Saturday, June 6th, 2020
8 Best Songs of the Week: Run the Jewels, Bob Mould, Terrace Martin and More
Plus Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Hinds, NZCA LINES, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Jun 05, 2020
By Christopher Roberts (with Mark Moody, Samantha Small, and Jake Uitti)
Welcome to the 22nd Songs of the Week of 2020. And what a trying week it was. The protests to the death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers intensified and spread around the world. And instead of putting out an olive branch to protesters, President Trump threatened to send the U.S. military onto our streets and did so in Washington, D.C. He also had peaceful protesters forcefully cleared so he could cross the street to pose for a photo op in front of a damaged church opposite The White House, awkwardly holding a bible. Meanwhile there were photos and videos all over social media of police officers being overly forceful with protesters, including driving police cars into them, trampling over them on police horses, shooting pepper spray at children, and pushing over a 75-year-old man, leaving him laying on the ground with blood flowing from his head.
Former Secretary of Defense under Trump, General James Mattis, had had enough, penning a scathing takedown of the President in The Atlantic, and later backed up by Trump’s former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski. “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” wrote Mattis.
Mike Mullen, a retired United States Navy admiral, who served as the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 1, 2007, to September 30, 2011, also spoke out against Trump in The Atlantic.
The question remains: when will Republican senators and congressmen join Mitt Romney, grow and backbone, and start condemning Trump’s erratic and divisive behavior? Certainly when Republicans have stood up to this president in the past, it hasn’t gone well for them, as Trump’s support amongst his base is still alarmingly strong, but if there was a groundswell of criticism from Republicans then surely there would be some safety in numbers.
On Tuesday the music industry observed Blackout Tuesday and The Show Must Be Paused, in which many record labels, musicians, and music press outlets refrained from posting anything to their websites and social media (except perhaps for things related to the Black Lives Matter movement). We took part, as did some other notable music websites. Other music websites continued to post as regular and a couple of major ones might as well as taken part, as they only posted one news item that day, both on the same song, but weren’t officially involved. Certainly there was some question about what it all accomplished. For our part, we spent the day brainstorming article ideas for our forthcoming 2020 Protest Issue this fall. We’ve done one of our Protest Issues every presidential election year since we started, beginning with one in 2004.
And lest we forget while all this was going on, we are still in the middle of a pandemic and the worst economic downturn since The Great Depression.
In terms of this week’s new songs, the pickings were somewhat slim again, partly because hardly no new songs were shared on Tuesday. But we’ve still come up with some below that we liked (albeit, only a Top 8, instead of our usual Top 10). Not surprisingly, our Top 3 are all protest songs.
In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Retirement Party, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Nicole Atkins, Muzz, Lettuce, Sonic Boom, and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).
We’ve also been posting our long out of print and sold out Issue 8 to our Patreon page, one article at a time.
To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the eight best the last seven days had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last week. Check out the full list below.
1. Run the Jewels: “Walking in the Snow”
Killer Mike and El-P (Run the Jewels) returned this week with their fourth album, Run the Jewels 4. The release was pushed up by two days in support of ongoing worldwide protests over police brutality. Packed with hard hitting tracks, none resonate more than “Walking in the Snow,” which features Gangsta Boo. It’s a takedown on police brutality and evangelicals, which quotes Eric Garner’s plea, “I can’t breathe.” A line that is seemingly prescient, but also sadly unsurprising to find once again top of mind. On what would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday and a day that Trump indifferently declared as a “great day” for George Floyd, “Walking in the Snow” rubs particularly raw. In a period fraught with despair and bitter irony, it also somehow finally feels plausible that the demands of the masses may be finding a foothold.
Killer Mike’s verse says it all. Here’s a portion of it:
“And every day on evening news they feed you fear for free
And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me
And ‘til my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, “I can’t breathe”
And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV
The most you give’s a Twitter rant and call it a tragedy
But truly the travesty, you’ve been robbed of your empathy
Replaced it with apathy, I wish I could magically
Fast forward the future so then you can face it
And see how fucked up it’ll be
I promise I’m honest, they coming for you
The day after they comin’ for me”
This week Run the Jewels also put together a list of organizations they’d like to encourage their fans to donate to as valid protests about the death of George Floyd, systemic racism, and overly brutal police practices continue across the land. They include the National Lawyers Guild, which is helping to represent protesters who are arrested. Check out the full list here.
Run the Jewels 4 is the band’s fourth album, the follow-up to the appropriately titled RTJ3 (aka Run the Jewels 3), which officially came out in January 2017 (but technically it dropped a little early, in late December 2016). The album was mainly recorded at two iconic studios: Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La Studios in Los Angeles and Electric LadyStudios in NYC. The band shared its first single, “The Yankee and the Brave (ep. 4),” in March. Also in March, they shared its second single, “Ooh LA LA.” Then “Ooh LA LA” got a video in April, in which the band partied in a city’s downtown area to celebrate the end of capitalism, burning money and credit cards in the process. The album features Pharrell Williams, Mavis Staples, 2 Chainz, Zack de la Rocha, Josh Homme, DJ Premier, and Greg Nice. By Mark Moody
2. Bob Mould: “American Crisis”
Bob Mould has had enough. Beginning with a blood-curdling scream, Mould sings “Never thought I’d see this bullshit again,” on his newest single “American Crisis,” the lead track from his just-announced forthcoming new album Blue Hearts.
Blue Hearts is out September 25 via Merge, following on the heels of last year’s critically acclaimed Sunshine Rock. But, this album is the most directly confrontational work out of Mould’s almost four-decade long career. As Mould says himself in a press release, these songs are “the catchiest batch of protest songs I’ve ever written in one sitting.”
“‘American Crisis’ is a tale of two times,” says Mould. “Past Time and Present Time. The parallels between 1984 and 2020 are a bit scary for me: telegenic, charismatic leaders, praised and propped up by extreme Evangelicals, either ignoring an epidemic (HIV/AIDS) or being outright deceitful about a pandemic (COVID-19).” That being said, through June 7, all of the proceeds from “American Crisis” will benefit OutFront Minnesota and Black Visions Collective.
The album was produced by Mould at Electrical Audio in Chicago, along with longtime collaborator engineer Beau Sorenson. With the help of drummer Jon Wurster and bassist Jason Narducy, the singer/songwriter catalogues a life of hypocrisy, homophobia, and outright fear.
“We have a charismatic, telegenic, say-anything leader being propped up by evangelicals,” Mould says. “These fuckers tried to kill me once. They didn’t do it. They scared me. I didn’t do enough. Guess what? I’m back, and we’re back here again. And I’m not going to sit quietly this time and worry about alienating anyone.” By Samantha Small
3. Terrace Martin: “PIG FEET” (Feat. Denzel Curry, Daylyt, Kamasi Washington, and G Perico)
“Pig Feet” by Terrace Martin (featuring Denzel Curry, Daylyt, Kamasi Washington, and G Perico) is the heartbreaking reminder of the Two Americas that Mainstream America needs to see today. Everywhere we turn, the injustices that Black Americans have faced daily for decades—no, for hundreds of years—are on display. And we should be seeing this. White America, Mainstream America, and the world at large need these bloody reminders. We need to hear the screams the country has created and ignored in our ears again and again. We need these visuals—fires, police brutality, gunshots—in our eyes again and again. People have been sending these messages of violence and despair and only now do they seem to be heard. For this, we owe Martin, Curry, Daylyt, Washington, and G Perico a debt of gratitude. That debt sounds a lot like Reparations now, doesn’t it?
Martin had this to say about the song in a press statement: “Someone asked, how do I feel? I told them hurt, fearless, angry, aware and fully ready to protect me, my family, and my people at all cost. I got together with Black men that felt the same way and created a work of truth. ‘PIG FEET.’” By Jake Uitti
4. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: “Cameo”
The band’s Fran Keaney had this to say about the song in a press release: “This is a love song. It’s about reaching through time portals. The lyrics were pieced together over about a year like a little puzzle. I found the first pieces in Rushworth, and the last pieces in Darwin.”
Sideways to New Italy is the band’s sophomore album and the follow-up to 2018’s debut album, Hope Downs, also released via Sub Pop. Hope Downs was our Album of the Week, one of our Top 100 Albums of 2018, and our #1 Debut Album of 2018.
Sideways to New Italy also includes “Cars In Space,” a new song the band shared in February via a video for the track co-directed by fellow Aussie musician Julia Jacklin with her regular collaborator Nick Mckk. “Cars In Space” was one of our Songs of the Week. When the album was announced they shared another new song from it, “She’s There,” via a video for the single. “She’s There” was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared the album’s third single, “Falling Thunder,” also via a video for the track. “Falling Thunder” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then the band released a video of them performing early single “Angeline” remotely and separately from their homes (the song is not found on either of their albums, but was released as a single back in 2013).
The band features singer/songwriter/guitarists Tom Russo, Joe White, and Fran Keaney, as well as bassist Joe Russo and drummer Marcel Tussie.
The album’s partial namesake, New Italy, is actually a village near New South Wales’ Northern Rivers, which is an area Tussie is from. A press release announcing the album described the town: “A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pit-stop of a place with fewer than 200 residents, it was founded by Venetian immigrants in the late-1800s and now serves as something of a living monument to Italians’ contribution to Australia, with replica Roman statues dotted like souvenirs on the otherwise rural landscape.”
Keaney had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “I wanted to write songs that I could use as some sort of bedrock of hopefulness to stand on, something to be proud of. A lot of the songs on the new record are reaching forward and trying to imagine an idyll of home and love.
In February 2019 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever shared a new song, “In the Capital” (it was one of our Songs of the Week) and released it as a 7-inch ia Sub Pop. The B-side, “Read My Mind,” was also shared in April 2019 via a video for the track (it was also one of our Songs of the Week). Neither song is featured on Sideways to New Italy.
5. Hinds: “Waiting For You”
Spanish quartet Hinds have released a new album, The Prettiest Curse, today via Mom + Pop. Now that the album is out, we can share one of its non-single album tracks we quite like, “Waiting For You.” The song feels like an album closer, but is actually its penultimate track, and displays that the band have really stepped up the production with this album.
This week Hinds also announced that they are donating proceeds from a new special edition T-Shirt to four Black Lives Matter related organizations: BTFA (Black Trans Femmes in the Arts); ACER (African Career, Education, and Resource); AMAC (Asociación de Mujeres Africanas en Canarias); and SOS Racism Madrid. Buy the anti-racism T-shirt here.
The Prettiest Curse was due out April 3, but in March it was pushed back to June 5 due to COVID-19. In a note on Twitter yesterday the band wrote that they considered pushing back the album again because of the Black Lives Matter protests across America (and the world now), but it was too late to do so.
— HiNDS 🌝 (@hindsband) June 4, 2020
The Prettiest Curse includes “Riding Solo,” a new song the band shared in December via a video for the track (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Then when the album was announced Hinds shared another song from it, “Good Bad Times,” via a video that featured the band as superheroes. “Good Bad Times” was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then Hinds shared another new song from the album, the layered ballad “Come Back and Love Me<3,” which features Spanish guitar and which the band says “is the most romantic song we’ve ever done.” Then they shared another song from the album, the energetic “Just Like Kids (Miau),” via a playful and colorful video for the track (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).
Jenn Decliveo produced The Prettiest Curse. It features some songs where the band members sing in their native language for the first time.
In a previous press release the band’s Ana Perrote said The Prettiest Curse is a quantum leap from their earliest work. “If baby Hinds could hear this record, they wouldn’t believe it—it’s so far from where we started,” she says. “It’s the first time we truly enjoyed the process and didn’t ever feel we had something to prove. I’m so proud that we just let ourselves have fun, and never held back from doing what we wanted.”
In the previous press release the band’s Carlotta Cosials also had this to say about The Prettiest Curse and its title: “We have this incredible job, but it’s really transformed the way we live. We know we’re not going to stop, so we’ve decided to embrace it—to see this curse as something pretty.”
Hinds’ last album was 2018’s I Don’t Run, also released via Mom + Pop. The band also features Amber Grimbergen and Ade Martin.
6. NZCA LINES: “Prisoner of Love”
NZCA LINES, the London-based project of Michael Lovett, is releasing a new album, Pure Luxury, on July 10 via Memphis Industries. On Thursday he shared another song from it, “Prisoner of Love,” which has a pleasing disco vibe, especially in the strings. He has also announced a ticketed livestream concert, a virtual album release party, on July 15. Tickets only cost £6, but are limited, and are available here.
Lovett had this to say about “Prisoner of Love” in a press release: “This song is about the cycle of heartbreak and dependency within a relationship that isn’t working, a constant motion of being pushed away and sucked back in. Both people could be doing this, each at the mercy of the other’s emotions—unable to move forward yet unable to step away, the cycle repeats itself.”
Back in March NZCA LINES shared the album’s title track, “Pure Luxury,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared a colorful video for the song that had shades of Pulp’s classic video for “This Is Hardcore.” Lovett co-directed the video with his wife Alina Rancier. Then when the album was announced he shared a new song from it, “Real Good Time,” via a video for the track. “Real Good Time” was also one of our Songs of the Week.
According to a press release “Real Good Time” surprisingly “channels concerns about agricultural chemicals and overpopulation.” Lovett sings: “It’s too late to save the bride/I guess she’ll just get buried alive/in waterfalls of pesticide/or gently suffocated by the groom/I just remembered how we die/I saw it on TV one time/But I guess we’ll just keep multiplying.”
Lovett had this to say about the song: “‘Real Good Time’ stars an unhinged narrator arriving uninvited to a scary dance party. As the sweat soaks through his polyester suit jacket he perceives a blizzard of nightmarish, hallucinogenic images depicting his unease with the world. Yet he soon realizes that, despite the darkness around us, we deserve to have a good time—to make the best with what we’re given.”
It’s not the only song on Pure Luxury inspired by environmental concerns: “Larsen” is about “the breaking up of the Larsen C ice shelf in 2017.”
Things have been fairly quiet for NZCA LINES since the release of his last album, 2016’s sophomore release, Infinite Summer, also released via Memphis Industries. Over the years Lovett has also performed in Metronomy’s touring band and performed on some of Christine and the Queens’ work.
7. Muzz: “All Is Dead to Me”
Muzz is a new band that features Paul Banks of Interpol, Matt Barrick of The Walkmen, and Josh Kaufman of Bonny Light Horseman. Today they have released their self-titled debut album via Matador (read our review). All of its previous singles made our Songs of the Week lists, but now that the album is out we can share one of its non-single album tracks we also rather liked, the atmospheric “All Is Dead to Me.”
Banks and Kaufman have known each other since they were teenagers and both have also worked with Barrick before. Muzz’s earliest recordings date back to 2015. All three members wrote, arranged, and performed the album. And while Banks is usually the sole lyricist in Interpol, here all three members contributed to the lyrics.
“Josh has more training as a theory musician while Paul comes from a different perspective,” Barrick said about the process in a previous press release. “You never know how Paul’s gonna approach a song, lyrically and melodically, so it’s always unusual and exciting. Everyone is open to everyone else’s ideas. I think three is a great number of people for a band. We all had a big hand in everything.”
Kaufman had this to say about the band’s sound: “The music has this weird, super removed vibe but is also personal and emotional at the same time. If something felt natural in a simple way, we left it. I’d never heard Paul’s voice framed like that—a string section, horns, guitars—we know none of that is visionary but it felt classic and kind of classy.”
The band’s name stems from the word Kaufman used to describe the band’s sound, or as the press release put it, “the music’s subtle, analog quality and texture.”
Summing up the album Banks said: “Ultimately, the music speaks for itself. We have a genuine, organic artistic chemistry together. It’s partly a shared musical taste from youth, as with me and Josh, but then it’s also the souls of my friends that resonate with me when expressed through music. I think it’s cosmic.”
Previously Muzz shared their first song, “Bad Feeling.” It was a little more lush and chill than the post-punk assault of Interpol and was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another new song, “Broken Tambourine,” via a video for the track (which was also one of our Songs of the Week). Then the album’s third single was “Red Western Sky,” also shared via a video and also one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared a live acoustic video for “Bad Feeling.” Then they shared a live acoustic video of the three members performing the previously unreleased song from the album, “Trinidad,” separately and remotely. Then Muzz shared another song from the album, “Knuckleduster,” via a video for the track (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).
8. LA Priest: “Rubber Sky”
LA Priest (aka England’s Sam Dust or Sam Eastgate) released a new album, GENE, today via Domino. On Wednesday shared one last pre-release single from it, “Rubber Sky,” via a video for the single. Eastgate self-directed the “Rubber Sky” video, filming it from home while under lockdown.
Previously LA Priest shared the album’s first single, “What Moves,” via a self-directed video for the track. “What Moves” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared another song from it, “Beginning,” via a video for the single. GENE is the first LA Priest album in five years, since 2015’s debut album, Inji. It was originally due out April 24, but was pushed back due to the pandemic.
Erol Alkan co-produced the album with Eastgate. GENE is named after a new analog drum machine Eastgate developed and built. As a previous press release explained: “Working in isolation for more than two years in California, Wales and England’s south coast, soldering iron in hand, Sam developed the inners of GENE using dozens of electrical circuits he made up himself. The creation came after a search for an alternative to the structure and rigor of standard drum machines. Its unique rhythmic patterns are the focal point for the album, which is colored by lush, pastoral tones, paired with the influence of his environmental changes.”
Read our 2015 interview with LA Priest.
These five songs almost made the Top 10.
Johan Agebjörn: “Forget About You” (Feat. Ryan Paris and Sally Shapiro)
Bent Arcana: “The Gate”
Run the Jewels: “A Few Words for the Firing Squad”
Run the Jewels: “JU$T (feat. Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha)
Ty Segall and Cory Hanson: “She’s a Beam”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
Algiers: “It All Comes Around Again”
Phoebe Bridgers: “First Day Of My Life” (Bright Eyes Cover)
BROCKHAMPTON: “chain on / hold me” (Feat. JPEGMAFIA) and “fishbone”
Caroline Says: “So Hot (Wash Away All of My Tears)” (Spacemen 3 Cover)
The Clientele: “Closer”
Conway the Machine: “Front Lines”
cupcakKe: “Lemon Pepper”
Elvis Costello: “No Flag”
Erasure: “Hey Now (Think I Got a Feeling)”
Hatchie and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: “Sometimes Always” (The Jesus and Mary Chain Cover)
Meek Mill: “Otherside of America”
The Menzingers: “America Pt. 2”
Thurston Moore: “Strawberry Moon”
Mr. Bungle: “USA” (The Exploited Cover)
Marissa Nadler: “Old Friends/ Bookends” (Simon & Garfunkel Cover)
Shamir: “Something That’s Worth My Praises”
Slow Mass: “Portraits to Oakland” and “Sub Yellow”
Soul Asylum: “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” (Dead Kennedys Cover)
Sun Kil Moon: “The Johnny Cash Trail”
Switchfoot: “Harmony Hall” (Vampire Weekend Cover)
Tomberlin: “natural light” (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone Cover)
(Special thanks to Lily Guthrie for also helping to put this week’s list together.)