13 Best Songs of the Week: Caroline Rose, boygenius, Sleaford Mods, The WAEVE, and More | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, May 23rd, 2024  

13 Best Songs of the Week: Caroline Rose, boygenius, Sleaford Mods, The WAEVE, and More

Plus The National, Wednesday, Braids, Murray A. Lightburn, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks

Jan 20, 2023 Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the third Songs of the Week of 2023. It was a stacked week for new songs and album announcements. Boygenius alone released three songs to consider! There were enough tracks we liked that we settled on a super-sized Top 13 this week.

Don’t forget to check out our Top 100 Albums of 2022 list.

In the past week or so we posted interviews with Amber Arcades and The Delgados.

In the last week we reviewed some albums.

Remember that our current print issue, the My Favorite Movie Issue, is out now.

To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 13 best the last week had to offer, followed by some honorable mentions. Check out the full list below.

1. Caroline Rose: “Miami”

Yesterday, Caroline Rose announced a new album, The Art of Forgetting, and shared a new song from it, “Miami,” via a music video. The Art of Forgetting is due out March 24 via New West. Sam Bennett directed the “Miami” video, which tells a tale in reverse. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as Rose’s upcoming tour dates, here.

Back in October, Rose shared the album’s first single, “Love / Lover / Friend,” which was #2 on our Songs of the Week list.

Rose (who uses they/them pronouns) released their last album, Superstar, in 2020. Listen to our Under the Radar podcast interview with Rose, where the singer discusses that album, here.

Rose is known for their keen sense humor, with Superstar populated by amusing tales. The Art of Forgetting, however, finds the singer/songwriter channeling rawer emotions. The tone-shift was inspired in part by a difficult breakup, as well as voicemails Rose was getting from their grandmother, “who was clearly losing her mind,” Rose says in a press release.

“It got me thinking about all the different ways memory shows up throughout our lives,” Rose adds. “It can feel like a curse or be wielded as a tool.”

Rose thus turned to instruments that, as the press release puts it, “naturally changed or decayed over time: wooden and string instruments, voices, tape, and granular synthesis.” Recording began in Rose’s home studio. “From there it was about a year of experimenting with those recordings both at home and in a couple other studios—chopping them up into loops and smears, creating modular percussion, and ultimately building any additional parts around them,” says Rose.

Of “Miami,” Rose says: “I’m not one to shy away from drama, and so this was a perfect opportunity to really bring out every ounce of desperation and anger and all those confusing emotions that happen after a big heartbreak.”

In the “Miami” video Rose plays a version of themself and stars alongside Massima Bell. The video was filmed at the Austin Motel, Sagebrush, and on a sound stage in Austin. “For the ‘Miami’ video, I was mainly focused on what would be the most effective way to move people in regards to the two characters and how they interact,” says Rose. “Because this is a sort of loose recreation of some things in my life it was important to me to interpret the feeling of that time as accurately as we could within four minutes’ time. Sam, who is a dear friend of mine and brilliant director, thought a great way to capture that fever-dream-like quality was to create a lot of movement with a continuous shot. He showed me different lenses and cameras to use and we ultimately went with an anamorphic, Old Hollywood-esque feel, which gives it that nostalgia thinking back on a time past.”

2. boygenius: “$20”

On Wednesday, boygenius, the supergroup featuring Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers, announced their debut full-length album, the record, and shared three new songs from it: “$20,” “Emily I’m Sorry,” and “True Blue.” There was much debate over which of the three songs we liked best, with a strong case made for “True Blue.” We’ve settled on “$20,” which is led by Baker and the more rocking of the three tracks. “True Blue” appears further below and Phoebe, we’re sorry, but “Emily I’m Sorry” makes the honorable mentions list.

The record is due out March 31 via Interscope. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

Boygenius formed in 2018 and released their self-titled debut EP the same year via Matador. The trio self-produced the record, which was recorded at Shangri-la Studios in Malibu, California. In June 2020, a week after she released her acclaimed sophomore album Punisher, Bridgers sent the demo for “Emily I’m Sorry” to Baker and Dacus and asked if boygenius could record music again. Baker then created a Google Drive folder called “dare I say it?” and the three songwriters began adding potential songs to it. Then after all three were vaccinated, the trio got together in person in April 2021 to truly begin writing the album. The band then recorded the record at Shangri-la in January 2022 over the course of a month, working for 10 hours every day.

It was recently announced that boygenius will be playing Coachella in April, which sparked speculation that new music from the trio might be on the way.

Punisher landed Bridges on the cover of our print magazine and topped our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list.

Dacus’ latest album, Home Video, came out in 2021 via Matador (stream it here). It was high up on our Top 100 Albums of 2021 list. In 2021, we posted our in-depth Under the Radar Podcast interview with Dacus on the album (listen to it here). Also read our 2021 Protest Issue interview with Dacus.

Baker’s last album, Little Oblivions, also came out in 2021 via Matador and was also one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021. Read our Protest Issue interview with Baker, where she discusses the album, here. Also listen to our Under the Radar podcast interview with Baker here.

3. Sleaford Mods: “UK GRIM”

On Tuesday, British punk duo Sleaford Mods (Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn) announced a new album, UK GRIM, and shared its first single, title track “UK GRIM,” via a music video. They have also announced some U.S. tour dates. UK GRIM is due out March 10 via Rough Trade. Cold War Steve directed the “UK GRIM” video, which satirizes the current state of politics, both in England and the rest of the world. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

UK GRIM is the follow-up to 2021’s Spare Ribs. The duo began working on the album in 2021 during COVID lockdowns. Progress continued at the band’s regular work space (JT Soars) and concluded at Fearn’s home. A press release says “COVID ennui, life online, and experience of how the music industry works all folded into the album” and that “this could still be the angriest Sleaford Mods record yet.”

The album features Dry Cleaning’s Florence Shaw on “Force 10 From Navarone” (which shares its name with a 1978 World War II movie). “She really does remind me of the early stuff that I used to do, just the way she uses one word to convey a whole story,” gushes Williamson about Shaw.

Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction also guest on the album’s “So Trendy,” a song Williamson says he’s “very wary of… a really weird track.”

Summing up the album and Sleaford Mods’ approach to art, Fearn says: “If there’s stuff there, we’ll keep going. It’s like what Andy Warhol said—just make it, don’t overthink it. Then you’ll make those connections happen.”

Listen to our interview with Sleaford Mods in a 2021 episode of our podcast.

4. The WAEVE: “Over and Over”

The WAEVE—a new duo consisting of Rose Elinor Dougall and Blur guitarist Graham Coxon—are releasing their self-titled debut album on February 3 via Transgressive. Yesterday they shared the album’s fourth single, “Over and Over,” which is built on dual vocals and harmonies from Dougall and Coxon.

Previously The WAEVE shared the album’s first single, “Can I Call You,” via a video for it. “Can I Call You” was #1 on our Songs of the Week list. Then they shared the album’s second single, the atmospheric and epic slow-burner “Drowning,” which was also #1 on our Songs of the Week list. The album’s third single, “Kill Me Again,” was shared via a music video and also one of our Songs of the Week.

James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Florence & The Machine, Foals, HAIM) produced The WAEVE, which was recorded earlier this year. Dougall and Coxon started trading messages during lockdown, around Christmas 2020, and the project grew from there.

Many of the tracks feature Coxon on saxophone, one of the first instruments he picked up when he initially became a musician. Reference points for the album in the press release include: Sandy Denny, John & Beverly Martyn, Kevin Ayers, and Van der Graaf Generator.

A previous press release describes the band’s sound in more detail: “A liquid meeting of musical minds and talents. A powerful elixir of cinematic British folk-rock, post-punk, organic songwriting and freefall jamming. The WAEVE strikes that magical English folk-rock alchemy of earth and ether. Heaviness and weightlessness. Darkness and light.”

The project was announced in April and in May they shared their debut single, “Something Pretty,” which made it to #1 on our Songs of the Week list and actually isn’t featured on the album. Previously they also shared a trailer for the band.

Dougall is one of the artists on the cover of our special 20th Anniversary print issue, where you can read an exclusive interview with her.

Dougall released her last solo album, A New Illusion, in April 2019 via Vermillion (it was our Album of the Week and one of our Top 100 Albums of 2019).

Read our interview with Dougall on A New Illusion.

Also read our interview with Dougall on her all-time favorite album.

Plus read our review of A New Illusion.

Coxon’s last solo album was 2012’s A+E, but he’s kept busy with soundtrack work, including releasing two albums of songs and score from the acclaimed TV show The End of the F***ing World and his 2021 score to the comic book Superstate. His memoir, Verse, Chorus, Monster!, will get a U.S. release on February 21 via Faber Books.

5. The National: “Tropic Morning News”

On Wednesday, The National announced a new album, First Two Pages of Frankenstein, that features Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers, and Sufjans Stevens, and shared its first single, “Tropic Morning News.” They have also announced some tour dates. First Two Pages of Frankenstein is due out April 28 via 4AD. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

The National’s previous album, I Am Easy to Find, came out in 2019 via 4AD. Last year the band shared a new single, “Weird Goodbyes,” which was a collaboration with Bon Iver (the project led by Justin Vernon) but is not featured on the new album.

In a press release, lead singer Matt Berninger says that after I Am Easy to Find he found himself in “a very dark spot where I couldn’t come up with lyrics or melodies at all. Even though we’d always been anxious whenever we were working on a record, this was the first time it ever felt like maybe things really had come to an end.”

The National’s guitarist/pianist Bryce Dessner says that the band “managed to come back together and approach everything from a different angle, and because of that we arrived at what feels like a new era for the band.”

The band also features Bryce’s brother Aaron Dessner (guitar/piano/bass), as well as brothers Scott Devendorf (bass, guitar) and Bryan Devendorf (drums).

“Tropic Morning News” was partly recorded live in Hamburg. “When Matt came in with that song in the depths of his depression, it felt like a turning point for us,” says Aaron Dessner. “It’s almost Dylan-esque in its lyrics and it’s so much fun to play; everything suddenly felt like it was coming alive again.”

Berninger co-wrote the song with his wife Carin Besser and the press release says it “takes its title from a phrase Besser invented to describe the regrettably routine practice of doomscrolling.”

Berninger adds: “The idea of referring to the darkness of the news in such a light way unlocked something in me. It became a song about having a hard time expressing yourself, and trying to connect with someone when the noise of the world is drowning out any potential for conversation.”

Summing up First Two Pages of Frankenstein as a whole, Aaron Dessner says: “To me the power of this record has to do with the intentionality and structure of the music meeting with a lot of accidental magic.”

6. Wednesday: “Chosen to Deserve”

On Wednesday (fittingly), Asheville rock band Wednesday announced a new album, Rat Saw God, and shared a new song from it, “Chosen to Deserve,” via a music video. They also announced some tour dates. Rat Saw God is due out April 7 via Dead Oceans (their first for the label). Spencer Kelly directed the “Chosen to Deserve” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

Singer Karly Hartzman had this to say about the new single in a press release: “‘Chosen to Deserve’ is a writing exercise I gave myself to try to recreate the iconic song by Drive-By Truckers ‘Let There Be Rock’ but with my own experiences from growing up and fucking around and getting into stupid shit. The video directed by Spencer Kelly shows the setting of my upbringing and antics: my parents’ neighborhood in Greensboro, NC and Lake Myers RV Resort.”

The band also features MJ Lenderman, Alan Miller, and Xandy Chelmis.

Back in October, Wednesday shared the album’s eight-and-a-half minute long “Bull Believer,” in addition to announcing that they had signed to Dead Oceans.

In 2022, Wednesday released the covers album Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling ‘em Up. Read our interview with the band on the album here. The band’s last album of original songs was 2021’s Twin Plagues. Wednesday wrote Rat Saw God in the months soon after following Twin Plagues’ completion. They recorded at Asheville’s Drop of Sun studio over the course of a week.

“I really jumped that hurdle with Twin Plagues where I was not worrying at all really about being vulnerable—I was finally comfortable with it, and I really wanna stay in that zone,” says Hartzman.

The songs on Rat Saw God tackle everyday life, rather than big issues. “Everyone’s story is worthy,” says Hartzman. “Literally every life story is worth writing down, because people are so fascinating.”

7. Braids: “Evolution”

On Wednesday, Montreal experimental pop trio Braids announced a new album, Euphoric Recall, and shared a new song from it, “Evolution,” via a music video. Euphoric Recall is due out April 28 via Secret City. Nima Navab directed the “Evolution” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover artwork here.

Singer/guitarist Raphaelle Standell-Preston had this to say about the new single in a press release: “Evolution in and of itself is a patient act. Our pursuit of the individual self, which comprises all realms of human emotion, is sweetened with the intention and act of patience from ourselves, from those that we love and those who love us.”

The press release describes the new album in greater detail: “A freer and wholly anew effort, their fifth studio album finds the trio abandoning strategy, burning it down, and realizing their love record. Love, all of it; the unbound bliss, the budding impulses, and the messy imperfections, a supernova swirled up in a suite of bold, melodic, symphonic pop songs surrendered to the present.”

Standell-Preston adds: “How you cultivate your heart space is extremely important to the outcome of what you are pursuing. I think that when we are operating from a place of safety and feeling loved and have intentions of loving, we can access really interesting places.”

The band wrote, recorded, self-produced, and mixed Euphoric Recall at Studio Toute Garnie, their Montréal studio. The band also features Austin Tufts and Taylor Smith.

Last August, the band shared the album’s first single, “Retriever,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.

The band’s last album, Shadow Offering, came out in 2020 on Secret City and made it to #24 on our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list.

Read our Self-Portrait interview with the band.

8. Murray A. Lightburn: “Dumpster Gold”

Yesterday, Murray A. Lightburn, frontman of Montreal’s The Dears, announced a new solo album, Once Upon a Time in Montreal, and shared its first single, “Dumpster Gold,” via a music video. Once Upon a Time in Montreal is due out March 31 via Dangerbird. Jean-Marc Abela directed the “Dumpster Gold” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as Lightburn’s upcoming tour dates, here.

Once Upon a Time in Montreal is inspired by the 2020 death of Lightburn’s father, who was previously a jazz saxophonist before finding religion. Lightburn’s father was originally from Belize and moved to Montreal to reconnect with his childhood sweetheart. Lightburn’s parents were married for 56 years, until his father passed away in April 2020 in a Quebec nursing home (he had been living with Alzheimer’s for a while).

Lightburn had this to say about “Dumpster Gold” in a press release: “About a year or so after my old man passed, my mom called and said, ‘Murray, I’ve made a big decision: I’m selling the house.’ She’d been there for 50 years. We were the only family that ever lived in it, one of many identical houses in a section of Brossard, Quebec. On our way out, we sifted through everything; most of it was going to the dump. There were many worthless treasures that were meaningful only to us. A couple of things now sit around my house. My father wasn’t an expressive man to me. I am left with these fragments to piece together a connection to him.”

Lightburn says that his father was “almost a complete stranger” to him. “I could almost count the conversations we had, and none of them were very meaningful,” he says. “I had to deduce that our happy moments were listening to Expos games together. I never knew how he felt about my career or the things I’d achieved—all of which I got from him.”

Howard Bilerman (Leonard Cohen, The Weather Station, Godspeed You! Black Emperor) produced Once Upon a Time in Montreal, which a press release says finds Lightburn in “full crooner mode, distilling the passion and intensity of The Dears into gentle arrangements that feature an orchestral section, drawing on late-’60s, early-’70s folk/jazz/pop: Dionne Warwick, Nick Drake, Bill Withers, Serge Gainsbourg, Al Green, etc. While the influences might be obvious, the end result is singular and without peer.”

Once Upon a Time in Montreal features Dears drummer Jeff Luciani and some Montreal jazz players, chief among them is Frank Lozano. Lightburn says Lozano’s sax solo on the title track would especially please his late father. “I knew it was a 400-foot home run,” says Lightburn on his reaction upon hearing the solo. “I knew it was something that would hold. I knew also at that moment how much my dad would love this record. Even if he never told me, I know that it would be on repeat in his car if he was still with us and driving around. That was my motivation—to make something I know he would love. It’s not indie rock, you know?”

Lightburn’s previous solo album, Hear Me Out, came out in 2019 via Dangerbird. The Dears’ last album, Lovers Rock, came out in 2020 via Dangerbird. The band are led by Lightburn and his wife Natalia Yanchak.

9. Amber Arcades: “True Love”

Amber Arcades, the project of Dutch musician Annelotte de Graaf, is releasing a new album, Barefoot on Diamond Road, on February 10 via Fire. On Tuesday, she shared its third single, “True Love.” Check out Amber Arcades’ upcoming tour dates here.

In a press release, de Graaf had this to say about the new song: “The song is loosely about a weekend trip I took with my partner when we had been dating for a couple of months. That weekend everything just clicked for me and I think I fully realized then that I wanted to go for this person. That realization is so wonderful and scary at the same time! We put so much pressure on ourselves with regards to romantic love and all our wants and needs that we want it to fulfill. I also strongly realized that weekend though that the things I value in a relationship have changed through the years, what’s important is more clear and things are simpler now in that way.”

Upon announcement of the new album in October, de Graaf shared the song “Just Like Me,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. Then in December she shared the album’s second single, “Odd to Even,” which also made our Songs of the Week list.

De Graaf released her previous album, European Heartbreak, in 2018 via Heavenly.

Read our 2016 interview with Amber Arcades and our 2016 Artist Survey interview with her.

10. Arlo Parks: “Weightless”

On Wednesday, London-based singer Arlo Parks announced a new album, My Soft Machine, and shared its first single, “Weightless,” via a music video. The album features Phoebe Bridgers on one song. Parks has also announced some European tour dates. My Soft Machine is due out May 28 via Transgressive. Marc Oller directed the “Weightless” video. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

My Soft Machine is the follow-up to Parks’ acclaimed debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, released in January 2021 via Transgressive. The album won the Mercury Prize for the best British album of the year and landed high on our Top 100 Albums of 2021 list.

Parks had this to say about the new song in a press release: “‘Weightless’ surrounds the painful experience of caring deeply about someone who only gives you tiny breadcrumbs of affection. It’s about suddenly realizing that a person has dulled your edges and embarking on the slow journey back to being a brighter version of yourself.”

Of the new album and its title, Parks says: The world/our view of it is peppered by the biggest things we experience—our traumas, upbringing, vulnerabilities almost like visual snow. This record is life through my lens, through my body—the mid 20s anxiety, the substance abuse of friends around me, the viscera of being in love for the first time, navigating PTSD and grief and self sabotage and joy, moving through worlds with wonder and sensitivity—what it’s like to be trapped in this particular body. There is a quote from a Joanna Hogg film called The Souvenir, it’s an A24 semi-autobiographical film with Tilda Swinton—it recounts a young film student falling in love with an older, charismatic man then being drawn into his addiction—in an early scene he’s explaining why people watch films—‘we don’t want to see life as it is played out we want to see life as it is experienced in this soft machine.’ So there we have it… My Soft Machine.”

Read our review of Collapsed in Sunbeams here.

Read our interview with Parks about the album here.

11. boygenius: “True Blue”

Technically, “True Blue” actually got more votes from our writers than “$20,” and while I do really like the song and Lucy Dacus’ evocative storytelling, “$20” is a cleaner hit to the gut. But had “True Blue” been the only boygenius song released this week it likely would’ve been higher on the list (the same with “Emily I’m Sorry”).

12. Silver Moth: “Mother Tongue”

Silver Moth are a new seven-piece band featuring Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite. Yesterday, they announced their debut album, Black Bay, and shared their debut single, “Mother Tongue.” Black Bay is due out April 21 via Bella Union. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.

As well as Braithwaite, Silver Moth features Elisabeth Elektra, Evi Vine, Steven Hill, Abrasive Trees guitarist/songwriter Matthew Rochford, Nick Hudson, drummer Ash Babb, and cellist Ben Roberts. The band was born of some Twitter exchanges that led to some Zoom meetings and eventually a recording session at Black Bay Studios on Scotland’s the Isle of Lewis, where they worked with producer Pete Fletcher.

“Because we didn’t know each other before we went to Black Bay,” says Elisabeth Elektra, “we went into a really intense creative mode as soon as we got there. We were in a bubble and there was a lot of collective grief going on, so it was like a pressure cooker, but I think some real beauty came out of it.”

“I knew with everything in me that we could make something powerful, beautiful, celestial and driven,” says Evi Vine, “even though we had never met. We spend our lives in repetition, surrounded by certainty. It’s important to push aside the things we think we understand, because when we least expect it, change comes and we are lost.”

Mogwai’s last studio album was As the Love Continues, which was one of our Top 100 Albums of 2021.

Read our interview with Mogwai on their 2017 album Every Country’s Sun.

Also read our 2014 interview with Stuart Braithwaite on Mogwai’s 2001 Rave Tapes album, as well as our retrospective article on Rock Action.

13. Fenne Lily: “Lights Light Up”

On Tuesday, New York City-based (but British born) singer/songwriter Fenne Lily announced a new album, Big Picture, and shared its first single, “Lights Light Up,” via a music video. She’s also announced some tour dates. Big Picture is due out April 14 via Dead Oceans. Haoyan of America directed the “Lights Light Up” video, which was filmed in Brooklyn. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the tour dates, here.

Lily had this to say about “Lights Light Up” in a press release: “I’d never really written about love in the present tense before this, but even though I was still in love and not thinking about the end, there was something else going on subconsciously that led to a song about moving on before the moving on had begun. When it came time to record, the band and I had been playing it live for a while and it’d become something joyful and positive, but when I started recording vocals, the lyrics made me cry. By that point the song was over a year old and I thought those wounds had healed but I guess it hurt to admit I’d been letting go of something while still trying to hold on.”

Big Picture is the follow-up to 2020’s BREACH. Brad Cook co-produced the album, which was tracked live in his North Carolina studio.

“Writing this album was my attempt at bringing some kind of order to the disaster that was 2020,” Lily says. “By documenting the most vulnerable parts of that time, I felt like I reclaimed some kind of autonomy.”

Read our interview with Lily on BREACH.

Honorable Mentions:

These songs almost made the Top 13.

Algiers: “I Can’t Stand It” (Feat. Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring and Boy Harsher’s Jae Matthews)

boygenius: “Emily I’m Sorry”

Deerhoof: “Sit Down, Let Me Tell You a Story”

Dutch Uncles: “Tropigala (2 to 5)”

The Golden Dregs: “Before We Fell From Grace”

Andy Shauf: “Telephone”

Softcult: “Dress”

Here’s a handy Spotify playlist featuring the Top 10 in order, followed by all the honorable mentions:

Bonus Cuts:

Some of our writers also liked some other songs that didn’t make the main list or honorable mentions and here are links to those tracks. Andy Von Pip liked “CUT IT” by Scotland’s VLURE. Caleb Campbell recommends “There We Are John” by Irish band New Pagans. And Scott Dransfield had several songs from the last week that he felt were worth considering: Thus Love’s “Put On Dog,” Screaming Females’ “Brass Bell,” MSPAINT’s “Delete It,” and Truth Club’s “It’s Time.”

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