8 Best Songs of the Week: Fleet Foxes, Loma, Tim Heidecker and Weyes Blood, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, October 25th, 2020  

8 Best Songs of the Week: Fleet Foxes, Loma, Tim Heidecker and Weyes Blood, and More

Plus Bruce Springsteen, Tunng, Hayden Thorpe, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Sep 25, 2020
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Welcome to the 38th Songs of the Week of 2020. This was the week where those on the left mourned the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and worried about the future of the Supreme Court, as her dying wish to have her replacement be appointed by the next president was ignored by hypocritical Republicans who blocked President Obama’s Supreme Court pick because it was an election year. Meanwhile America reached the sad milestone of 200,000 COVID-19 deaths, there was no justice for Breonna Taylor, and President Trump strongly suggested that he may not leave office peacefully if Biden wins. 

It was a fantastic week for new album releases (Sufjan Stevens! Fleet Foxes! IDLES! Thurston Moore! Bob Mould! Will Butler! Tim Heidecker!), but not as compelling a week for new singles, so we’ve got a Top 8 rather than a Top 10.

Remember that we recently announced our long-awaited new print issue, with Phoebe Bridgers and Moses Sumney on the two covers. Find all the info here and buy a copy directly from us here.

This week on our website we also posted interviews with Tim Heidecker, Tim Bowness, Skullcrusher, and comedian/author Colin Quinn, as well as a My Favorite Album interview with Little Scream and a The End interview with Silverbacks.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Bob Mould, IDLES, Cults, Cayucas, Yves Jarvis, Baby Rose, Reverend John Wilkins, and Osees. Plus every week we post reviews of various other things (some weeks including DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows). 

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 8 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. Fleet Foxes: “Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman”

This week Fleet Foxes released Shore, a surprise new album, only a day after officially announcing it. You can stream it here, where you can also watch the accompanying film. Shore is being released by ANTI-. As with any surprise album drop, there were no pre-release singles so we had to pore over the album to find our favorite track. We settled on driving penultimate track “Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman,” perhaps the album’s most lush and rousing cut.

The album’s release at 6:31 a.m. PT/9:31 a.m. ET—which is 13:31 universal coordinated time—was timed to the autumnal equinox. Kersti Jan Werdal directed the film, which is 55 minutes long, was shot in Super 16mm.

Frontman Robin Pecknold had this to say about the album in a press release: “I see ‘shore’ as a place of safety on the edge of something uncertain, staring at Whitman’s waves reciting ‘death.’ Tempted by the adventure of the unknown at the same time you are relishing the comfort of the stable ground beneath you. This was the mindset I found, the fuel I found, for making this album…. Since the unexpected success of the first Fleet Foxes album over a decade ago, I have spent more time than I’m happy to admit in a state of constant worry and anxiety. Worried about what I should make, how it will be received, worried about the moves of other artists, my place amongst them, worried about my singing voice and mental health on long tours. I’ve never let myself enjoy this process as much as I could, or as much as I should. I’ve been so lucky in so many ways in my life, so lucky to be born with the seeds of the talents I have cultivated and lucky to have had so many unreal experiences. Maybe with luck can come guilt sometimes. I know I’ve welcomed hardship wherever I could find it, real or imagined, as a way of subconsciously tempering all this unreal luck I’ve had. By February 2020, I was again consumed with worry and anxiety over this album and how I would finish it. But since March, with a pandemic spiraling out of control, living in a failed state, watching and participating in a rash of protests and marches against systemic injustice, most of my anxiety around the album disappeared. It just came to seem so small in comparison to what we were all experiencing together. In its place came a gratitude, a joy at having the time and resources to devote to making sound, and a different perspective on how important or not this music was in the grand scheme of things. Music is both the most inessential and the most essential thing. We don’t need music to live, but I couldn’t imagine life without it. It became a great gift to no longer carry any worry or anxiety around the album, in light of everything that is going on. A tour may not happen for a year, music careers may not be what they once were. So it may be, but music remains essential. This reframing was another stroke of unexpected luck I have been the undeserving recipient of. I was able to take the wheel completely and see the album through much better than I had imagined it, with help from so many incredible collaborators, safe and lucky in a new frame of mind.” 

Shore is the follow-up to 2017’s Crack-Up (which was their first album in six years). Pecknold says he began writing the album in September 2018, soon after touring for Crack-Up finished. “I’m very proud of that record, and of the tour we were able to mount around it, but living for that long inside Crack-Up’s dense compositions, and touring that relentlessly, left me in a quandary: I didn’t want to take another long break from music; I really wanted to work and feel useful, but I needed to find a new, brighter way of making songs if I was going to go straight into something large and ambitious again,” he says. “I found myself listening more to Arthur Russell, Curtis Mayfield, Nina Simone, Michael Nau, Van Morrison, Sam Cooke, The Roches, João Gilberto, Piero Piccioni, Tim Bernardes, Tim Maia, Jai Paul, and Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou - music that is simultaneously complex and elemental, ‘sophisticated’ and humane, propulsive rhythmically but feathery melodically. I’d make playlists of hundreds of warm songs to immerse myself in, and I’d write as much as I could every day, keeping only the best pieces that emerged from wherever it is that melodies and song ideas come from. After all these years, I still don’t really know, and that’s what keeps it so interesting.” 

Pecknold embarked on a one month-long writing trip to rural Portugal. Then the album was recorded in various studios with various collaborators (working with recording/mixing engineer Beatriz Artola): Aaron Dessner’s Long Pond studio in upstate New York, at France’s Studios St. Germain, and then recording at Woody Jackson’s Electro-Vox studio in Los Angeles (working with Grizzly Bear’s Christopher Bear). Pecknold took a pandemic break between February and July and then returned to the album at The Diamond Mine in Long Island City, finishing everything up at Electric Lady Studios in New York City. The album also features Hamilton Leithauser (and his family), Kevin Morby, Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear, a sample of Brian Wilson (vocals from the Pet Sounds sessions), and others. 

Pecknold says he has plans for yet another Fleet Foxes album for release next year, one that will be recorded with his full touring band, rather than being pieced together in the studio: “For 2021, we hope to have nine more songs ready, to augment the fifteen here. Those songs will be co-written from the ground up with Morgan Henderson, Skyler Skjelset, Casey Wescott, and Christian Wargo, in an attempt to make good use of this liminal time without extensive touring to be done. I’m incredibly excited to see where those songs end up and I hope that by the time they are done we will be able to bring all of this music to crowds around the world in some form or another.” 

Director Kersti Jan Werdal had this to say about the accompanying film: “I listened to the album while driving, and observationally shot landscapes that I felt resonated with the music, yet also stood on their own. The film is intended to co-exist and engage with the album, rather than be in a direct and symbiotic relationship with it. The urban and narrative scenes interact with the more surreal landscapes, rather than sit in opposition of one another. My hope is that the film, much like the album does, reflects optimism and strength.” 

Shore was first teased via posters in Paris advertising the album and teaser videos on the band’s Instagram page. In August frontman Robin Pecknold played a handful of songs for Vote Ready, A Concert For Voter Registration, organized by Live From Out There, Fort William Artist Management, and the voter engagement advocacy group HeadCount. His three song set included two covers and a new track: “Featherweight.”

Read our interview with Robin Pecknold on Crack-Up.

2. Loma: “Don’t Shy Away”

Loma are releasing a new album, Don’t Shy Away, on October 23 via Sub Pop. This week they shared two new songs from it, title track “Don’t Shy Away” and “I Fix My Gaze,” both via videos. The atmospheric “Don’t Shy Away” makes the main list, while “I Fix My Gaze” is an honorable mention below.

Loma consists of Shearwater singer Jonathan Meiburg, alongside Emily Cross (of Cross Record) and Dan Duszynski. Duszynski directed the “Don’t Shy Away” video (filming it in Texas), whereas Cross directed the “I Fix My Gaze” video (filming it in Arizona).

Duszynski had this to say about the video for “Don’t Shy Away” in a press release: “I knew I wanted a single shot with a gradual reveal to complement the slower enveloping mood of the song. The time-stopping effect draws me in without distracting from the music. I also love Jonathan and the dogs’ cameos.”
 
Cross had this to say about “I Fix My Gaze” video: “I wanted to convey the feeling of being free even within a walled-in space. Recognizing that you’re trapped, in a way, but that there is still beauty and joy to be found.”
 
Meiburg had this to say about both videos: “The video for ‘Don’t Shy Away’ was pure serendipity. So many things happen in it—the dogs, the birds, the timing—that could never be replicated, even if we tried. And I love Emily’s vision for ‘I Fix My Gaze.’ Emily was a visual artist before she was a musician, and it comes through in everything she does.”

Don’t Shy Away is the follow-up to the band’s self-titled debut album, released back in February 2018 via Sub Pop. One song from Don’t Shy Away, “Homing,” was produced by Brian Eno. The album features “Half Silences,” a new song the band shared in April 2019 via a music video (it was one of our Songs of the Week). When the album was announced they shared another song from it, “Ocotillo,” via a lyric video (it was also one of our Songs of the Week). 

Loma consists of Shearwater singer Jonathan Meiburg, alongside Emily Cross (of Cross Record) and Dan Duszynski. Apart from “Homing,” the band self-produced the album, recording it at Dandysounds studio in Dripping Strings, Texas. The band members were working on various separate projects, but in part the support of Brian Eno encouraged them to reconvene. For “Homing” the band sent the stems of the song to Eno and let him do what he liked with it. “I was a little worried,” says Cross. “What if we didn’t like it?” Eno never actually spoke to the band but his mix of the song arrived via email late one night.

Read our 2018 interview with Loma.

3. Tim Heidecker: “Oh How We Drift Away” (Feat. Weyes Blood) 

Actor/comedian/musician Tim Heidecker (of Tim & Eric and Heidecker & Wood) released a new album, Fear of Death, today via Spacebomb. This week he shared one last pre-release single from it, “Oh How We Drift Away,” that features lead vocals by Natalie Mering (aka Weyes Blood). Mering has sung backing vocals on other singles from the album, but this is the first single from the album where her voice takes center stage. It’s the album’s closing track, with lyrics by Heidecker and music by Mering (which is why it sounds so much like a Weyes Blood song).

Heidecker also streamed Fear of Death early over at Heidecker’s Drive & Listen website, where you can listen to album while driving around various cities around the world, via videos shot from the front of moving cars. Cities include London, Paris, Berlin, Los Angeles, New York, Rome, San Francisco, Moscow, Mumbai, Havana, Beijing, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Stockholm, Wuhan, and many others. You can also pick the speed of the car, from three different settings. Check it out here

Today we posted our interview with Heidecker on Fear of Death.

Previously Heidecker shared the album’s title track, “Fear of Death,” via a video for the song, which was one of our Songs of the Week and also featured Weyes Blood. Then he shared the album’s second single, “Nothing,” which was a song is about the finality of death for those who don’t believe in an afterlife and also made a our Songs of the Week list. Then he shared another song from it, “Property,” that featured backing vocals by Weyes Blood and also made our Songs of the Week list. 

As well as Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering, Heidecker’s backing band on the album features Drew Erickson (Jonathan Wilson, Dawes), The Lemon Twigs’ Brian and Michael D’Addario, Jonathan Rado (Foxygen), and string arrangements by Spacebomb’s Trey Pollard (Foxygen, Bedouine).

“I didn’t know that this record was going to be so focused on death when I was writing it,” Heidecker said in a previous press release. “It took a minute for me to stand back and look at what I was talking about to realize that, yes, I am now a middle-aged man and my subconscious is screaming at me: ‘You are getting old, dude! You are not going to live forever! Put down that cheeseburger!’” 

Heindecker previously released the fake break-up album What The Brokenhearted Do... back in June of last year. It was created after alt-right trolls spread a rumor that Heidecker's wife had left him. But, according to a press release, Heindecker is leaving satire in the wind and shooting straight for the scarily morbid: the inevitability of death.

“This record is a dream come true for me,” said Heidecker. “I got to work with some of the best, and nicest, musicians in town who helped me take some shabby, simple tunes and turn them into something I’m really proud of.”

4. Bruce Springsteen: “Ghosts”

Bruce Springsteen is releasing a new album, Letter to You, on October 23 via Columbia. This week he shared its second single, “Ghosts,” via a lyric video. It’s a bit of an ’80s anthem, cheesy but rousing. It’s a single you could imagine a teenaged super-fan Sarfraz Manzoor (as chronicled in the 2019 film Blinded By the Light) losing his mind over. 

“‘Ghosts’ is about the beauty and joy of being in a band, and the pain of losing one another to illness and time,” says Springsteen in a press release. “‘Ghosts’ tries to speak to the spirit of the music itself, something none of us owns but can only discover and share together. In the E Street Band, it resides in our collective soul, powered by the heart.”

Previously Springsteen shared the album’s title track, “Letter to You,” via a video for it. Letter to You features new recordings of unreleased songs he originally wrote in the 1970s: “Janey Needs a Shooter,” “If I Was the Priest,” and “Song for Orphans.” It also includes nine newly written songs and was recorded with The E Street Band.

The album is the follow-up to 2019’s Western Stars. Ron Aniello produced the album with Springsteen, and it was mixed by Bob Clearmountain and mastered by Bob Ludwig. Letter to You features Roy Bittan, Nils Lofgren, Patti Scialfa, Garry Tallent, Stevie Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, Charlie Giordano, and Jake Clemons and it’s Springsteen’s first time performing with The E Street Band since a 2016 tour.

Western Stars was Springsteen’s first studio album in five years, since 2014’s High Hopes. When Western Stars was released we posted an in-depth review of the album written by longtime Springsteen fan (and longtime Under the Radar writer) Chris Tinkham and you can read that here.

5. Tunng: “Death is the New Sex” 

Tunng are releasing a new album, DEAD CLUB, on November 6 via Full Time Hobby. It’s a concept album about death and grief that’s also tied to a podcast of the same name. This week they shared another song from it, “Death is the New Sex.” They have also shared episode 4 of the podcast, which features poet, essayist, Schomburg Director, professor and The New Yorker poetry editor Kevin Young. Listen to the podcast episode here.

Tunng’s Sam Genders had this to say about “Death is the New Sex” in a press release:

“It's a song about how, by challenging taboos, we might arrive at a place closer to the truth and find ourselves better able to support each other as a result.

“Whilst researching this project I've been struck by just how much of a taboo the subject of death is in our culture. Partly because of the ways in which people have responded when I explained what we were working on. One person was seriously worried I might be suicidal, and others clearly felt it was an odd thing to explore. Partly because of my own reactions. I often found myself nervous when talking about death or grief, or reaching for a socially acceptable way of phrasing an idea and struggling to find one. And yet, once the awkwardness has passed, I've also found that people are often eager to talk about how death and grief have affected their lives. Sometimes as if they'd be waiting far too long for the opportunity to unburden themselves. 

“Interestingly I feel that in many modern settings people are more comfortable taking about sex than death. We've journeyed so far in the last 60 years when it comes to talking about sex and I think you can make a very good case for that being a good thing. I expect the average person knows more about avoiding STIs or unwanted pregnancy, and is more likely to be comfortable with the idea of sexual pleasure or their own sexuality than ever before. I'm sure a lot of good has come from that. Now it seems like people are beginning to talk about death more. Imagine if we were so comfortable talking about death that everyone in our culture had the skills to support people who are grieving or to plan for the end of life for themselves or a loved one. It seems like there's so much to gain. Palliative care is one obvious example of how more knowledge and awareness might help people live better lives. 

“The song was inspired in part by my conversation with palliative care physician and writer Kathryn Mannix and her wonderful book With the End In Mind. Lyrically the song has clearly been through the Tunng filter. I wrote the words with a fantastical, almost comic book quality in places but it's not flippant. I think these are genuinely important ideas.”

Previously Tunng shared the album’s first single, “A Million Colours,” accompanied by an animated video. “A Million Colours” was one of our Songs of the Week.

The first episode of the DEAD CLUB podcast featured Max Porter. According to the band in a previous press release, his novel Grief is The Thing with Feathers “was the catalyst for the entire project.” 

The band’s Becky Jacobs and Sam Genders produced the podcast, which speaks to “those who work in the field of death: philosophers, scientists, frontline workers, and beyond.”

Previously, Tunng released Songs You Make At Night, in 2018 via Full Time Hobby. It was the first album with the original lineup (including founding members Sam Genders and Mike Lindsay) since 2007’s Good Arrows. Its lead single “ABOP” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Full Time Hobby · tunng - Death Is the New Sex

6. Hayden Thorpe: “Blue Crow”

This week Hayden Thorpe, formerly the singer for British art-rockers Wild Beasts, announced a new EP, Aerial Songs, and shared its first single, “Blue Crow.” Aerial Songs is due out October 16 via Domino. Check out the EP’s tracklist and cover art here.

Thorpe wrote and self-produced Aerial Songs, which features additional production work from Nathan Jenkins (aka Bullion), Richard Formby, and Fabian Prynn. The songs are inspired by Thorpe’s native Lake District area of England and were composed during his time as artist in residence at Aerial Festival.

Thorpe had this to say in a press release: “Since my first broody teenage attempts to make music and beyond into gradually becoming an adult concerned with making decent music, I’ve found the prospect of making work about the Lake District an off-puttingly daunting task. I’ve always felt ill equipped to even nearly match the enchantment of being within the fells.

“I wouldn’t say I’m any better prepared now, it might just be that I can perhaps more precisely distil the vital affirmation I feel in the mountains. Maybe it is that I am, by now, far enough away from the blast radius of a frustrated rural youth shit show to get clear headed and attempt it.” 

Thorpe released his debut solo album, Diviner, in May 2019 via Domino (stream it here). In September 2019, Thorpe shared a brand new song, “Full Beam,” that was recorded during the sessions for Diviner but didn’t make the final tracklist (it was one of our Songs of the Week). In May, Thorpe and Hot Chip founding member Joe Goddard teamed up for a new single, “Unknown Song,” which was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Read our interview with Hayden Thorpe on Diviner

Read our Self-Portrait feature with Hayden Thorpe.

In 2017 Wild Beasts announced their breakup in a typed up statement, signed by the band and posted to Instagram. That was followed by a final EP, Punk Drunk and Trembling, three farewell concerts in February 2018, and a final album, February 2018’s live in the studio release Last Night All My Dreams Came True (which featured new interpretations of songs from across their catalogue).

Read our 2018 interview with Hayden Thorpe about the breakup of Wild Beasts and the band’s legacy.

7. Tune-Yards: “nowhere, man” 

This week Tune-Yards (Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner) shared a brand new song, “nowhere, man,” via a video for it. The video was shot in the duo’s garage and also features stop-motion animation by Japhy Riddle and Callie Day. A press release says the song’s title purposefully references the song by The Beatles and that the song “is a referendum on how far society has or has not come based on whose stories are told, celebrated and elevated.” 

Garbus had this to say in a press release: “The song and the video for ‘nowhere, man’ were created under conditions of feeling squeezed and pushed to the brink—relatively, of course. I wanted to ask, ‘How loudly do I have to shout and sing before I'm heard?’ And the video asks, too, ‘What am I not hearing?’ We hope the music brings energy and a strong wind of encouragement to those who are shouting and singing loudly for justice right now.” 

Tune-Yards’ last album was 2018’s I can feel you creep into my private life

Read our interview with Tune-Yards on I can feel you creep into my private life.

8. Lia Ices: “Young on the Mountain” 

This week singer/songwriter Lia Ices (birth name Lia Kessel) announced a new album, Family Album, and shared a new song from it, “Young on the Mountain,” via a Conor Hagen-directed video for it. Family Album is due out January 29, 2021 via her own label Natural Music. It’s her first album in over six years, since her critically acclaimed 2014 album Ices (released on Jagjaguwar). Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here. 

Family Album includes “Hymn,” a new song she shared in August. JR White (Girls, Tobias Jesso Jr) produced the album. Kessel was pregnant with her first child, with her husband (who is a wine maker), when she started writing the album. “I got pregnant in January, and Una was born in September, so I was on the same ripening mode as all the fruit,” she says in a press release. 

Read our review of Ices here. 

Honorable Mentions: 

These six songs almost made the Top 10.

Loma: “I Fix My Gaze”

Moor Mother: “Act 1: Working Machine”

Kevin Morby: “Wander” and “Don’t Underestimate Midwest American Sun”

The Shins: “The Great Divide”

Yo La Tengo: “Bleeding”

Other notable new tracks in the last week include:

William Basinski: “Tear Vial”

Clipping: “’96 Neve Campbell” (Feat. Cam & China)

The Cribs: “I Don’t Know Who I Am” (Feat. Lee Ranaldo)

The Goodbye Party: “No Reason”

Gunn-Truscinski Duo: “For Eddie Hazel”

Hypoluxo: “Nimbus”

Yves Jarvis: “In Every Mountain”

Joan of Arc: “Destiny Revision”

Joji: “Reanimator” (Feat. Yves Tumor)

Sondre Lerche: “I Could Not Love You Enough”

Lydia Loveless: “September” (Feat. Laura Jane Grace)

MadeinTYO: “Money Up” (Feat. Toro y Moi)

Matt Maeson: “Hallucinogenics” (Feat. Lana Del Rey)

METZ: “Blind Youth Industrial Park”

Oneohtrix Point Never: “Cross Talk I,” “Auto & Allo,” and “Long Road Home” (Feat. Caroline Polachek)

Paddy Hanna: “Sinatra”

Pixies: “Here Me Out”

Sad13: “Ruby Wand”

Shamir: “Other Side”

                                                                                                                                                                                     

The Smashing Pumpkins: “Confessions of a Dopamine Addict” and “Wrath”

Chris Stapleton: “Cold”

Sylvan Esso: “Free”

Tame Impala: “Borderline (Blood Orange Remix)”

Kurt Vile: “How Lucky” (John Prine Cover) (Feat. John Prine)

Steven Wilson: “Eminent Sleaze”

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