12 Best Songs of the Week: Porridge Radio, Soccer Mommy, Real Estate, Westerman, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, February 25th, 2020  

12 Best Songs of the Week: Porridge Radio, Soccer Mommy, Real Estate, Westerman, and More

Plus Moaning, Anna Burch, U.S. Girls, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Jan 17, 2020
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Welcome to the second Songs of the Week of 2020. It was a very strong week for new songs, especially as a slew of notable new albums were announced this week. We tried to limit it to a Top 10, but went for a supersized Top 12 again (like last week). We also have an additional 12 honorable mentions. This decade is off to great start!

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Beach Slang, Bill Fay, Pinegrove, and Whyte Horses. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows).

Today we also posted a The End interview with William Doyle (formerly known as East India Youth).

Don't forget to check out our Top 100 Albums of 2019 and Top 50 Films of the Decade lists.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 12 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. Porridge Radio: "Sweet"

On Thursday, Porridge Radio, a band from Brighton, England fronted by Dana Margolin, announced a new album, Every Bad, and shared a new song from it, "Sweet," via a Sam Hiscox-directed video for the track. Every Bad is due out March 13 via Secretly Canadian. It includes "Lilac," a song the band shared via a video in December that was #2 on our Songs of the Week list. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the band's upcoming tour dates (including two newly announced dates in Los Angeles and Brooklyn), here.

Margolin had this to say about "Sweet" in a press release: "'Sweet' is a song about holding grudges and learning how to have fun and letting go of an old version of yourself. I was feeling light-hearted when I wrote it, but when we came together to play it as a band, it suddenly felt really dramatic and exciting. When we play it live, the energy in the room always feels really intense, and then suddenly we just explode altogether and it always feels really good."

Margolin started Porridge Radio as a bedroom recording project, before enlisting the rest of the band: bassist Maddie Ryall, keyboardist Georgie Stott, and drummer Sam Yardley. A press release bills Every Bad as the band's debut album, although in 2016 Porridge Radio did self-release the lo-fi album Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers, apparently recorded in a garden shed.

2. Soccer Mommy: "circle the drain" 

On Tuesday Soccer Mommy (the project of Nashville native Sophie Allison) announced a new album, color theory, and shared a new single from it, "circle the drain," via a Atiba Jefferson-directed video for the song. Color theory is due out February 28 via Loma Vista. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as Soccer Mommy's upcoming tour dates, here.

Color theory is the follow-up to Allison's debut full-length album, Clean, released in 2018 via Fat Possum. It was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2018. Gabe Wax produced the album (he also produced Clean), which was written on tour and recorded in Nashville at Alex The Great. Lars Stalfors mixed the album, which features the live Soccer Mommy band on studio recordings for the first time.

The album titles and song titles are all intended to be written in lowercase. Color theory also features two songs Soccer Mommy shared in 2019. In November she shared a seven-minute long "yellow is the color of her eyes," via a video for the track directed by Alex Ross Perry (Her Smell). It was one of our Songs of the Week. "Yellow is the color of her eyes" featured Mary Lattimore on harp and followed "lucy," another new song Soccer Mommy shared in September that was also one of our Songs of the Week.  

A press release had this to say about color theory: "Confronting the ongoing mental health and familial trials that have plagued Allison since pre-pubescence, color theory explores three central themes: blue, representing sadness and depression; yellow, symbolizing physical and emotional illness; and, finally, gray, representing darkness, emptiness and loss.

Allison had this to say about the album in a press release: "I wanted the experience of listening to color theory to feel like finding a dusty old cassette tape that has become messed up over time, because that's what this album is: an expression of all the things that have slowly degraded me personally. The production warps, the guitar solos occasionally glitch, the melodies can be poppy and deceptively cheerful. To me, it sounds like the music of my childhood distressed and, in some instances, decaying." 

The "circle the drain" video features pro-skateboarders Sean Malto, Jake Anderson, Curren Caples, and Nicole Hause.

Read our 2018 interview with Soccer Mommy on Clean.

3. Real Estate: "Paper Cup" (Feat. Amelia Meath)

On Wednesday Real Estate announced a new album, The Main Thing, and shared its first single, "Paper Cup," which features Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso, via a video for the track. The Main Thing is due out February 28 via Domino. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the band's upcoming tour dates, here.

Real Estate's current lineup is Martin Courtney, Alex Bleeker, Jackson Pollis, Matthew Kallman, and Julian Lynch. Their last album was 2017's In Mind, also on Domino. Kevin McMahon, who worked on the band's 2011 album Days, produced The Main Thing, which was recorded over the course of a year at Upstate New York's Marcata Sound studio. Nick Roney directed the "Paper Cup" video.

Courtney had this to say about "Paper Cup" in a press release: "'Paper Cup' is a song about getting older and realizing that this thing that I fell into doing over 10 years ago - being a musician, writing songs, being a guy in a band - this may end up being my life's work. Watching the people around me change and evolve, take on new challenges, and feeling sort of stuck in a rut, in a way. Feeling uncertain of the validity of being an artist in an age of climate change and general political and social unrest around the world. It's a song about questioning your chosen path in life and searching for meaning in what you do. Those questions don't really get resolved in this song, but ironically, the process of making this record - really diving deep and trying to make it the best thing we've ever made - reaffirmed in me, and I think in all of us in this band, why we are doing this."

Bleeker had this to say about the album: "We discovered through the care and attention that we brought to this record that making music to resonate with other people is our catharsis. The 'main thing' is following your path of inspiration and hoping to inspire that in people around you."

Read our 2017 interview with Real Estate about In Mind.

Real Estate's Martin Courtney also released a solo album in 2015, Many Moons. Read our interview with Courtney about it. Also Courtney did a joint interview with actor Jason Schwartzman for our Best of 2014 issue and you can read that here.

4. Westerman: "Blue Comanche"

On Wednesday, West London's Will Westerman, who releases music simply under his last name, shared a new song, "Blue Comanche." It's his first release for Partisan, a label that has just announced they've signed him.

In 2018 Westerman released a 4-song EP, Ark, via Blue Flowers. Before that he garnered attention for a series of singles and his 2017-released Call and Response EP.

Westerman had this to say about "Blue Comanche" in a press release: "'Blue Comanche' is about the inevitability of environmental loss as a consequence of modernization. I'm not a Luddite, I don't think we should go back to the Stone Age or anything, but there's still something profoundly sad about what's being lost. 

"I find party politics frustrating, because it's so cyclical. I'm obsessed with ethics, and politics and ethics can be bad bedfellows. I'm political in a solitary way. There are issues that I think are important and occupy my thoughts, but I struggle with organized politics. In the party system there's inevitable compromise and concession, which is frustrating. That's why I like writing, you can say what you want without any dilution.    

"I wanted this to be a calming song though, not angry. Today it's so easy to live in an echo chamber of bad news, but if you look hard you can still see individual acts of kindness everywhere. You have to be engaged and stay sensitive to suffering, but it's not constructive to live in that space all the time."

5. Moaning: "Ego"

On Wednesday Los Angeles shoegazers/post-punkers Moaning announced a new album, Uneasy Laughter, and shared its first single, "Ego," via a Ambar Navarro-directed video for the track. Uneasy Laughter is due out March 20 via Sub Pop. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art here.

Uneasy Laughter is the follow-up to the trio's self-titled debut album, released in 2018 also via Sub Pop. Moaning consists of vocalist/guitarist Sean Solomon, bassist/keyboardist Pascal Stevenson, and drummer Andrew MacKelvie. The band worked with producer/engineer Alex Newport (At The Drive-In, Bloc Party, Melvins) on Uneasy Laughter.

Solomon had this to say about "Ego" in a press release: "The lyrics are about letting go of your own bullshit to help other people. Wanting to love yourself to love others. The ego can make you feel like you're the greatest person in the world or the worst. It makes you think your problems are abnormally different which is isolating and rarely true. The song is a reminder that listening to other perspectives is important and beneficial to both parties involved."

Stevenson had this to say add about the single: "Musically, the song was started by repurposing a drum beat made for a different demo and putting it on top of a new synth loop. It was a digital collage where we passed Ableton files back and forth. We purposely avoided the impulse to add guitars to everything, letting the melodies of the synth and vocals be the focus. We wanted to embrace the songs ability to slip between genre lines."

Solomon celebrated a year of sobriety during the ​sessions for the album and says he wanted to be more open with Uneasy Laughter: "Men are conditioned not to be vulnerable or admit they're wrong. But I wanted to talk openly about my feelings and mistakes I've made."

6. Anna Burch: "Not So Bad"

On Tuesday Detroit singer/songwriter/guitarist Anna Burch announced a new album, If You're Dreaming, and shared its first single, "Not So Bad," via a self-directed video for the track. She's also announced some tour dates. If You're Dreaming is due out April 3 via Polyvinyl. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art below, as well as the tour dates, here.

If You're Dreaming is Burch's second solo album, the follow-up to 2018's Quit the Curse (also released on Polyvinyl).

Burch had this to say about "Not So Bad" in a press release: "I wrote 'Not So Bad' the day before I left to record, because I felt there was an important piece of the album missing-a hopeful, escapist pop song that dealt more positively with themes the other songs were circling around-and luckily it came together almost immediately. The chord progression felt light and jazzy, and when I started to write the words I remembered my mom bugging me about how melancholic my lyrics tend to be, 'Surely your life hasn't all been that bad!' I wanted to express the importance of cultivating a rich interior life that falls outside of the economy of images and information we're disseminating at all times. 'Not So Bad' is an optimistic love song about retreating into memories to find what you need to feel in control of your own narrative when everything else around you feels precarious." 

Read our 2018 interview with Anna Burch.

Read our review of Anna Burch's Quit the Curse.

7. U.S. Girls: "Overtime"

On Monday U.S. Girls (aka Meghan Remy) announced a new album, Heavy Light, and shared a self-directed video for its first single, "Overtime." She has also announced some tour dates. Heavy Light is due out March 6 via 4AD. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

Heavy Light is the follow-up to 2017's In a Poem Unlimited and 2015's Half Free, both also released on 4AD. Remy self-produced Heavy Light and worked with co-writers Basia Bulat and Rich Morel. It was recorded in Montreal's Hotel 2 Tango studio with 20 session musicians, including E Street Band saxophonist Jake Clemons. Maximilian 'Twig' Turnbull, Steve Chahley, and Tony Price mixed the album.

A press release describes Heavy Light as "a set of songs conceived as a balance between orchestral percussion (as richly arranged by percussionist Ed Squires) and the human voice (conducted by Kritty Uranowski)."

The press release adds: "The resulting album finds Remy casting herself as lead voice among a harmonious multitude, the singers of which lend not only their voices, but also share reflections on childhood experiences that are collaged into moving spoken word interludes throughout the album."

Read our 2015 interview with U.S. Girls.

Read our 2018 interview with U.S. Girls.

8. Vundabar: "Burned Off"

This week Boston duo Vundabar (Brandon Hagen and Drew McDonald) announced a new album, Either Light, and shared its first single, "Burned Off," via a playful Hagen-directed video for the track. Either Light is due out March 13 via Gawk. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as the band's upcoming tour dates, here.

Either Light is the follow-up to 2018's Smell Smoke and finds the band working with a producer for the first time, Patrick Hyland (Mitski).

Hagen had this to say about Either Light in a press release: "The album is about the transitional lightness that follows a period of heaviness. After years of being caught up in a dark period marked by sickness, strife and worry, and using it as the context in which I saw myself, I suddenly found I'd outgrown that story. With that came a feeling of lightness that was opposite the feeling which preceded it."

Hagen also had this to say about the single: "'Burned Off' details time spent waiting out a low. It's bad, it's bad, it's bad, then it's not, it burns off. The song explores that surreal and sometimes inexplicable moment of interior shift, the fog lifting, and the way our internal state informs our external experience. It could turn light into a puddle or a puddle into light, but then it burns off! Temporary and dual. We see our protagonist wet, we see our protagonist dry, we see our protagonist ruminating and then looking to the future, finally finding solace in the ephemeral, the chorus a reassurance of what's now known."

 

 

9. Thundercat: "Black Qualls" (Feat. Steve Lacy & Steve Arrington)

On Wednesday Thundercat (aka Stephen Lee Bruner) announced a new album, It Is What It Is, and shared a new song from it, "Black Qualls," which features Steve Lacy of The Internet and funk icon Steve Arrington. It Is What It Is is due out April 3 via Brainfeeder. The album also features Ty Dolla $ign, Childish Gambino, Lil B, Kamasi Washington, BADBADNOTGOOD, Louis Cole, Zack Fox, and Flying Lotus (who executive produced the album with Thundercat). Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as Thundercat's upcoming tour dates, here.

"Black Qualls" came from writing sessions with Lacy. In a press release Bruner describes Lacy as "the physical incarnate of the Ohio Players in one person - he genuinely is a funky ass dude."

The press release says the song "references what it means to be a black American with a young mindset."

Bruner further explains: "What it feels like to be in this position right now... the weird ins and outs, we're talking about those feelings... Part of me knew this [track] was where Steve [Arrington] left us."

10. Holy Fuck: "Deleters" (Feat. Liars' Angus Andrew)

Toronto's Holy Fuck have released a new album, Deleter, today via Last Gang. On Wednesday they shared one last pre-release single from the album, "Deleters," which features Liars' Angus Andrew. They have also announced some new tour dates, which you can check out here.

Previously Holy Fuck shared Deleter's first single, "Luxe," which featured the guest vocals of Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. Taylor recorded his vocals at Jack White's Third Man Studio in Nashville on White's "extremely rare" 1947 Voice-O-Graph. "Luxe" was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another song from it, "Free Gloss," that featured the guest vocals of Nicolas Allbrook from POND and was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Holy Fuck is Brian Borcherdt, Graham Walsh, Matt McQuaid, and Matt Schultz.

The band had this to say about "Deleters" in a press release: "The song 'Deleters' started at a party in the woods of rural Quebec. Set up on the forest floor, literally over moss covered tree roots we decided to make up a new hour-long improvised set in front of a crowd of people dancing amongst the trees. From that session two songs emerged and found their way onto the new record. This is the first time we selected a song from the record to also be a title track- but there really isn't a reason for it other than we thought it sounded cool, like a modern version of Fugazi's Repeater or Depeche Mode's Violater (or even Kiss' Destroyer, though in name only). Our friend Angus from Liars doubles Brian's vocals giving the track a nice punch." 

Holy Fuck's last album was 2016's Congrats.

11. Dan Deacon: "Become a Mountain"

Dan Deacon is releasing a new album, Mystic Familiar, on January 31 via Domino. On Monday he shared another song from the album, "Become a Mountain," via a video for the track. Spain-based studio Rapapawn created the animated video.

Deacon had this to say about the song in a press release:

"During the 4 years over which I composed the songs that became Mystic Familiar, I began going to therapy and started a meditation practice. I felt raw and vulnerable while making this album, and I wanted the music to reflect that.
 
"Like many people who've been in a dark mindset for a long time, self-compassion and non-judgmental thinking were a real challenge for me, entirely new habits that needed to be learned  basically from scratch. When I would try to embrace having positive thoughts, they didn't feel like my own, but rather another entity's thoughts trying to speak to me. While writing, I began thinking of these thoughts as a Mystic Familiar (my own personal supernatural companion) trying to communicate with me. Externalizing the thoughts made them easier to fully realize and reflect upon.
 
"The lyrics in 'Become a Mountain' lay out the framework for the album's overall concept: a Narrator and their Mystic Familiar. Our Narrator, in the opening verse and choruses, is trying to learn how to be self-compassionate, to live a life in the present while being able to deal with self-doubt and anxiety in a lifetime of great flux and foundational transformations. Meanwhile, our Mystic Familiar, in verse two and the pre-choruses, tries to help guide the transformations of our narrator through mantras coaxing me to be present in the now, even while also being an element of chaos itself."

Previously Deacon shared Mystic Familiar's first single, "Sat By a Tree," via a video for the track.  "Sat By a Tree" was one of our Songs of the Week. Mystic Familiar is due out almost five years after the release of his last album, Gliss Riffer, which came out on February 25, 2015. Since Gliss Riffer, Deacon has kept busy scoring films, TV shows, and ballets.

A previous press release described the album as such: "With Mystic Familiar, Dan gives us the result of years of obsessive work, play, and self-discovery. It's at once his most emotionally open record and his most transcendent, 11 kaleidoscopic tracks of majestic synth-pop that exponentially expand his sound with unfettered imagination and newfound vulnerability."

 

12. LA Priest: "What Moves"

On Wednesday LA Priest (aka England's Sam Dust or Sam Eastgate) announced a new album, GENE, and shared its first single, "What Moves," via a self-directed video for the track. GENE is due out April 24 via Domino and is the first LA Priest album in five years, since 2015's debut album, Inji. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art here.

Erol Alkan co-produced the album with Eastgate. GENE is named after a new analog drum machine Eastgate developed and built. As a press release explains: "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."

In 2016 Eastgate teamed up with New Zealand's Connan Mockasin to form Soft Hair and release their self-titled debut. Eastgate was also formerly in Late of the Pier.

Read our 2015 interview with LA Priest.

Honorable Mentions:

These 12 songs almost made the Top 12. The Homesick and TORRES came closest to making the main list, but all of these are good tracks.

The 1975: "Me & You Together Song"

Best Coast: "Everything Has Changed"

The Homesick: "Male Bonding"

Kyle Forester: "Know What You're Doing"

Loose Buttons: "I Don't Really Know"

Okay Kaya: "Psych Ward"

Esmé Patterson: "Shelby Tell Me Everything"

Andy Shauf: "Living Room"

Spinning Coin: "Ghosting"

Squirrel Flower: "Streetlight Blues"

TORRES: "Dressing America"

Ultraísta: "Tin King"

Other notable new tracks in the last week include: 

2 Chainz: "Dead Man Walking" (Feat. Future) 

Blue Hawaii: "The Test I Passed" and "Remember When"

David Bowie: "I Can't Read '97"

Cable Ties: "Sandcastles"

Drive-By Truckers: "Thoughts And Prayers"

Empress Of: "Call Me"

Galantis: "We Are Born to Play" (Feat. Charli XCX)

Gordi: "The Cost"

Green Day: "Oh Yeah!"

King Krule: "(Don't Let the Dragon) Draag On" 

Tove Lo: "Bikini Porn" and "Passion and Pain Taste the Same When I'm Weak" 

Moby: "Power Is Taken" (Feat. Dead Kennedys' D.H. Peligro)

Mura Masa: "Live Like We're Dancing" (Feat. Georgia)

The Naked and Famous: "Bury Us"

P.E.: "Soft Dance"

Pinegrove: "The Alarmist"

POLIÇA: "Steady"

Pom Pom Squad: "Cellophane" (FKA twigs Cover)

Margo Price: "Stone Me"

Shell of a Shell: "Knock"

Swamp Dogg: "Memories" (Feat. John Prine & Justin Vernon)

THICK: "5 Years Behind"

Twin Peaks: "St. Vulgar St." and "Cawfee"

UV-TV: "Happy Place" (The Jesus & Mary Chain Cover)

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