10 Best Songs of the Week: Madeline Kenney, Wilco, Phoebe Bridgers, Deradoorian, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, November 28th, 2020  

10 Best Songs of the Week: Madeline Kenney, Wilco, Phoebe Bridgers, Deradoorian, and More

Plus Khruangbin, Sad13, Sondre Lerche, Owen Pallett, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

May 22, 2020
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Welcome to the twentieth Songs of the Week of 2020. It’s another week under quarantine, the same as the last week. This week we were quite indecisive about our favorite songs and even polled our readers on Facebook and Twitter, which helped a little.

This week we launched our brand new podcast, simply titled Under the Radar, with an interview with Black Belt Eagle Scout.

We’ve also been posting our long out of print and sold out Issue 8 to our Patreon page, one article at a time.

This week we posted a COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In interview with Bedouine. We also posted a My Firsts interview with Wilma Archer and a My Favorite Album interview with Sigur Rós. Best of all was our in-depth 6,400-word interview with Deerhoof on their forthcoming new album Future Teenage Cave Artists.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Jess Williamson, Man Man, Alex Henry Foster, Vundabar, Elder, Red, Nation of Language, and The 1975. 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 posted the latest episode of our Why Not Both podcast, featuring Marc Foster of Foster the People

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 10 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. Madeline Kenney: “Sucker” (Feat. Kurt Wagner)

On Tuesday Oakland, CA-based singer/songwriter Madeline Kenney announced a new album, Sucker’s Lunch, and shared its first single, “Sucker,” via a self-directed video for the track. “Go on ahead without me,” Kenney passionately and repeatedly sings while sitting at the counter of a diner towards the end of the video. “Sucker” features guest vocals from Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner.

Sucker’s Lunch is Kenney’s third album and is due out July 31 via Carpark. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Sucker’s Lunch is the follow-up to 2018’s Perfect Shapes and her 2017-released debut album, Night Night at the First Landing (which was produced by Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bear). Perfect Shapes was produced by Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak and Flock of Dimes. Wasner returns as producer for Sucker’s Lunch, but this time she’s joined by her Wye Oak bandmate Andy Stack (aka Joyero). The album was recorded in Durham, Oakland, and San Francisco.

A press release explains that “thematically, Sucker’s Lunch sees Kenney soberly contrasting the risks and rewards of falling in love, eventually deciding to dive headfirst into her own foolishness and relish in the unknowing.”

Kenney elaborates in the press release: “I’m not interested in something easy or immediately apparent. My experience writing these songs wasn’t easy, it was painful and difficult. I was terrified of falling in love, and as much as I’d like to write a sticky sweet song for someone, it doesn’t come naturally to me. Instead I wanted to explore the tiny moments; sitting alone in my room guessing what the other person was thinking, spiraling into a maze of logical reasons to bail and finding my way out again. When I spoke with friends about the theme of the ‘idiot,’ it became apparent that everyone understood that feeling and was relieved to hear it echoed in someone else.”

As for “Sucker,” Kenney had this to say: “When I lived in Durham, I found myself sitting in the sun on the porch with a musical hero of mine, who was worried about losing their healthcare and not being able to afford to tour. It blew my mind and broke my heart that such a genius had to struggle with uncertainty in trying to make their art. I wrote ‘Sucker’ when I realized that all of us continue to make art, and fall in love, and attempt things that logically could fall apart at any moment, but we are fools for the game and keep producing, keep pursuing. I asked Kurt Wagner to sing on the track because I feel like he is consistently brave in his songwriting (and I'm a HUGE Lambchop fan). When he sent me the stems, I drank a martini and cried.”

Of the “Sucker” video she had this to say: “I'm a huge fan of con-movies; my favorite film is Paper Moon. I wanted to direct a video that put me as the con-man, whose existence relies on making suckers out of passers-by; but ended with me being the biggest loser of all. I lucked out when my favorite Oakland diner, Lois the Pie Queen, let us film on location.”

In 2019 Kenney shared the new song “Helpless” as part of a split 7-inch with Flock of Dimes.

Read Kenney’s Underrated Album post for us on Paul Simon’s One Trick Pony.

Read our 2017 Pleased to Meet You interview with Madeline Kenney.

2. Wilco: “Tell Your Friends” 

On Wednesday night, Wilco performed their uplifting new single “Tell Your Friends” for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and then also shared a studio version of the song, which encourages us all to connect with family while under quarantine. The purchases of the song, which is exclusively on Bandcamp, will go to World Central Kitchen, an organization who provides meals in the wake of natural disasters.

The performance showed each band member in their respective homes. Alongside friends and family, Tweedy sings: “Don’t forget to tell your friends/When you see them again/O’ I love you/O’ I love you.”

This a song for everyone, Tweedy said in a press release. “We miss each other. So we wrote a song about it to sing with each other, to sing to each other.”

Wilco also put out a new album, Ode to Joy, last year via the band’s own dBpm label. By Samantha Small

3. Phoebe Bridgers: “I See You”

Phoebe Bridgers is releasing a new album, Punisher, on June 19 via Dead Oceans. On Tuesday she shared another song from it, “I See You,” via a lyric video featuring hand shadow puppets. She also announced “Phoebe Bridgers’ World, Tour,” which is really Bridgers doing live streamed concerts from different rooms in her house, each in conjunction with a different media outlet. 

The original title for the song was “ICU,” but it’s been changed to “I See You” because of the pandemic.

Bridgers had this to say about the song in a press release: “It’s about my breakup with my drummer. We dated for a few years, made music every day, and were extremely codependent. We became like family to each other, so our breakup was extremely tough. But if this tells you anything about our relationship, we wrote this song together, just like everything else.”  

Punisher includes “Garden Song,” a new song she shared in February via a video for it. “Garden Song” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then when the album was announced, Bridgers shared another song from it, “Kyoto,” via a Nina Ljeti-directed video for the track that featured Bridgers flying around a city and battling Godzilla. “Kyoto” was also #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then she performed “Kyoto” for Jimmy Kimmel Live!, but because of COVID-19 social distancing she did so remotely, from her bathtub at home, dressed in her pajamas and accompanied by only a synthesizer on her lap. 

Punisher is her sophomore album, the follow-up to her acclaimed debut album, Stranger in the Alps, released in September 2017 via Dead Oceans. For Punisher she reteamed with Stranger in the Alps’ producers/collaborators Tony Berg and Ethan Gruska, although this time Bridgers co-produced the album with them. Mike Mogis mixed the album, as he did with her debut.

Punisher features Bridgers’ main band: Marshall Vore (drums), Harrison Whitford (guitar), Emily Retsas (bass), and Nick White (piano). But the album also features a slew of notable guests: Conor Oberst (“Halloween,” “I Know The End”), Lucy Dacus (“Graceland Too,” “I Know The End”), Julien Baker (“Graceland Too,” “I Know the End”), Blake Mills (“Halloween,” “Savior Complex,” and “I Know the End”), Jenny Lee Lindberg (“Kyoto,” “ICU”), Christian Lee Hutson (“Garden Song,” “Halloween,” “Savior Complex,” “I Know the End”), Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner (“I Know the End”), legendary drummer Jim Keltner (“Halloween” and “Savior Complex”), and Bright Eyes’ Nathaniel Walcott on horns (“Kyoto” and “I Know the End”).  

Bridgers has been plenty busy since the release of Stranger in the Alps.

Read our 2017 exclusive interview with Phoebe Bridgers and check out our photo-shoot with her.

4. Deradoorian: “It Was Me” 

Deradoorian (full name Angel Deradoorian) is releasing a new album, Find the Sun, on September 18 via ANTI-. On Tuesday she shared another song from it, “It Was Me,” via an animated video for the track. Rebecca Hac directed and animated the video.

Find the Sun was originally due out May 22, but in April it was pushed back to September 18 due to COVID-19.

Read our recent COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In interview with Deradoorian.

Previously Deradoorian shared Find the Sun’s first single, the seven-minute long Krautrock-inspired “Saturnine Night.” “Saturnine Night” was one of our Songs of the Week. She also shared a video for “Saturine Night.” Then she shared another song from the album, “Monk’s Robes,” via a video for the track. “Monk’s Robes” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Deradoorian was formerly the bassist/vocalist for Dirty Projectors. Find the Sun is the follow-up to her debut solo album, 2015’s The Expanding Flower Planet, and 2017’s Eternal Recurrence EP. Find the Sun was recorded with Deradoorian’s friend and percussionist Samer Ghadry, along with Ghadry’s frequent collaborator Dave Harrington. 

“Overall, a lot of these songs are about trying to reach yourself - how to be your most
brilliant self,” Deradoorian said in a previous press release about the album. “Because we come from a culture that doesn't actually support this. We are so deeply programmed to obey societal boundaries that we don't even know the power we contain within.”

The previous press release further describes the song of the album: “Inspired by the freedom of Can and the singing style of Damo Suzuki as well as the influence of Indian spirituality on free jazz masters like Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra, Deradoorian gravitates to transportive, shamanic sounds on this record, wielding bells, flutes, and gongs in service of a rock record guided by the spirits.”  

Summing up the album, Deradoorian said: “Find the Sun is a record to sit and listen to, and ask yourself about your Self.”

5. Khruangbin: “So We Won’t Forget”

Texas psych-rock trio Khruangbin are releasing a new album, Mordechai, on June 26 via Dead Oceans, in association with Night Time Stories. On Monday they shared another new song from it, “So We Won’t Forget,” via a video for the track. Scott Dungate directed the touching and cinematic video.

Khruangbin had this to say about the song in a joint press statement: “Memory is a powerful thing. Now more than ever it’s important to tell the people you love that you love them, so that they don’t forget.”

Previously Khruangbin shared Mordechai’s first single, “Time (You and I),” via a video for the song. “Time (You and I)” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Khruangbin consists of bassist Laura Lee Ochoa, guitarist Mark Speer, and drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson. Whereas previously the band were more instrumental in nature, Mordechai finds them embracing vocals prominently on most songs on the album. In terms of full-lengths, Mordechai follows 2018’s Con Todo El Mundo and 2015’s debut, The Universe Smiles Upon You. Although, earlier this year they released Texas Sun, a collaborative EP with Leon Bridges. Mordechai was recorded at the band’s farmhouse studio in Burton, Texas. 

6. Sad13: “WTD?”

On Monday Sad13, the projected led by Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz, shared a new song “WTD?” via Adult Swim Singles. It is the first Sad13 song in three years and the thirteenth entry in this current Adult Swim Singles series.

“WTD?” stands for “what’s the drama?” Quite frankly, it seems like quite a few things.

“It’s about eco-fascism, climate gentrification, and the depopulation of species, caused by human selfishness and industrial greed,” Dupuis says in a press release. 

The glittery pop song finds Dupuis playing her first ever sitar solo over buzzy synth layers and gnarly guitar riffs. Zoë Brecher bangs drums on the track while Audrey Zee Whitesides lays down the bass, making it the first Sad13 recording to feature the two members who have previously performed in the live band. The song was tracked at Studio G in Brooklyn with engineer Erin Tonkon (David Bowie, Esperanza Spaulding) and mixed by Sarah Tudzin (Weyes Blood, Illuminati Hotties). Sad13’s last song was 2017’s “Soo Bad” and the project’s last album was its 2016 debut, Slugger (which was considered more of a Dupuis solo album). By Samantha Small 

7. Sondre Lerche: “That’s All There Is”

Norwegian-born/American-based singer/songwriter Sondre Lerche is releasing a new album, Patience, on June 5 via PLZ. Today he shared another song from it, “That’s All There Is,” via a fan sourced video for the track that features the childhood photos of both Lerche and his fans, among other photos (including some of Lercge with his fans). Jon Danovic directed and edited the video.

Lerche had this to say about the song and video in a press release: “I asked fans to send me their most treasured, or bizarre, photo from growing up. I received over 1000 photos, and we combined as many of them as we could, with my own photos. And then we made some of the photos come alive.” 

Lerche adds: “This all speaks to the theme of the song, which views life as a collection of memories, meetings, and snapshots—‘a stream of captures’—and the luxury of being able to carry that with us at all times in our phones. It's actually seeing the iPhone as a positive, for once. That photos can bring us closer to people and memories, especially after they're gone. I was inspired to write the song after the passing of my friend, the director Johannes Greve Muskat.”

Previously Lerche shared Patience’s first single, “You Are Not Who I Thought I Was,” via a video for the track. Then he shared another song from it, “Why Would I Let You Go,” via a video for the track (which was one of our Songs of the Week).

Lerche also did a six-song set with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra for NRK-TV.

Patience is the follow-up to 2017’s Pleasure and 2014’s Please (you can sense a pattern with the titles). It is Lerche’s ninth album and first since he relocated from New York City (where he lived for a decade) to the west coast, but the album was mainly recorded in his native Norway. Patience features percussionist Dave Heilman, bassist Chris Holm, keyboardist Alexander von Mehren, producers Kato Ådland and Matias Tellez, mixing engineer Jørgen Træen, and classical violinist/composer/arranger Tim Fain. Van Dyke Parks guests on “Put The Camera Down.”

In a previous press release Lerche said the album was inspired by his newfound love of ambient music and running marathons.

Read our recent COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In interview with Sondre Lerche.

 

8. Owen Pallett: “A Bloody Morning”

Early this morning Owen Pallett surprise released a new album, Island, which is his first new album in six years. He also shared a video for the album’s “A Bloody Morning.” We’re admittedly still digesting the whole the album, so we’ve simply gone with single “A Bloody Morning,” perhaps swayed by its poignant video.

Island is out now digitally via Domino (and on Secret City in Canada). It will receive a vinyl release later this year, with tour dates to follow in 2021. Vincent René-Lortie and Brittney Canda directed the “A Bloody Morning” video, which features people dancing to the song in the homes. Listen to the full album here

“A Bloody Morning” video was filmed during the pandemic via social distancing, shot through the windows of homes. “Honestly, at first I wasn’t sold on the concept,” Pallett admits in a press release. “I worried that the video would end up pornographing the quarantine, and I declined.”   

Pallett relented after being swayed by the director’s enthusiasm and said once viewing the near-finished video, “I was floored.” 

Pallett adds: “I couldn’t believe how cathartic it was to see the video, how perfectly it fit the song, and how meaningful and necessary it was for me to see it when I did.”

Island was recorded at Abbey Road Studios with the London Contemporary Orchestra and is mainly acoustic. Pallett’s last full-length album was 2014’s In Conflict. Since then he’s been plenty busy with soundtrack work and doing string arrangements for the likes of Arcade Fire, HAIM, Frank Ocean, The Mountain Goats, Kirin J. Callinan, The Last Shadow Puppets, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and others.

9. Matt Berninger: “Serpentine Prison”

Last year Matt Berninger of The National announced his debut solo album, Serpentine Prison, although no release date was given. On Wednesday he shared the album’s title track, “Serpentine Prison,” via a video for it. Berninger also announced the album’s release date, as well as detailing its many special guests. Serpentine Prison is due out October 2 via Book, Berninger’s new imprint with Concord. Tom Berninger and Chris Sgroi directed the black & white “Serpentine Prison” video, which was filmed at Earthstar Creation Center in Venice, CA and chronicles the recording of the song. Check out the album’s cover art here

In a press release Berninger had this to say about the new single: “The song ‘Serpentine Prison’ was written in December 2018 about a week after recording The National’s I Am Easy to Find. For a long time I had been writing songs for movies and musicals and other projects where I needed to get inside someone else’s head and convey another person’s feelings. I liked doing that but I was ready to dig back into my own garbage and this was the first thing that came out. The title is from a twisting sewer pipe that drains into the ocean near LAX. There’s a cage on the pipe to keep people from climbing out to sea. I worked on the song with Sean O’Brien and Harrison Whitford and recorded it about six months later with Booker T. Jones producing. It feels like an epilogue so I named the record after it and put it last.”

Booker T. Jones produced Serpentine Prison, with additional production by Sean O’Brien. The album features an array of special guest players, including: Matt Barrick (The Walkmen, Jonathan Fire*Eater, Muzz), Andrew Bird, Mike Brewer, Hayden Desser, Scott Devendorf (The National), Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz), Booker T. Jones, Teddy Jones, Brent Knopf (EL VY, Menomena), Ben Lanz (The National, Beirut), Walter Martin (The Walkmen, Jonathan Fire*Eater), Sean O'Brien, Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan), Kyle Resnick (The National, Beirut), Matt Sheehy (EL VY, Lost Lander), and Harrison Whitford (Phoebe Bridgers).

Back in February, before the pandemic overtook America, Berninger shared a cover of Mercury Rev’s classic “Holes,” from their 1998 album Deserter’s Songs. The cover is part of the 7-Inches for Planned Parenthood series and was originally shared via a video for the track. In April, for Late Night with Stephen Colbert Berninger performed the cover from home, aided remotely by Steph Altman on piano. 

10. Carly Rae Jepsen: “This Is What They Say” 

On Thursday Canadian pop queen Carly Rae Jepsen surprise released a new album, Dedicated: Side B, a companion piece to 2019’s fourth studio album, Dedicated. The record is a compilation of 12 tracks that didn’t make the original LP. Stream it here. On Thursday she also shared a lyric video for the album’s “This Love Isn’t Crazy,” but it was another track off Dedicated: Side B that caught our ear, “This Is What They Say.” Sure, it’s just a throw away pop song, but it’s a very catchy and well-produced one. An earworm even (do people still use that term). 

From Jack Antonoff and Ariel Rechtshaid to Dev Hynes and John Hill, the new LP features collaboration upon collaboration. Bleachers, Antonoff’s band, are also credited on the song “Comeback.”

Jepsen left a message on Twitter for fans who seemingly figured out Side B was on the way. “I hope it makes yah dance your pants off,” she wrote. “I owe yah one…or like two albums turns out. ;)”

This is not the first Jepsen Side B. After her 2015 record Emotion, Jepsen released nine unreleased Emotion tracks. Thankfully, Jepsen is known for writing hundreds of songs for her records. So with each album fans have seemed to deduce a special addition will follow soon after. By Samantha Small

 

Honorable Mentions:

These nine songs almost made the Top 10.

Julianna Barwick: “Inspirit”

Disclosure: “ENERGY”

FEWS: “Heaven” 

HAIM: “Don’t Wanna”

IDLES: “Mr. Motivator”

Alex Izenberg: “Sister Jade”

No Age: “Head Sport Full Face”

Jenny O.: “Even If I Tried”

Squid: “Broadcaster”

 

Other notable new tracks in the last week include: 

2nd Grade: “Boys in Heat”

Arca: “Time”

Devendra Banhart: “Scenescof” (T. Rex Cover)

Brandon Boyd: “Myth” (Beach House Cover)

BROCKHAMPTON: “M.O.B.” and “twisted”

Califone: “Needle in the Hay” (Elliott Smith Cover) 

Coriky: “Too Many Husbands” 

Kathleen Edwards: “Options Open”

El-P: “mama’s hurt” and “this is Al that’s left”

Green Day: “Dreaming” (Blondie Cover) 

Harimau: “Poetry of One”

IAN SWEET: “Sword”

IAN SWEET · Sword

Jay Som: “Lucy” (Soccer Mommy Cover)

Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande: “Rain On Me”

Lavender Diamond: “Look Through the Window”

Littler: “This Boulder Won’t Push Itself” and “Natural Disaster”

Liza Anne: “Bummer Days” 

Migos: “Need It” (Feat. YoungBoy Never Broke Again) 

Jason Molina: “Shadow Answers the Wall” 

Omni: “Constant Reminder”

Mike Polizze: “Revelation” (Feat. Kurt Vile)

Sia: “Together”

Soccer Mommy: “I Think You’re Alright” (Jay Som Cover)

The Spirit of the Beehive: “The Door Is Open”

Maxwell Stern: “Tying Airplanes to the Ground”

Trash Talk: “Something Wicked”

Ryley Walker: “The Go In The Go For It” (Grandaddy Cover)

ambientonland · The Go In The Go For It (grandaddy cover)

The Weeknd: “In Your Eyes (Remix)” (Feat. Doja Cat) 

(Special thanks to Lily Guthrie for also helping to put this week’s list together.)

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