8 Best Songs of the Week: Jack Peñate, Foals, Vagabon, Wolf Parade, and More | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019  

8 Best Songs of the Week: Jack Peñate, Foals, Vagabon, Wolf Parade, and More

Plus Michael Kiwanuka, Little Scream, Matt Berninger, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Oct 18, 2019
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Welcome to another Songs of the Week. It was a pretty light week, in terms of new songs this week. Hence we only have a Top 8.

Don't forget to pick up our new print issue, the My Favorite Album Issue. It features Angel Olsen and Sleater-Kinney on the two covers and is a special issue where we speak to musicians and actors about their all-time favorite albums.

In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Vagabon, Girl Band, The Building, and Mark Kozelek with Petra Haden. 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 an interview with Belle and Sebastian.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the eight 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. Jack Peñate: "Murder"

This week English singer/songwriter Jack Peñate announced his first new album in 10 years, After You, and shared its new single, the dance-y "Murder," via a video for the track. After You is his third album and the long-awaited follow-up to 2009's Everything Is New. After You is due out November 29 via XL. Check out the album's tracklist and cover art, as well as his upcoming tour dates, here.

After You was produced in collaboration with Paul Epworth, Inflo, and Alex Epton. It includes the previously shared single "Prayer." Eddie Peake directed the "Murder" video, created the album artwork, and also directed the "Prayer" video. The "Murder" video was filmed in Dorset, England at Winspit quarry and shot on an iPhone. Peñate's long break between albums was the result of various things, including Peñate's desire to master his craft and build his own studio.

2. Foals: "Neptune"

Foals released a new album, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 2 today via Warner Records (stream it here). It's the follow-up to Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1, which came out in March. Now that the album is out we can include one of its best album tracks in Songs of the Week: 10-minute closing track "Neptune."

Read our interview with Foals about Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1. Also read our shorter print magazine article on Foals.

Previously Foals shared Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 2's first three singles: "Black Bull" (via a video for the track), "The Runner," and "Into the Surf" (which was one of our Songs of the Week). They also released a remix album, Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1: Remixes, featuring Metronomy and others. Then they shared a cinematic video for "The Runner" in which frontman Yannis Philippakis fights his doppelganger. Then they shared an animated an animated video for "Into the Surf."

Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1 was nominated for the Mercury Prize (it didn't win). Previously Foals shared a cinematic video for Part 1's first single, "Exits" (which was one of our Songs of the Week), a video for "On the Luna," and a lyric video for "Sunday" (which was also one of our Songs of the Week). Then once the album was released album track "In Degrees" was #2 on our Songs of the Week list. Then the band shared videos for Part 1's "White Onions," "Cafe D'Athens," "In Degrees," and "Sunday."

The albums are the follow-up to 2015's What Went Down. Philippakis produced the albums, which were recorded at 123 Studios in Peckham, London with the help of engineer Brett Shaw. The band also features Jimmy Smith (guitar), Jack Bevan (drums), and Edwin Congreave (keys).

In a previous press release Philippakis had this to say about releasing two albums: "They're two halves of the same locket. They can be listened to and appreciated individually, but fundamentally, they are companion pieces."

Philippakis said that the albums do address the environmental crisis our planet faces. "There's a definite idea about the world being no longer habitable in the way that it was," he said. "A kind of perilousness lack of predictability and a feeling of being overwhelmed by the magnitudes of the problems we face. What's the response? And what's the purpose of any response that one individual can have?"

Philippakis added: "Lyrically, there are resonances with what's going on in the world at the moment. I just feel like, what's the utility of being a musician these days, if you can't engage with at least some of this stuff? These songs are white flags, or they're SOSs, or they're cries for help... each in a different way."

3. Vagabon: "Every Woman"

Vagabon (aka Lætitia Tamko) released a new self-titled album today via Nonesuch. Earlier this week she shared one last pre-release single from the album, "Every Woman," via a video for the track. Lino Asana directed the video, which features Tamko in a clear bubble house and out in nature.

Tamko had this to say about the song and video in a press release: "'Every Woman' is the thesis of my album so I wanted the visuals to represent transparency and to create a world for this thesis statement to live inside of. It's an ode to all those who feel different and who actively search and fight for space. When I was approached by Cameroonian filmmaker, Lino Asana, I was really, really excited to work with an artist from my country. There was this immediate understanding of one another. So many scenes of this video feel reminiscent of my early life in Cameroon, the chores I would do as a kid, the way we lived simply and humbly. The bubble displayed in this video represents an invitation to find yourself in this world."

Previously the album was titled All the Women in Me and due out September 27, but in August Tamko announced that the album title and release date were both changing. Also, the album's first single was originally titled "Flood Hands" but was then changed simply to "Flood" and another track from the album had a title change from "All the Women" to "Every Woman." The lyrics for both songs were also changed. This was all because a poet wouldn't give Tamko her blessing to reference her work in the songs.

"My original album title and two lyrics were inspired by and referenced poetry by a writer I greatly admire, Nayyirah Waheed," Tamko said in a previous press statement about the changes to her album. "When I learned that she preferred I not quote her words, I made changes out of respect for her wishes."

Vagabon is Vagabon's second album, the follow-up to her 2017-released debut Infinite Worlds, and is her first for Nonesuch. Tamko wrote and produced the entire album herself. "Flood Hands" (or "Flood" now) was one of our Songs of the Week. Then she shared another song from the album, "Water Me Down" (which was one of our Songs of the Week), as well as a stylish video for the song.

In a previous press release Tamko set the scene for where she was at prior to recording the new album: "I was in a pretty tortured headspace when I returned home from touring Infinite Worlds. That album contained some of the first songs I'd ever written, and more people than I could have ever imagined heard it. I was proud to become a full-time musician and recognized how rare of a thing that is, but was also debilitated by the very same fact. Fear overtook me and I couldn't write. I felt stagnant and unsure of what to do next."

Unlike Infinite Worlds, Vagabon has less of a straight up indie rock guitar sound, with more electronic textures. "With this album, I wanted to impress myself," Tamko said in the previous press release. "I wanted to be curious and I wanted to make big leaps as a producer. All I had access to on the road was my computer and Logic, so naturally I started writing songs electronically with what was at hand."

Tamko added: "The drums and vocal forward approach I took on [Vagabon] is drawn from my love for rap and hip-hop production as well as R&B and folk storytelling. That's the music that got me excited about writing again."

4. Wolf Parade: "Against the Day"

This week Wolf Parade returned with a brand new single, "Against the Day." It was shared via a video for the track. It's the band's first new song since their 2017 reunion album Cry Cry Cry. The song is out now via Sub Pop and you can watch the video below. "Against the Day" features alternating vocals between Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug and Scorpion Dagger directed the video.

Read our 2017 interview with Wolf Parade.

Read our review of Cry Cry Cry.

5. Michael Kiwanuka: "Hero"

Michael Kiwanuka is releasing a new album, simply titled KIWANUKA, on November 1 via Interscope. This week he shared another song from the album, "Hero," via a video for the track. "Hero" starts out slow and acoustic before building into a more upbeat number. CC Wade directed the video, which takes place in the '60s during the Civil Rights Movement.  He has also announced some new 2020 tour dates, which you can check out here.

A press release says the song is inspired by some of Kiwanuka's heroes: Fred Hampton, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, JFK, Sam Cooke, John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Tupac and more. 

The press release describes the video in more detail: "The video is based on COINTELPRO, the FBI's covert program of suppressing organizations and public figures, including musicians, who were involved in or supported anti-establishment political activity from the 1950s through to the 70s. Directed by CC Wade, the video shows a tornado of conspiracy surrounding a famous musician's death, set against the backdrop of '60s black liberation movements, FBI corruption, and hippie counter culture." 

Kiwanuka had this to add: "'Hero' is a song about how the gems of this world always seem to die young, and how those who are oppressed often seem to have the most to offer us." 

Previously Kiwanuka shared a lyric video for KIWANUKA's first single, "You Ain't the Problem," which was one of our Songs of the Week.

KIWANUKA is Kiwanuka's third album and the follow-up to 2016's Love & Hate, whose opening track "Cold Little Heart" is also the theme song to the acclaimed HBO show Big Little Lies. As with Love & Hate, Danger Mouse and Inflo produced KIWANUKA, which was recorded in New York, LA, and London. 

Kiwanuka had this to say about the album in a previous press release: "The last album came from an introspective place and felt like therapy, I guess. This one is more about feeling comfortable in who I am and asking what I want to say. Like, how could I be bold and challenge myself and the listener? It is about self-acceptance in a more triumphant rather than melancholy way. It's an album that explores what it means to be a human being today."

Kiwanuka added: "When I first signed a record deal, people would ask me, 'So what are you going to be called?' And I never thought of that; calling myself Johnny Thunders or whatever, like singers from the past. So, on this album it's kind of a defiant thing; I'm engaging with who I am and I'm not going to have an alter ego, or become Sasha Fierce or Ziggy Stardust, even though everyone's telling me I need to be this, that or the other. I can just be Michael Kiwanuka."

6. Little Scream: "One Lost Time"

Little Scream (aka Laurel Sprengelmeyer) is releasing a new album, Speed Queen, on October 25 via Merge. This week she shared another song from the album, "One Lost Time."

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

"On Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving, I wanted to explain why I chose to mention the indigenous territories that Speed Queen was recorded on. I am fortunate enough to live in a community where land acknowledgements have become so common that there is skepticism about their value. Many indigenous people point out that they let settler culture off the hook by offering a means of lip service without action. I take this to heart. There is a difference between truth and reconciliation. And mentioning a truth is far from reconciling it.

"I acknowledge this, and yet I still included mention of these places by name in my album credits. It's a small and imperfect gesture towards truth.

"I know that my record is going to go to many different places. Places like my hometown in the American Midwest where acknowledging the indigenous history of the land isn't commonplace. Places in Europe that don't have the same history of settler culture, and who might not think about the implications of it in North America. Even the act of writing the acknowledgement forced me to sit down and educate myself about the most basic histories of Montreal, the Ottawa region, and Vancouver Island. It got me closer to thinking about the privileges I've had living and working on this land. It didn't get me closer to figuring out what reconciliation might look like. But it did get me closer to knowing I will support it however I can."

Pick up Under the Radar's current print issue (the My Favorite Album Issue) to read Sprengelmeyer's essay on her all-time favorite album.

Previously Sprengelmeyer shared Speed Queen's first single, "Dear Leader," via a lyric video for the protest track (it was one of our Songs if the Week). Then she shared its second single, "Still Life." That was followed by "Disco Ball."

Speed Queen is the follow-up to 2016's Cult Following. The "Dear Leader" lyric video featured cameos from The National, Arcade Fire, Superchunk, Holly Miranda, Leif Vollebekk, Mélissa Laveaux, and more.

7. Matt Berninger: "Walking On a String" (Feat. Phoebe Bridgers)

Matt Berninger of The National and Phoebe Bridgers recently teamed up for the new song, "Walking On a String," which they performed in Netflix's Between Two Ferns: The Movie. This week they shared a studio version of the song via a black & white video featuring them recording it.

Berninger wrote "Walking On a String" in collaboration with his wife, writer Carin Besser, and musician Mike Brewer. The song was recorded at Sound City, CA with Walter Martin (guitar) and Matt Barrick (drums), both formerly of The Walkmen. Bridgers, Tony Berg, and Ethan Gruska all produced the song, which is out now via Dead Oceans. Tom Berninger and Chris Sgroi directed, shot, and edited the music video.

Scott Auckerman directed Between Two Ferns: The Movie, which stars Zach Galifianakis and is a spinoff of his web series Between Two Ferns, in which he conducts awkward interviews with celebrities (including then President Barack Obama). Galifianakis and Auckerman wrote the movie, which also features various celebrities playing themselves, including Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Gal Gadot, Hailee Steinfeld, Keanu Reeves, Bruce Willis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Matthew McConaughey, Brie Larson, Tessa Thompson, Rashida Jones, Jon Hamm, Peter Dinklage, Jason Schwartzman, Adam Scott, David Letterman, and several others. In one scene in the movie Berninger, Bridgers, and their band perform "Walking On a String" in a bar. Galifianakis shows up at the end of the music video.

Berninger also announced his debut solo album today. It's entitled Serpentine Prison and has been produced and arranged by Booker T. Jones. Berninger announced the news on Instagram, accompanied by a photo of him and Jones in the studio. No further details on the album, such as the release date, tracklist, and cover art, have been shared. Nor has any new music from the album been shared. "More about it soon but basically I'm the luckiest man in the universe with lots of brilliant friends who can play instermints," wrote Berninger. "Not worthy!" There's no word on whether or not "Walking On a String" will be featured on Serpentine Prison.

The National released a new album, I Am Easy to Find, back in May via 4AD. It was our Album of the Week and you can stream it here. I Am Easy to Find is accompanied by a 24-minute short film also directed by Mike Mills and starring Oscar-winning Swedish actress Alicia Vikander.

Earlier this year Bridgers teamed up with Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes) as the new band Better Oblivion Community Center and in January they surprise released their self-titled debut album via Dead Oceans. Bridgers released her debut album, Stranger in the Alps, back in September 2017 via Dead Oceans and then released a deluxe digital version in October 2018, also via Dead Oceans. Last year Bridgers also teamed up with fellow singer/songwriters Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus to form supergroup boygenius, whose self-titled debut EP was released in October via Matador.

8. Perfume Genius: "Pop Song"

Perfume Genius (aka Mike Hadreas) released a new album, No Shape, back in May 2017 via Matador, but his latest project is doing the music for the immersive dance project The Sun Still Burns Here and today he shared another song from it, "Pop Song."

Hadreas had this to say about the song in a press release: "I imagined an ecstatic pile of bodies preparing to be consumed by the gods. A joyous communal sacrifice of the physical to spiritually level up. The lyric is like a conjuration spell to be sung when the mountain of bodies settles in position and is held still as an offering." 

Previously Perfume Genius shared the project's "Eye in the Wall." For The Sun Still Burns Here Hadreas has collaborated with choreographer Kate Wallich and Dance Company The YC. It was commissioned by Seattle Theatre Group and Mass MoCA. 

Read our 2017 interview with Perfume Genius on No Shape.

Honorable Mentions:

These three songs almost made the Top 8.

The Chap: "Pea Shore"

JFDR: "Taking a Part of Me"

Caroline Polachek: "Look At Me Now"

Other notable new tracks in the last week include: 

Animal Collective: "Autumn Rites"

Beach Slang: "Bam Rang Rang"

Beck: "Hyperlife" and "Uneventful Days"

Black Lips: "Odelia"

Caroline Says: "Ohio River"

Common Holly: "Crazy Ok"

The Drums: "I Didn't Realize" and "You Lied"

Jorge Elbrecht: "A Mask in the Ash"

Fever Ray: "Falling (Glasser Remix)"

Miya Folick: "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" (Death Cab for Cutie Cover)

Gang Starr: "Bad Name"

Ghetto Sage: "Häagen Dazs"

PJ Harvey: "The Sandman (Demo)" and "The Moth (Demo)"

Loren Kramar: "Walk On By"

Jennifer Vanilla: "Erase the Time"

Lee "Scratch" Perry: "Here Come The Warm Dreads" (Feat. Brian Eno)

 Peter Bjorn and John: "Rusty Nail"

Porches: "rangerover"

Prince: "Feel For You (Demo)"

Atticus Ross & Claudia Sarne: "Shine On" (Feat. Satomi Matsuzaki)

Sudan Archives: "Glorious"

Teebs: "Black Dove" (Feat. Sudan Archives)

Upset: "Tried & True"

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