10 Best Songs of the Week: Japanese Breakfast, St. Vincent, Xiu Xiu, Ratboys, and More | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, April 19th, 2021  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Japanese Breakfast, St. Vincent, Xiu Xiu, Ratboys, and More

Plus Silk Sonic, Mdou Moctar, James, and a Wrap-up of the Week's Other Notable New Tracks

Mar 05, 2021
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Welcome to the eighth Songs of the Week of 2021. It was a fairly quiet week on the news front, with President Joe Biden’s pandemic stimulus bill getting closer to passing in the Senate, but without a minimum wage hike. In entertainment news, the season (and likely series) finale of WandaVision premiered on Disney+ today (don’t say anything, we haven’t watched it yet). There were some important album announcements this week, several of which are featured in this week’s Songs of the Week list.

In the last week we posted interviews with The Mountain Goats, Protomartyr, Arab Strap, Bernice, Perfume Genius, and Fruit Bats.

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 10 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. Japanese Breakfast: “Be Sweet”

On Tuesday, Japanese Breakfast (Michelle Zauner) announced a new album, subsequently sharing a self-directed video for its lead single, “Be Sweet.” The album, entitled Jubilee, will be out on June 4 via Dead Oceans. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Zauner speaks about the new song in a press release: “After spending the last five years writing about grief, I wanted our follow up to be about joy. For me, a third record should feel bombastic and so I wanted to pull out all the stops for this one. I wrote ‘Be Sweet’ with Jack Tatum from Wild Nothing a few years ago. I’ve been holding onto it for so long and am so excited to finally put it out there.”

She adds, regarding her new album: “I’ve never wanted to rest on any laurels. I wanted to push it as far as it could go, inviting more people in and pushing myself as a composer, a producer, an arranger.”

Zauner’s most recent album, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, came out in July 2017 on Dead Oceans and was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2017. Her upcoming memoir, Crying In H Mart, will be out April 20 on Knopf.

Last year, Zauner surprise released an EP with Ryan Galloway of Crying titled pop songs 2020. It featured the song “Black Light,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

Read our 2017 interview with Japanese Breakfast on Soft Sounds From Another Planet. By Joey Arnone

2. St. Vincent: “Pay Your Way In Pain”

On Thursday, St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) officially announced her new album, Daddy’s Home, after previously teasing it last week with a series of outdoor advertisements, and shared its first single, “Pay Your Way In Pain,” via a video for the track. The song was previewed earlier this week with a teaser video. As expected, Daddy’s Home is due out on May 14 via Loma Vista. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

The sleazy and funky “Pay Your Way In Pain” sounds like something from Beck’s Midnite Vultures album (from 1999). Bill Benz directed the video. He’s also the director of The Nowhere Inn, the upcoming movie written by and starring Clark and Carrie Brownstein, which premiered at Sundance last year.

Jack Antonoff co-produced the album with Clark, which was recorded by Laura Sisk, mixed by Cian Riordan, and mastered by Chris Gehringer. In 2019, Clark’s father was released from prison after being incarcerated for nine years, hence the album’s title, Daddy’s Home. This led her to revisiting the vinyl records her dad used to play her when she was a child. As a press release puts it: “The records she has probably listened to more than any other music in her entire life. Music made in sepia-toned downtown New York from 1971-1975.” Hence the vibe of the album’s promotion and packaging is decidedly ’70s.

In the press release Clark puts it this way: “Daddy’s Home collects stories of being down and out in downtown NYC. Last night’s heels on the morning train. Glamour that’s been up for three days straight.”

St. Vincent’s last studio album, MASSEDUCTION, came out in 2017 on Loma Vista, and made it to #3 on our Top 100 Albums of 2017 list.

3. Xiu Xiu: “Rumpus Room” (Feat. Liars’ Angus Andrew)

On Thursday, Xiu Xiu shared a video for their new single “Rumpus Room,” which features Angus Andrew of Liars. It is the band’s latest release from their upcoming album of duets, OH NO, which will be out on March 26 via Polyvinyl.

Seo has this to say about the song and video, both of which feature references to Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, in a press release: “Does everyone have a deep personal childhood association with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, or just me? One of the first things I shoplifted as a kid was a bag of FHC. I once bet my cousin I could finish an entire Party Size bag in one sitting; I won the bet but lost my sense of taste for a couple days. I was a latchkey kid and would ditch school and often go to the 7-Eeleven by our apartment, where some 20-year-old kid who didn’t give a crap would be working and watch me play their single arcade gameMmarvel-Ccapcomin the corner as long as I bought a slurpee and FHC. Sometimes in my old teenage journals, I find flamin’ red dusted fingerprint smudges among melodramatic poems and fake runaway notes. All that intersected perfectly with the ‘“Rumpus Room’” song, and part II story of the video trilogy (1st being ‘A Bottle of Rum’).”

When OH NO was announced back in January, the band shared the song “A Bottle of Rum,” which features Liz Harris and was one of our Songs of the Week. OH NO is the follow-up to 2019’s Girl with Basket of Fruit and 2017’s FORGET.

Read our 16th Annual Artist Survey interview with Xiu Xiu.

Back in 2018, Liars shared a video for a new song titled “Murdrum,” and it was one of our Songs of the Week. By Joey Arnone

4. Ratboys: “Go Outside”

On Monday, Chicago rock band Ratboys shared a new song titled “Go Outside.” The country-tinged song is relevant to current times, but was actually written almost a year before the pandemic took hold. It is available now via Topshelf.

Frontwoman Julia Steiner speaks about the new song in a press release, stating: “We wrote this song on a whim when we were home in between tours in April 2019. It’s this carefree and wistful, totally innocent song about wanting to travel and spend time with loved ones. We didn’t realize that we wouldn’t be able to do either of those things before long. Right now, we want nothing more than to get outside and roam around and play shows again without fear…to be close to people again. Hopefully this song will provide a light in someone’s day and help us all wait out this weird ride a little bit longer.”

Ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ratboys have been frequently livestreaming performances as a part of their own “Virtual Tour” series.

Their most recent album, Printer’s Devil, came out last year on Topshelf. By Joey Arnone

5. Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars + Anderson .Paak): “Leave the Door Open”

Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak (aka California musician/producer Brandon Paak Anderson) have teamed up as Silk Sonic and earlier today they shared their debut single together, “Leave the Door Open,” via a video for the track. The song will be featured on the duo’s forthcoming debut album, An Evening With Silk Sonic, which doesn’t have a release date yet. “Leave the Door Open” is as smooth as, well… silk. You can imagine many a baby being conceived to the retro-sounding track. Mars co-directed the video with Florent Dechard.

Mars co-produced the song D’Mile. Mars, Anderson, D’Mile, and Brody Brown all wrote the song. The legendary Bootsy Collins came up with the name Silk Sonic and is featured on the album. Silk Sonic has also shared an intro track for the new song featuring Collins. Check that out below too.

6. Mdou Moctar: “Tala Tannam”

On Tuesday, Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar announced a new album, Afrique Victime, which will be out on May 21 via Matador. Moctar shared a video for a song from the album titled “Tala Tannam.” The video was filmed in Niamey, Niger and was directed by Cem Misirlioglu. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Moctar speaks about the video in a press release: “While the song talks about love, we wanted to show the love between friendships and the love of Niger. The video includes friends and familyin the Tuareg community in villages around Niamey as well as Hausa people from villages in the Dosso region.”

Moctar adds: “While people have gotten to know Mdou Moctar as a rock band, there is a whole different set of music with this band done on acoustic guitars, which we wanted to incorporate into this album in order to go through a sonic journey. I want the world to know that we are making music to promote world peace and be with everyone on the same level, fighting against racism.”

Afrique Victime features contributions from Moctar’s band, which features Mikey Coltun on bass, Ahmoudou Madassane on guitar, and Souleymane Ibrahim on drums.

In October of last year, Moctar shared a video for the song “Chismiten.” His most recent album, Ilana (The Creator), came out in 2019. By Joey Arnone

7. James: “All the Colours of You”

On Monday, British rock band James announced their 16th studio album, All the Colours of You, which will be out on June 4 via Virgin Music Label & Artist Services. The album was produced by Grammy award-winner Jacknife Lee (Taylor Swift, U2, The Killers). The band also shared the album’s title track. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Frontman Tim Booth speaks about the new album in a press release: “With all the shit that went down in 2020, this was a miraculous conception and another big jump forward for us on the back of the last three albums. I hope it reflects the colors of these crazy times. Sweet 16 is a proper album, no fillers, and is up there with our best.”

Bassist Jim Glennie adds: “I’m pleased, proud and surprised by this record in equal amounts. Jacknife has pushed us and the songs somewhere new and it’s very exciting. After all these years, we are still challenging ourselves and our fans.”

The band’s last studio album, Living in Extraordinary Times, came out in 2018. It featured the songs “HANK” and “Coming Home (Pt.2).” By Joey Arnone

8. Hildegard: “Jour 2”

On Thursday, Hildegard (the new duo between Montréal-based artists Helena Deland and Ouri) shared their first song together, titled “Jour 2.” It is out now via section1, a newly formed label in partnership with Partisan. The duo is said to be releasing a new album some time later this year.

The new song is described by the duo in a press release as “a psychedelic mantra that labors to reconcile the dissociated self by contrasting eeriness and softness.”

Section1 has been spearheaded by Brontë Jane (VP of A&R at Third Side Music), as well as Chris Robbins and Tom Wironen of Friendly Announcer management (Big Thief, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Westerman). In a joint statement, the label had this to say in the press release: “Our intention with section1 is to operate in an art-first way that sounds, looks, and feels deliberate in nature. The team at Partisan Records understood our vision from day one, and we feel very much at home with them. Their success speaks for itself. On top of that, we can’t think of a more exciting artist to launch with than our first signing, Hildegard. Ouri and Helena have created a world both musically and visually inspiring and we are thrilled to help bring it to life.”

Deland released her debut album, Someone New, last year on Luminelle. It was #30 on our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list.

Read our 2018 The End interview with Helena Deland about endings and death. By Joey Arnone

9. Small Black: “The Bridge”

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, “The Bridge,” via a video for the song. Samuel Stonefield directed the black & white video, which stars Rece Delo.

Frontman Josh Kolenik talked about the new song in a press release: “The Bridge was the first track we wrote for ‘Cheap Dreams,’ emerging from a piano motif & post-punk bass line into a propulsive beat that marks new ground for the band. The lyric is written from the perspective of my Uncle Matt, who starred in the band’s first music video “Despicable Dogs” in 2009. Matt was a legendary surfer, board shaper, and my boyhood idol - the king of the Long Beach boardwalk. For the last few years of his life, following a sudden stroke, he was stuck surf casting for stripers on the beach instead of out there in the waves. The song is about holding onto the optimism that another wave is coming down the pipe.”

Of the video, Kolenik added: “With the video, we tried to get into a world close to the one Matt inhabited, but rooted in our own NYC summers spent often at the breaks of Rockaway Beach. The architectural loneliness of Rockaway puts it directly between the urbanity of New York and the crash of the waves right in front of it. Director Samuel Stonefield, a long time videographer for Vice News, brought his shrewd eye to capture a postcard of the spirit of the slower autumn season at the shore. We follow actor Rece Delo (TikTok lord / avid skater & surfer) on a solitary day spent hunting joy in the small moments of being alone and the freedom of going exactly where the day takes you… and nowhere else.”

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.”

Their most recent album, Best Blues, was released back in 2015 via Jagjaguwar.

10. Patrick Paige II: “Whisper (Want My Luv)”

On Tuesday, Patrick Paige II (of The Internet) announced a new solo album, If I Fail Are We Still Cool?, which will be out on May 21 on Fat Possum. Paige also shared a video for a new single from the album, “Whisper (Want My Luv),” featuring Steve Lacy, Allen Love, and Durand Bernarr. Check out the tracklist and cover art for the album here.

Paige previously shared the song “So They Say” from the upcoming album. Back in 2018, he released the album Letters of Irrelevance on Empire. By Joey Arnone

Honorable Mentions:

These four songs almost made the Top 10. Bernice: “Lone Swan”

Kevin Drew: “How’s It Going”

Middle Kids: “Stacking Chairs”

Rostam: “4Runner”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

The Armed: “AVERAGE DEATH”

Big Red Machine: “A Crime” (Sharon Van Etten Cover)

Bill Callahan & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy: “She Is My Everything” (John Prine Cover) (Feat. Sir Richard Bishop)

Chance The Rapper: “The Heart & The Tongue”

Floatie: “Shiny”

Jlin and SOPHIE: “JSLOIPNHIE”

Jordana: “Doubt of Revival” (Feat. Ryan Woods)

Valerie June: “Fallin’”

Damien Jurado: “Helena”

Ian Daniel Kehoe: “Solid Gold”

Moontype: “3 Weeks”

No Rome: “Spinning” (Feat. Charli XCX & The 1975)

Perfume Genius: “Describe (A.G. Cook Remix)”

Pom Pom Squad: “LUX”

Regional Justice Center: “Dust Off”

Porter Robinson: “Musician”

Sunflower Thieves: “Don’t Mind the Weather”

TOBACCO: “For the Queen”

Tyler, The Creator: “Tell Me How”

The Vaccines: “Fire” (Waxahatchee Cover)

Juan Wauters: “Unity” (Feat. Cola Boyy)

Worriers: “Old Friend” (Rancid Cover)

(Thanks to Joey Arnone for helping to put this week’s list together.)

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