Saturday, July 18th, 2020
9 Best Songs of the Week: JARV IS…, Cults, Lianne La Havas, Will Butler, and More
Plus Oceanator, The Go! Team, IDLES, Moses Sumney, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Jul 17, 2020
By Christopher Roberts (with Samantha Small, Stephen Axeman, and Julian Roberts-Grmela)
Welcome to the 28th Songs of the Week of 2020. It’s another week where the pandemic continues to spread all around America, with the Trump administration doing little to stop it. As a consequence, parents across the land (including this one) are wrestling with whether or not to send their kids to school this fall. Remote learning is a very poor substitute for in-person schooling, but can schools truly be made safe or will they just be an incubator for even more COVID-19 cases? And what about families where both parents work fulltime or single parents? They have even less of a choice.
Anyway, onto this week’s songs. It was a quieter week for exciting new tracks, compared to last week, but there was still much on offer, including some album tracks we liked. But still, we only have a Top 9 this week instead of a 10.
This week on our website we also posted My Favorite Album interviews with Weyes Blood, Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, and Heidi Gardner of Saturday Night Live. We also posted a COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check-In interview with DMA’S and talked to Dehd about their new album.
In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Dehd, Protomartyr, illuminati hotties, JARV IS…, Lianne La Havas, Laraaji, GoGo Penguin, Japandroids, GUM, The Residents, and Pere Ubu. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).
This week we also launched our new hip-hop column, Verses From the Abstract.
To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 9 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. JARV IS…: “Children of the Echo”
Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker has a newish band JARV IS… and their debut album, Beyond the Pale, came out today via Rough Trade. All of its previous singles made our Songs of the Week lists, but now that the album’s out we wanted to choose one of its four remaining tracks for this list. After much debate we settled on album closer “Children of the Echo,” which has a bit of an LCD Soundsystem vibe. It features the somewhat profound lyrics “I am the product of all my ancestors both living and dead/I have created an all-seeing, all-knowing, almighty entity who does not care about me one bit.”
“Swanky Modes” was also strongly considered and makes our honorable mentions list below. “Am I Missing Something?” and “Sometimes I Am Pharoah” were also under consideration.
You can stream the whole album here. Also, yesterday we posted our review of the album and you can read that here. Plus on Wednesday we posted our podcast interview with Cocker, via the Why Not Both podcast we present, and you can hear that here.
Beyond the Pale was initially due out May 1, but was pushed back to September 4 due to the pandemic, but was then moved forward to July 17.
Beyond the Pale includes “Must I Evolve?,” the group’s first single, shared May 2019 (it was #1 on our Songs of the Week list). When the album was announced, JARV IS… shared another new song from it, “House Music All Night Long,” via a video for the track (which was #2 on our Songs of the Week list). There was also an extended version of “House Music All Night Long” that featured a different video. Then they shared another song from the album, album opener “Save the Whale,” via a video for it featuring live photos of the band taken by fans. “Save the Whale” was also one of our Songs of the Week.
JARV IS… features Cocker (vocals, guitar, percussion), Serafina Steer (harp, keyboards, vocals), Emma Smith (violin, guitar vocals), Andrew McKinney (bass, vocals), Jason Buckle (synthesizer and electronic treatments), and Adam Betts (drums, percussion, vocals). The project started as a live band in 2017 and they began recording their shows. Then they took the live recordings to Narcissus Studios in Neasden, London, where overdubs and vocals were added. Additional post-production work was done at Jason Buckle’s Place du Big Boss studio in Raynes Park, London. Craig Silvey mixed the album at Toast Studios in West London.
A previous press release said: “JARV IS… an ongoing live experience because life is an ongoing live experience. Or, to put it another way: THIS IS NOT A LIVE ALBUM – it’s an ALIVE ALBUM.”
It’s been 11 years since 2009’s Further Complications, Cocker’s last solo album (which followed Jarvis, his 2006 solo debut). Although in 2017 he teamed up with Chilly Gonzales for a collaborative concept album, Room 29, inspired by room 29 in the iconic Hollywood hotel Château Marmont, which has had many famous guests (the hotel opened in 1929). In 2017 Cocker also guested on “Century,” the standout track on Feist’s last album, Pleasure, and teamed up with Iggy Pop to cover the Nick Cave classic “Red Right Hand” for the TV show Peaky Blinders.
Read our 2017 extended Q&A with Cocker on Room 29.
Read our 2007 interview with Cocker on Jarvis.
2. Cults: “Trials”
On Wednesday Cults (the duo of Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion) announced a new album, Host, and shared a new song from it, album opener “Trials,” via a video for it. Host is due out September 18 via Sinderlyn and features “Spit You Out,” a new song Cults shared in June, also via a video (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
In a press release Cults collectively had this to say about the new song: “‘Trials’ focuses on the power that addictions and harmful ideologies have to transform. The chorus walks a tightrope between a metaphor for gaslighting and a despairing worry about the person you still hold out hope for.”
Jeff Strikers, who directed the “Trials” video, had this to say: “Cults asked me back in April if I had any ideas for a music video we could make while quarantined across the country. Via Zoom, we shot Madeline’s performance against a green tablecloth from a party store. I started experimenting with an old optical illusion called ‘Pepper’s Ghost,’ projecting Madeline’s image onto a sheet of glass to create a ghostly, hologram effect. They use this technique on the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. It was pretty magical and the whole process was constant discovery and surprise. An ideal creative experience.”
Cults co-produced the Host with Shane Stoneback and it was mixed by John Congleton and mastered by Heba Kadry. Loren Shane Humphrey (The Last Shadow Puppets, Florence and the Machine, Guards) plays drums on the album.
The album finds Follin exerting a bit more creative control than before and taking a larger role in the songwriting.
“In the past, I’d never brought my own music to the table because I was just too shy,” Follin says in a press release.
“When Shane and I heard what Madeline had written, we couldn’t believe it,” says Oblivion. “The music just floored us.”
The band’s last regular studio album was 2017’s Offering. Although in 2018 Cults also released another album where they covered The Motels’ classic 1979 debut album Motels in its entirety as part of Turntable Kitchen’s Sounds Delicious Series.
Read our 2017 interview with Cults on Offering.
3. Lianne La Havas: “Read My Mind”
Also, yesterday we posted our rave 8.5/10 review of the album and you can read that here.
La Havas’ new album is a collection of nine original songs plus a cover of Radioheads’s “Weird Fishes” that document the changing tides of a new love affair that provided a foundation for exponential growth and confidence. According to La Havas, the single “Paper Thin” kickstarted the creation of the album as a whole.
“It started as a distant melody in my head as I was falling asleep that I decided not to sleep on,” La Havas explained in a press release. “It was recorded as jam between friends and has stayed that way.”
It’s La Havas’ first album in five years, since 2015’s Blood.
“I’ve tapped into the best and worst parts of me and while I didn’t expect this to be the direction of my new music, it’s my reality and it’s driven by emotion,” La Havas also said of the album. “I dare say that this is the closest I’ve gotten to a pure expression so far. If you’d never heard me before, I’d be happy to say, ‘This is me. This is who I am.’”
Her cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes” (off their In Rainbows album) was released a few weeks back and even made our Songs of the Week list, even though we rarely put covers on there. She also shared a video for the cover. La Havas also previously shared a video for single “Can’t Fight” and the singles “Paper Thin” and “Bittersweet.” By Christopher Roberts and Samantha Small
4. Will Butler: “Surrender”
On Tuesday Will Butler from Arcade Fire announced a new solo album, Generations, and shared its first single, “Surrender,” via a self-directed video for the new song. Generations is due out September 25 via Merge. Butler uses the “Surrender” video to comment on the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, and also to call for police and prison reform, via subtitles. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Butler released his debut solo album, Policy, in 2015, and put out a live album, Friday Night, in 2016, both via Merge. Butler produced Generations, recording it in his basement studio in Brooklyn. The album was mixed in two parts, in Montreal by longtime Arcade Fire engineer Mark Lawson and with Brooklyn-based producer Shiftee mixing the other half.
Butler had this to say about the new song in a press release: “‘Surrender’ is masquerading as a love song, but it’s more about friendship. About the confusion that comes as people change—didn’t you use to have a different ideal? Didn’t we have the same ideal at some point? Which of us changed? How did the world change? Relationships that we sometimes wish we could let go of, but that are stuck within us forever.
“It’s also about trying to break from the first-person view of the world. ‘What can I do? What difference can I make?’ It’s not about some singular effort—you have to give yourself over to another power. Give over to people who have gone before who’ve already built something—you don’t have to build something new! The world doesn’t always need a new idea, it doesn’t always need a new personality. What can you do with whatever power and money you’ve got? Surrender it over to something that’s already made. And then the song ends with an apology—I’m sorry I’ve been talking all night. Cause talking like that, man, not always useful.”
5. Oceanator: “I Would Find You”
On Wednesday Oceanator, aka Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Elise Okusami, shared a new track, “I Would Find You,” off of her forthcoming debut LP Things I Never Said, due out August 28 via her own label Plastic Miracles, and we were pleased to premiere it.
About the track, Okusami had this to say: “It’s a synth-y, vibey rock song. It’s about taking care of the people you love in dangerous or hard times. It’s a platonic love song to a friend at the end of the world.”
6. The Go! Team: “Cookie Scene”
“Cookie Scene” is exactly what the doctor ordered: a marching drum beat, junkshop percussion, horns, a cheerful flute beat, and IndigoYaj’s confidence: “Cause baby I’m phenome–(uh)/Phenomenal/And Unstoppa–(uh)/Unstoppable.”
In a press release the band’s Ian Parton explained the inspiration behind the song: “The stripped back swinging percussion of ‘Iko Iko’ by The Dixie Cups and the loud crunchy shaker in Salt-n-Pepa’s ‘Push It’ were both inspirations and I’ve always loved the way Bollywood or William Onyeabor songs would have random laser beams and electro toms popping up. I wanted to mix the street corner with the intergalactic, to take Detroit to outer space.”
“Cookie Scene” will be released as yellow vinyl 7-inch on September 11 via Memphis Industries, with another new track “Free Breakfast Program” as the B-side.
The group’s last album, Semicircle, came out in 2018 and featured the Detroit Youth Choir. Hence the line in “Cookie Scence: “It’s the D Y/It’s the DYC.” From it they’ve shared “The Only Thing New is U Finding Out About It,” as well as “Semicircle Song,” “Mayday,” and “All the Way Live.”
Semicircle features two key members of the original live band lineup that toured the band’s acclaimed debut album, 2004’s Thunder, Lightning, Strike. Ian Parton is the main creative force behind the band, but brought back guitarist Sam Dook and rapper Ninja for Semicircle.
The band’s previous album was 2015’s The Scene Between, which was essentially an Ian Parton solo project. A previous press release laid out the lineup for Semicircle: “Semicircle finds Parton collaborating with current live players Simone Odaranile (drums) and Angela ‘Maki’ Won-Yin Mak (vocals), as well as two original members, guitarist Sam Dook and rapper Ninja. Annelotte de Graaf (aka Amber Arcades), previous collaborator Julie Margat (aka Lispector), and a crew of unexpected musicians feature throughout.” By Samantha Small
7. IDLES: “A Hymn”
British political punks IDLES are releasing a new album, Ultra Mono, on September 25 via Partisan. On Tuesday they shared another song from it, “A Hymn,” via a video for it that features the band members driving in cars with their parents through their hometowns. Ryan Gander directed the video.
Frontman Joe Talbot had this to say about the song in a press release: “‘A Hymn’ is a hymn that rejoices in the sinister flesh-eating virus of the pedestrian. It sings the tune of normal’s teeth sinking into your neck as you sleep stood up with your eyes open. Amen.”
Ultra Mono includes “Mr. Motivator,” a song the band shared in May via a self-directed video for the track. When the album was announced they shared another new song from it, “Grounds,” also via a video. “Grounds” was one of our Songs of the Week.
Nick Launay and Adam Greenspan produced the album, with additional programming from Kenny Beats. The album features Jehnny Beth, Warren Ellis, David Yow, and Jamie Cullum.
Ultra Mono is the band’s third album. IDLES’ last album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, came out in 2018 via Partisan and was widely acclaimed. Last December the band also released a live album, A Beautiful Thing: IDLES Live at Le Bataclan.
8. Moses Sumney: “Monumental”
It’s about time Moses Sumney got into the modeling world. On the heels of his spectacular new album, græ, on Monday he shared a new song and video for “Monumental,” a track for a new ad campaign for the fashion designer Thom Browne’s spring 2021 collection.
The black and white video, directed by Sumney, finds him draped in a long towel, flexing his glorious set of pipes while posing like a pseudo Greek God. His arms stretch out as he recites his modern take on “Olympic Hymn,” a song composed by Spyridon Samaras which includes Greek lyrics by poet Kostis Palamas. Sumney translated the song into English and added some somber strings and piano while he was it.
With the video, Sumney released this statement: “What does it mean to pose statuesque on top of a marble podium, at a time when statues across the world—long-standing symbols of white supremacy—are literally being toppled? What does it mean to appropriate the Greco-Roman statue, a long-standing placeholder of white male virility and beauty, and replace it with my black body? A body that has historically been disregarded as far less beautiful and in more recent years, objectified? What does it mean to objectify myself?”
Græ was released in May via Jagjaguwar. Previously Sumney shared græ’s first single, “Virile,” via a self-directed video for the track. “Virile” was one of our Songs of the Week. Sumney then shared another song from the first part, “Polly,” which is the final track of part one. Then he shared a new song from the second part, “Me in 20 Years,” via a lyric video (it was one of our Songs of the Week). Then he shared a new song from the first part, “Cut Me” (which was again one of our Songs of the Week) and debuted another song from part one, “Conveyor,” via a live video session at the Moog Sound Lab in Asheville, North Carolina. Sumney then stopped by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to perform “Cut Me.” Then Sumney shared a visually striking self-directed video for “Cut Me.” Finally, Sumney shared the album’s final two songs, “Bless Me” and “Before You Go,” in one lyric video. “Bless Me” was one of our Songs of the Week.
Græ is Sumney’s sophomore album, the follow-up to 2017’s full-length debut, Aromanticism, and 2018’s Black in Deep Red, 2014 EP. Aromanticism was our #1 Debut Album of 2017 and one of our overall Top 100 Albums of 2017. The album is his first since relocating to Asheville, North Carolina. By Samantha Small
9. Widowspeak: “Plum”
On Tuesday Widowspeak shared the title track from their upcoming album, Plum, due August 28 via Captured Tracks. “Plum,” the third single featured on the album, was shared with an accompanying video. It follows singles “Money,” and “Breadwinner,”
The duo features singer/songwriter Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas. Plum was recorded last winter by Sam Evian at his Flying Cloud studio in the Catskills, New York, and mixed by Ali Chant.
Hamilton had this to say about “Plum” in a press release: “I wrote ‘Plum’ about wanting to be more comfortable and casual with thoughts I tend to avoid. Especially when I’m feeling very out-of-step with the world, there’s no use in being nostalgic for “the end of an era” or being afraid of what could happen. But, avoiding the present is kind of my default. I’m trying to be more aware that everyone is on its own trajectory, in its own time, slowly becoming something or becoming nothing.” By Julian Roberts-Grmela
These nine songs almost made the Top 10.
Matt Berninger: “Distant Axis”
Bill Callahan: “35”
Helena Deland: “Lylz”
JARV IS…: “Swanky Modes”
Lianne La Havas: “Sour Flower”
al Riggs & Lauren Francis: “Boyfriend Jacket, Boyfriend Sweater”
Shamir: “I Wonder”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
Aluna: “Get Paid” (Feat. Princess Nokia and Jada Kingdom)
Annie: “The Bomb”
Benee: “Night Garden” (Feat. Kenny Beats & Bakar)
Full of Hell & HEALTH: “Full of HEALTH”
PJ Harvey: “Down By the Water (Demo)”
Holy Motors: “Country Church”
Jaakko Eino Kalevi: “The Search (Domenique Dumont remix)”
Ruston Kelly: “Pressure”
Jim E-Stack: “Note To Self” (Feat. Empress Of)
Joan Jett: “Jeepster” (T. Rex Cover)
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: “Honey”
Land of Talk: “Now You Want To Live In The Light”
Mary Lattimore: “Sometimes He’s In My Dreams”
Love Regenerator and Steve Lacy: “Live Without Your Love”
Tkay Maidza: “Don’t Call Again” (Feat. Kari Faux)
Makaya McCraven: “Mak Attack”
Buck Meek: “Roll Back Your Clocks”
Sen Morimoto: “Woof”
Bob Mould: “Forecast of Rain”
Narrow Head: “Stuttering Stanley”
No Joy: “Four”
Perlee: “Slow Your Eyes”
Mike Polizze: “Wishing Well”
Prince: “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man (1979 Version)”
Troye Sivan: “Easy”
Sun Ra Arkestra: “Angels and Demons at Play”
Sylvan Esso: “What If”
John Vanderslice: “Lure Mice Condemn Erase”
Whitney: “Hammond Song” (The Roches Cover)
(Special thanks to Samantha Small for also helping to put this week’s list together.)