12 Best Songs of the Week: Beth Gibbons, Caroline Polachek and Weyes Blood, Yard Act, and More | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, February 28th, 2024  

12 Best Songs of the Week: Beth Gibbons, Caroline Polachek and Weyes Blood, Yard Act, and More

Plus Amen Dunes, Mannequin Pussy, A. Savage, Laetitia Sadier, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Feb 09, 2024
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Welcome to the fifth Songs of the Week of 2024. This week Andy Von Pip, Mark Moody, Matt the Raven, Scott Dransfield, and Stephen Humphries all helped me decide what should make the list. We settled on a Top 12 this week, narrowed down from the 20 songs we seriously considered.

In the past week or so we posted interviews with Slowdive, Eaves Wilder, Heather Woods Broderick, Birthmark, Slow Pulp, Spiritualized, Mutual Benefit, and others.

In the last week we reviewed some albums.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 12 best the last week had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. Beth Gibbons: “Floating on a Moment”

This week, Beth Gibbons of Portishead announced her debut solo album, Lives Outgrown, and shared its first single, “Floating on a Moment,” via a music video. She also announced some tour dates. Lives Outgrown is due out May 17 via Domino. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the tour dates, here.

Portishead’s last album was 2008’s Third. In 2002 Gibbons teamed up with Rustin Man (aka Talk Talk’s Paul Webb) for the collaborative record Out of Season. In 2014 Gibbons teamed up with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki, to perform Henryk Górecki’s acclaimed 1977 symphony, Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs). An album and film documenting the performance, simply titled Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), was released in 2019. In 2022, Gibbons collaborated with Kendrick Lamar on the song “Mother I Sober,” from his Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers album.

Despite her decades-long career, Lives Outgrown is her first true solo album. Gibbons produced the album with James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Depeche Mode, The Last Dinner Party), with additional production by Lee Harris (Talk Talk).

The album was inspired by a decade of change, as she entered middle age and the vitality and hope of youth started to fade. As loved ones started to pass away much more regularly than when she was younger.

“I realized what life was like with no hope,” says Gibbons in a press release. “And that was a sadness I’d never felt. Before, I had the ability to change my future, but when you’re up against your body, you can’t make it do something it doesn’t want to do.”

Topics on the album include motherhood, anxiety, menopause, and mortality.

“People started dying,” Gibbons says. “When you’re young, you never know the endings, you don’t know how it’s going to pan out. You think: ‘We’re going to get beyond this. It’s going to get better.’ Some endings are hard to digest.”

Gibbons adds, more hopefully: “Now I’ve come out of the other end, I just think, you’ve got to be brave.”

David Bowie collaborator Tony Oursler directed the “Floating on a Moment” video and had this to say about it: “When I first heard ‘Floating on a Moment’ it literally transported me from place to place, filling me with kaleidoscopic emotions and visions. If possible, I wanted to capture that psychic liquid in this video. Beth’s work is so powerful it can lead us through life’s forests and fires, revealing glimpses of possible futures. With a voice and music like that I knew we had to make images which are open, somehow speculative.”

Read our rave review of Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs). By Mark Redfern

2. Caroline Polachek and Weyes Blood: “Butterfly Net”

This week, Caroline Polachek has shared a new version of “Butterfly Net” that features guest vocals from Weyes Blood (aka Natalie Mering). The original version of the song was found on Polachek’s 2023 album, Desire, I Want to Turn Into You, and the new version will be featured on a deluxe edition of that album, titled Desire, I Want to Turn Into You: Everasking Edition. It is due out February 14 via Perpetual Novice/The Orchard.

Technically it’s not a brand new song, so you could argue that “Butterfly Net” isn’t eligible for this week’s list, but Weyes Blood adds enough to the track that we made an exception.

Desire, I Want to Turn Into You: Everasking Edition is said to also feature “Dang,” a new song she shared last October that she also performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert with the aid of a slide show. “Dang” was one of our Songs of the Week.

Polachek is formerly of Chairlift. Desire, I Want to Turn Into You was #3 on our Top 100 Albums of 2023 list.

Read our rave 9/10 review of Desire, I Want to Turn Into You.

Polachek’s previous album, Pang, came out in 2019.

Weyes Blood released a new album, And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow, in 2022 via Sub Pop. We gave And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow a rave 9/10 review and the album was #2 on our Top 100 Albums of 2022 list.

Read our My Favorite Album Issue interview with Weyes Blood on her all-time favorite album.

Read our 20th Anniversary Issue cover story interview with Weyes Blood.

Weyes Blood is also on the cover of Issue 71, which is available for purchase now. By Mark Redfern

3. Yard Act: “When the Laughter Stops” (Feat. Katy J Pearson)

British post-punk band Yard Act are releasing a new album, Where’s My Utopia?, on March 1 via Republic. Today they shared the album’s fifth single, “When the Laughter Stops,” via a music video. The song features Katy J Pearson and the video features actor David Thewlis (Naked, Wonder Woman, and various Harry Potter movies). He previously appeared in the Yard Act video for “100% Endurance,” from their first album.

Yard Act’s frontman James Smith had this to say about the song in a press release: “The sentiment of the lyrics gets to the heart of Where’s My Utopia? almost immediately, and finds the cynicism first spawned from the same circumstance I found myself in during ‘Dream Job’ now giving way to a more genuine sliver of misery. Fortunately—spoiler alert—I’ve managed to find a way out of this pit, for the time being.

“Whilst the lyrics came quick, musically it went through the wringer. As is often the case when Ryan presents a bass line, harmonically it’s pretty ambiguous and we all hear things differently. I was hearing the song in a pretty bluesy, minor key, whilst Sam [guitarist] heard a very saccharine and sweet major key tune. The song pedalled back and forth, we talked about ‘Lovefool’ by The Cardigans quite a lot if I remember correctly. During a recording session in Kettering with Russ Russell at Parlour Studios in December 2022, I was fucking about on a Roland Juno with the arpeggiator whirring away over the end. Ryan flipped the rate so it went half time and all of a sudden the eeriness of the track made sense; it sounded like some John Carpenter doomsday clock countdown or something. Sam reworked the guitars to sound like ‘High Voltage’ by Electric Six and we stripped away the funkier percussion and made the rhythm more aggressive, like ‘Seven Nation Army.’ Katy came to meet us at Metropolis in London to dub the chorus vocals and it gave the whole track a huge lift I’ll never have the voice for. She’s fantastic. I asked David Thewlis to recite Macbeth over the end for obvious reasons. The results speak for themselves!”

Regular collaborator James Slater had this to say about directing the song’s video: “This video continues the journey of The Visitor and follows on from ‘Petroleum,’ in which we saw her get dragged off by a couple of hitmen. ‘When the Laughter Stops’ reveals her fate… a prison full of old circus performers. Security is admittedly a little loose so all may not be lost. The videos we’ve made have all been part of a wider Yard Act cinematic universe and we’re in the process of turning the whole thing into a movie. Watch this space.”

Where’s My Utopia? is Yard Act’s second album, the follow-up to their acclaimed Mercury Prize-nominated debut album, 2022’s The Overload.

Where’s My Utopia? includes “The Trench Coat Museum,” a new eight-minute song the band shared in July that landed at #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then when the album was announced they shared its second single, “Dream Job,” also via a music video (and also one of our Songs of the Week). Then they shared its third single, “Petroleum,” via a music video that stars British-based Australian comedian/actress Rose Matafeo (creator/star of Max’s acclaimed Starstruck). The album’s fourth single, “We Make Hits,” was again shared via a music video and also made our Songs of the Week list.

Where’s My Utopia? is less post-punk and more finds the band embracing an upbeat dance-rock vibe.

“The main reason that ‘post-punk’ was the vehicle for album one was because it was really affordable to do, but we always liked so much other music and this time we’ve had the confidence to embrace it,” Smith explains in a press release.

The press release lists Fela Kuti, Ennio Moricone, and Spiller’s 2000-released single “Groovejet” as influences on the new album. Remi Kabaka Jr. of Gorillaz co-produced the album with Yard Act. The band also features bassist Ryan Needham, guitarist Sam Shjipstone, and drummer Jay Russell.

For the new album, Smith says he has reached deeper inside himself for lyrical inspiration, relying less on the character studies that populated the songs on The Overload. “You can commit to the idea that we’re just animals who eat and fuck and then we die, and that’s fine,” he says. “But for me, creativity always seems to be the best way of articulating the absolute minefield of what human existence is.”

Read our print magazine interview with Yard Act on The Overload.

Read our rave 9/10 review of The Overload.

Katy J Pearson’s last album, Sound of the Morning, came out in 2022 via Heavenly.

Read our 2022 interview with Pearson on Sound of the Morning. By Mark Redfern

4. Amen Dunes: “Purple Land”

This week, Amen Dunes (aka Damon McMahon) announced a new album, Death Jokes, and shared its first single, “Purple Land,” via a music video. He’s also announced some new tour dates. Death Jokes is due out May 10 via Sub Pop, his first album for the label. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, as well as the tour dates, here.

Death Jokes follows Amen Dunes’ acclaimed 2018 album, Freedom, which was released on Scared Bones, and his 2021 single, “Feel Nothing,” which featured British duo Sleaford Mods and was his first single for Sub Pop.

Death Jokes went through a long birthing process, with work starting in 2019. McMahon was beset by health issues in 2020, including COVID-19, and lost 30 pounds. In recent years his first child was born and he moved cross country from Los Angeles to Woodstock, NY. McMahon also struggled to find collaborators who could line up with his vision for the album. Eventually he ended up working with jazz bassist Sam Wilkes and producers Christoffer Berg (Fever Ray) and Kwake Bass (Tirzah, Dean Blunt), as well as doing sessions with Panoram and Money Mark. The final album includes samples sourced from YouTube videos, including standup routines from Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor.

Of the album’s first single, McMahon says in a press release: “‘Purple Land’ is one of the album’s interstitial character portraits: first of a child, then the narrator, and then of an empowered figure as they all navigate and find liberation from the disconnection and disenchantment of an uncertain world. It begins first as a song to my daughter about life on earth, offering platitudes, warnings, and guidance through its various stages, until it becomes a reflection on the narrator’s own uncertainties as he moves through the world, ending finally with a character Rhea Anne who exemplifies liberation from it all in a moment of simple reckless freedom, as the beat drops in the final minute of the song.”

Read our 2018 interview with Amen Dunes on Freedom. By Mark Redfern

5. Mannequin Pussy: “Nothing Like”

Philadelphia-based indie punk band Mannequin Pussy are releasing a new album, I Got Heaven, on March 1 via Epitaph. This week they shared its fourth single, “Nothing Like,” via a music video. It is the final pre-release single from the album. AI artist and director Connor Clarke created the video, with creative direction by Anthony Miralles and Mason Mercer of Slips Studios. It references fairy tales and old Disney animated movies.

The band’s Marisa Dabice had this to say about the new song in a press release: “‘Nothing Like’ is pure fantasy. Originally inspired by a stoned out night six years ago spent watching an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in which Buffy is forced to kill her lover, Angel, before he destroys the world. The song existed in fragments until it finally met its final form last year. Young love is so often all consuming, dangerous, and heightened to mythological proportions. ‘Nothing Like’ sought to mix the balance of both the light feelings of new love and the absolute depths that obsession can bring you to.”

The band shared the album’s title track, “I Got Heaven,” in September via a music video. It was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. When the album was announced they shared its second single, “I Don’t Know You,” via a music video. It was also #1 on our Songs of the Week. Then they shared its third single, “Sometimes,” via a music video. “Sometimes” was also one of our Songs of the Week.

Mannequin Pussy is Colins “Bear” Regisford, Kaleen Reading, Maxine Steen, and Marisa Dabice. John Congleton produced the new album.

Of releasing an album in such trying times, Dabice says: “There’s just so much constantly going on that feels intentionally evil that trying to make something beautiful feels like a radical act. The ethos of this band has always been to bring people together.”

She adds: ”We’re supposed to be living in the freest era ever so what it means to be a young person in this society is the freedom to challenge these systems that have been put on to us. It makes sense to ask, what ultimately am I living for? What is it that makes me want to live?”

Mannequin Pussy’s last album, Patience, came out in 2019 on Epitaph. In 2021 they released the Perfect EP. By Mark Redfern

6. A. Savage: “Black Holes, The Stars and You”

A. Savage (aka Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts) released a new album, Several Songs About Fire, last October via Rough Trade. This week he shared a brand new song, “Black Holes, The Stars and You,” not found on that album. John Parish produced the song.

Savage had this to say about the song in a press release: “I love the groove that John Parish and Dylan Hadley lay down here, using various Latin percussion instruments. It’s a song that I’d been working on for a few years, that had way too many parts and lyrics, which John really helped me sculpt down into what it is now, bless him. The song is about the different ways people see each other, and how the smaller we feel the bigger others seem. Sometimes you find yourself orbiting someone who has no idea of their own magnitude. Sometimes you feel like they are examining you in a Petri dish, their gaze a magnified eye in the sky.”

Several Songs About Fire includes “Thanksgiving Prayer,” a new song Savage shared in July via a music video. “Thanksgiving Prayer” was one of our Songs of the Week. When the album was announced, Savage shared its second single, “Elvis in the Army,” via a music video. “Elvis in the Army” was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then he shared the album’s third single, “David’s Dead,” in which he reminisces about an earlier time and his old neighborhood (it was also one of our Songs of the Week).

The album features Jack Cooper (Modern Nature, Ultimate Painting), Cate Le Bon, saxophonist Euan Hinshelwood (Cate Le Bon’s band), drummer Dylan Hadley (Kamikaze Palm Tree, White Fence), and violinist Magdalena McLean (caroline).

Savage had this to say about the new album in a previous press release: “I imagine myself playing these songs in a small club that is slowly burning…. Fire is something you have to escape from, and in a way this album is about escaping from something. This album is a burning building, and these songs are things I’d leave behind to save myself.”

A Savage’s previous solo album was 2017’s Thawing Dawn.

Check out our review of Thawing Dawn. By Mark Redfern

7. Laetitia Sadier: “Who + What”

Stereolab vocalist Laetitia Sadier is releasing a new solo album, Rooting For Love, on February 23 via Drag City. This week she shared another new song from it, album opener “Who + What.”

A press release describes the song in more detail: “‘Who + What’ is meant as nothing less than transformational sonic balm to aid the evolution of Earth’s traumatized civilizations. The song is a gently percolating Q&A led by Laetitia’s implacable vocal presence, as she and an assembly of women and men dubbed The Choir create blossoming vocal arrangements borne aloft on a cinematic sweep of sound. The regular reappearance of The Choir throughout Rooting For Love enriches the harmonic fields in which Laetitia plays, while reminding us that this music speaks for a critical mass in crisis.”

Rooting For Love is the follow-up to Find Me Finding You, which was released under the name Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble in 2017 via Drag City. The new album includes, “New Moon,” a new song shared in 2021 (at the time the new album was teased for a 2022 release). “New Moon” was one of our Songs of the Week. When the album was announced in November, Sadier shared the song “Une Autre Attente,” via a music video. It was also one of our Songs of the Week. Then shared another new song from it, the lush “Panser L’inacceptable,” via a music video. “Panser L’inacceptable” was again one of our Songs of the Week.

The album features bassist Xavi Muñoz, among other players. Hannes Plattemier and Emma Mario took turns mixing the tracks on Rooting For Love.

In 2021, Sadier guested on Jarvis Cocker’s cover of Dalida’s 1973 duet with Alain Delon, “Paroles, Paroles.” It was featured on Cocker’s album, Chansons D’Ennui Tip-Top, which was a companion piece to Wes Anderson’s film, The French Dispatch.

Also read our 2014 interview with Sadier or our 2010 interview where Sadier and Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox interviewed each other. By Mark Redfern

8. total tommy: “Microdose”

This week, Australia’s total tommy (aka Jess Holt) released her debut single, “Microdose.” It’s a propulsive rush of lo-fi indie grunge, a sound as raw and real as a rainy Sydney night.

Born from a stormy evening spent in her bedroom studio, “Microdose” is driven by the dizzying intensity of an all-consuming crush. It’s a sonic journey through the highs and lows of desire, fueled by Mark Zito and Dan Carey’s (Wet Leg, Fontaines DC) production magic.

The accompanying music video captures a grimy, nicotine-stained haze that perfectly frames total tommy’s aesthetic.

Holt had this to say in a press release: “Total tommy started when I moved cities, came out, and spent time properly getting to know myself. Parts of my brain got unlocked that I’d never been able to tap into before, and with that I quickly got to learn a lot about who I was. I partied so much with new queer friends, fell in love, made mistakes, and wrote music to make sense of it all.”

Russell Crank of [PIAS] adds: “I knew straight away Jess was someone we had to work with. She’s got an incredible knack for writing these timeless emotive anthems that make me feel really, really good. That’s a beautiful thing and I don’t need much more. I bounce down the road when I’ve got total tommy on.” By Andy Von Pip

9. Madi Diaz: “For Months Now”

Nashville-based singer/songwriter Madi Diaz released a new album, Weird Faith, today via ANTI-. Read our review of the album here. There’s one track from the album we felt was worthy of this week’s Songs of the Week list, “For Months Now,” in which Diaz chronicles the slow dissolution of a relationship. “I’ve been leaving you for months now,” she sings. “I just haven’t found a way out.”

Diaz’s previous album, History of a Feeling, was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021. Read our interview with Diaz on the album. By Mark Redfern

10. The Decemberists: “Burial Ground” (Feat. James Mercer)

This week, The Decemberists shared their first new song in six years, “Burial Ground.” James Mercer of The Shins provides backing vocals on the song. They also announced some new North American tour dates for this spring and summer. Ratboys will be the opener on almost all the dates. Check out the tour dates here.

“‘Burial Ground’ is in that time-honored pop song tradition, a paean to hanging out in graveyards,” says Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy in a press release. “The melody hook came to me in a dream and I hummed it into my phone on waking. Most dream-songs are bad; this was the exception.”

The Oregon-based band also features bassist Nate Query, keyboardist Jenny Conlee, guitarist Chris Funk, and drummer John Moen. The band’s last album was 2018’s I’ll Be Your Girl.

Read our interview with Meloy on I’ll Be Your Girl.

11. The Lemon Twigs: “They Don’t Know How to Fall in Place”

This week, The Lemon Twigs (aka brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario) officially announced a new album, A Dream is All We Know, and shared a new song from it, “They Don’t Know How to Fall in Place,” via a music video. A Dream is All We Know is due out May 3 via Captured Tracks. Ambar Navarro directed the video for the new single.

A Dream is All We Know includes “My Golden Years,” a new song they shared in January via a music video. Last week, the band performed it on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, which is when they first announced the new album. Watch the performance below.

A Dream is All We Know is the quick follow-up tp Everything Harmony, which came out last May via Captured Tracks and was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2023.

The D’Addario brothers mixed and mastered the album themselves, recording it on period-specific equipment.

The band previously released 2020’s Songs For the General Public (read our review of it here), 2018’s concept musical Go to School, and their 2016-released debut album, Do Hollywood.

Read our 2016 interview with The Lemon Twigs in our Pleased to Meet You section. By Mark Redfern

12. Iron & Wine: “You Never Know”

Iron & Wine (aka Sam Beam) has announced a new album, Light Verse, and shared its first single, “You Never Know.” He’s also announced some tour dates. Light Verse is due out April 26 via Sub Pop. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork, followed by the tour dates, here.

Fiona Apple guests on the album’s “All in Good Time,” which is a duet with Beam. The album also features Tyler Chester (keyboards), Sebastian Steinberg (bass), David Garza (guitar), Griffin Goldsmith, Beth Goodfellow, Kyle Crane (all drums/percussion) and Paul Cartwright (strings). Four songs feature a 24-piece orchestra.

Beam self-produced the album, which was mixed and engineered by Dave Way at Waystation and Silent Zoo Studios in Los Angeles. It follows 2017’s Beast Epic and 2018’s Weed Garden EP.

Read our 2017 interview with Iron & Wine on Beast Epic.

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 12.

Astral Bakers: “Why”

The Mortal Prophets: “Tom Waits in Drag”

Mount Kimbie: “Fishbrain”

Pissed Jeans: “Sixty-Two Thousand Dollars in Debt”

Maggie Rogers: “Don’t Forget Me”

Rosali: “On Tonight”

Tomato Flower: “Temple of the Mind”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 12 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

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