally immersed in our own strange and beautiful little internal musical worlds.”
The band’s last album was 2009’s As Seen Through Windows.
4. Viagra Boys: “Girls & Boys”
Swedish post-punk band Viagra Boys released a new album, Welfare Jazz, today via YEAR0001. Now that it’s out you can stream the whole thing here. It includes “Girls & Boys,” a new song they shared earlier this week that makes our Songs of the Week.
Viagra Boys previously released a video for Welfare Jazz’s “Creatures” and it was featured in our Songs of the Week. They also shared the album’s cover of the 1999 John Prine song “In Spite of Ourselves” featuring Amy Taylor of Australian rock band Amyl and the Sniffers. The band’s most recent release was their Common Sense EP, which came out back in March 2020 on YEAR0001.
5. London Grammar: “Lose Your Head”
British trio London Grammar are releasing a new album, Californian Soil, on April 9 via Ministry of Sound/Columbia. This week they shared a new song from it, “Lose Your Head,” via a video for it. Zhang + Knight directed the video.
Frontwoman Hannah Reid had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘Lose Your Head’ is about power and control in relationships. The lyrics are quite dark, but I wanted to show the song in an upbeat way.”
Californian Soil is the band’s third album and the follow-up to 2017’s Truth Is a Beautiful Thing and 2013’s debut, If You Wait. The album includes “Baby It’s You,” a new song the band shared last August that was one of our Songs of the Week.
Also read our 2013 interview with London Grammar.
6. Shame: “Nigel Hitter”
Shame are releasing a new album, Drunk Tank Pink, next Friday (January 15) via Dead Oceans. This week they shared another song from it, “Nigel Hitter,” via a video for it. Maxim Kelly directed the video, reworking archival footage to make it seem like babies are singing along to the song.
Frontman Charlie Steen had this to say about the song in a press release: “The song is at the heart of what Drunk Tank Pink is about. After we finished touring I was left with a lot of silence as I stumbled around trying to figure out the daily routine. On top of that, I was confronting my subconscious at night through a series of intense dreams which left me in a daze during the day. ‘Nigel Hitter’ feels like a cathartic expression of that period.”
Frontman Charlie Steen had this to say about the song and upcoming album in a press release: “A lot of this album focuses on the subconscious and dreams, this song being the pivotal moment of these themes. A song about love that is lost and the comfort and displeasure that comes after you close your eyes, fall into sleep, and are forced to confront yourself.”
Shame’s previous album, Songs of Praise, was released in January 2018 on Dead Oceans.
These two songs almost made the Top 10.
Sun June: “Everything I Had”
TV Priest: “Press Gang”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
David Bowie: “Mother” (John Lennon Cover) and “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven” (Bob Dylan Cover)
John Carpenter: “Alive After Death”
The Hold Steady: “Heavy Covenant”
Kings of Leon: “The Bandit” and “100,000 People”
Buck Meek: “Candle”
Rhye: “Come In Closer”
Taylor Swift: “right where you left me” and “it’s time to go”
Vagabon and Courtney Barnett: “Reason to Believe” (Tim Hardin/Karen Dalton Cover)
Widowspeak: “Romeo and Juliet” (Dire Straits Cover)