12 Best Songs of the Week: Julien Baker, Midnight Sister, Field Music, Baio, and More
Plus Jane Weaver, Still Corners, Sleaford Mods, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Jan 15, 2021
Welcome to the second Songs of the Week of 2021. It was a little less trying than last week, but Donald Trump did earn the dubious honor of being the first ever president to be impeached twice. It was a fantastic week for new songs; after a slow week last week with only a Top 6, this week we present double the songs with a Top 12.
Earlier today we belatedly posted our Top 100 Albums of 2020 list.
In the last week we posted interviews with Tim Burgess of The Charlatans, Khruangbin, and Lost Horizons.
In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of 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, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last week. Check out the full list below.
1. Julien Baker: “Hardline”
Acclaimed singer/songwriter Julien Baker is releasing a new album, Little Oblivions, on February 26 via Matador. This week she shared another song from the album, “Hardline,” via an animated video for the propulsive single. Joe Baughman directed the video.
“Hardline” is the album’s opening track and is a good representation of the more expansive sound Baker has embraced on Little Oblivions, but it still showcases the raw emotions of Baker’s previous work. It’s similar to the sonic jump her Boygenius bandmate Lucy Dacus took with 2018’s Historian.
Baker had this to say about “Hardline” and its video in a press release: “A few years ago I started collecting travel ephemera again with a loose idea of making a piece of art with it. I had been touring pretty consistently since 2015 and had been traveling so much that items like plane tickets and hotel keycards didn’t have much novelty anymore. So I saved all my travel stuff and made a little collage of a house and a van out of it. I wanted to incorporate it into the record and when we were brainstorming ideas for videos we came across Joe Baughman and really liked his work so we reached out with the idea of making a stop-motion video that had similar aesthetic qualities as the house I built did. I don’t know why I have the impulse to write songs or make tiny sculptures out of plane tickets. But here it is anyway: a bunch of things I’ve collected and carried with me that I’ve re-organized into a new shape.”
Baughman had this to say about the video: “Even after having spent 600 hours immersed in ‘Hardline’ and having listened to it thousands of times, I am still moved by it. It was a fun and ambitious challenge creating something that could accompany such a compelling song. The style of the set design, inspired by a sculpture that Julien created, was especially fun to work in. I loved sifting through magazines, maps, and newspapers from the ’60s and ’70s and finding the right colors, shapes, and quotes to cover almost every surface in the video.”
This week Baker also did a session for Seattle radio station KEXP. During the session she performed four songs with her band—“Faith Healer,” “Song in E,” “Hardline,” and “Fell on Black Days”—and was interviewed by host Cheryl Waters about going back to college and one day potentially getting a masters degree. Watch the session here.
When Little Oblivions was announced in October, Baker shared “Faith Healer” via a video for it. “Faith Healer” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then Baker performed “Faith Healer” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Baker released her last album, Turn Out the Lights, back in 2017 via Matador, her first for the label. It was our Album of the Week and more importantly it was #2 on our Top 100 Albums of 2017 list. Little Oblivions is her third studio album (her debut was 2015’s Sprained Ankle). Little Oblivions was recorded in December 2019 and January 2020 in Baker’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Calvin Lauber engineered the album and Craig Silvey mixed it, both of whom worked on Turn Out the Lights. Baker plays most of the instruments on the album, which a press release says fleshes out and expands were previously stripped back sound.
In 2019 Baker released a 7-inch single on Record Store Day featuring the new songs “Red Door” and “Conversation Piece.” Later in 2019 she shared two new songs, “Tokyo” and “Sucker Punch” as part of the Sub Pop Singles Club
In 2018 Baker also teamed up with fellow singer/songwriters Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers to form supergroup Boygenius, whose self-titled debut EP was released via Matador.
Read our interview with Baker and boygenius.
Read our 2017 cover story interview with Baker.
Also read our 2017 cover story bonus Q&A with Baker.
Read our rave 9/10 review of Turn Out the Lights.
Read our 2016 interview with Baker and our 2015 Artist Survey interview with her.
2. Midnight Sister: “Satellite”
Midnight Sister, the Los Angeles-based duo of Juliana Giraffe and Ari Balouzian, released a new album, Painting the Roses, today via Jagjaguwar. Earlier this week they shared another song from it, “Satellite,” which has a minimalist funk sound, via a trippy video for the single directed by Giraffe.
Giraffe had this to say about the song in a press release: “Satellite explores delusion and the way memory is influenced by perception. The video, shot through a funhouse mirror, finds clarity by embracing distortion.”
When Painting the Roses was announced in October the band shared another new song from it, “Doctor Says,” via a video for it. “Doctor Says” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then in December they shared another song from it, the glam-sounding “Foxes,” via a video for the single (which also made our Songs of the Week list).
Painting the Roses also includes “Wednesday Baby,” a new song shared in September via a video for it. “Wednesday Baby” was also one of our Songs of the Week.
Painting the Roses is the duo’s second album, the follow-up to their 2017-released debut album, Saturn Over Sunset, also released by Jagjaguwar. Midnight Sister’s art-pop would appeal to fans of Broadcast, influential ’60s pioneers such as The United States of America and The Free Design, and Charlie Hilton.
Read our 2017 interview with Midnight Sister.
3. Field Music: “Orion From the Street”
This week English rock band Field Music (anchored by brothers Peter and David Brewis) shared a new song titled “Orion From the Street,” in addition to announcing a set of UK tour dates slated for October 2021. “Orion From the Street” is a shimmering and lush track, one of their best in years. Their upcoming album has also been announced for a release later in the year. Check out the band’s tour dates here.
Peter Brewis says of the song in a press release: “I wrote it in a daze—it’s full of accidental quotes and allusions—the first couple of lines I overheard in a Cary Grant documentary but they sum up the whole song—how intense impressions of love, hate, grief and guilt can be an almost hallucinatory experience.”
Last month, Field Music released “Home For Christmas,” a song for Memphis Industries’ holiday compilation Lost Christmas. They released their most recent album, Making a New World, in January of last year on Memphis Industries. By Joey Arnone
4. Baio: “Dead Hand Control”
Baio (Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio) is releasing his third solo album, Dead Hand Control, on January 29 via Glassnote. This week he shared two new songs from the album: title track “Dead Hand Control” and “Take It from Me.” The former was shared via a video for it and makes our Songs of the Week list, but you can also find the latter further below.
Baio had this to say about “Dead Hand Control” in a press release: “‘Dead Hand Control’ is a song about anxiety and the limits of control. I was thinking a lot about how, as a musician, I have control over what a recording is, but that once I put a song out into the world, I no longer control its life. That’s essentially what the chorus line is saying—‘Dead Hand Control/You can take my life but you will never take my soul’—you can do whatever you want to me, but the things I’ve made will (hopefully in some way) outlast me. I’d like to give a special shoutout to Jazz Ambassador Robby Sinclair for his absolutely heroic improvised drumming on the back half of the song. I filmed the video on my phone at home during Los Angeles’ second stay-at-home order.”
Of the other single, Baio had this to say: “‘Take It from Me’ is an attempt at writing my version of a children’s song or a standard. Like many songs on Dead Hand Control, it is about being there for the people in your life to the fullest extent you can. It’s a song based around a very simple idea: you can take whatever you want in the world, so long as you take it from me.”
When Dead Hand Control was announced, Baio shared its first two singles, “Endless Me, Endlessly” and “What Do You Say When I’m Not There?,” via videos for the new songs. “Endless Me, Endlessly” was one of our Songs of the Week.
Baio released his debut solo album, The Names, in 2015 via Glassnote, and released his sophomore album, Man of the World, in 2017, also via Glassnote.
Dead Hand Control was recorded at Damon Albarn’s 13 Studios in London and Baio’s C+C Music Factory studio in Los Angeles (founded with Vampire Weekend bandmate Chris Tomson). Baio wrote all the songs on the album himself, except for the near 10-minute long closing track, “O.M.W.,” which was written with his Vampire Weekend bandmate Ezra Koenig. According to a press release, the album’s title comes from two sources: “Dead Hand” is the name “a rumored Soviet missile system designed to obliterate America” and “Dead Hand Control” is “a legal strategy for attempting to control the beneficiaries of your will after you die.”
“I was looking at the past five years of American life and obsessing about topics like death, wills, and nuclear war,” Baio says. “But at its heart, it’s about how the only thing you can control is the way you treat the people in your life.”
Also, read our 2015 interview with Baio about The Names.
5. Jane Weaver: “Heartlow”
British singer/songwriter/guitarist Jane Weaver is releasing a new album, Flock, on March 5 via Fire. This week she shared another song from it, “Heartlow,” via a video for the track. Douglas Hart (formerly of The Jesus and Mary Chain) directed the video.
Weaver had this to say about the song in the press release: “‘Heartlow’ is my attempt at an uplifting tragi-pop parade for the trials of modern times disguised as a homage to a lost generation of misfit girl groop records. Written in hibernation in an out of season French coastal town surrounded by ancient stone circles and Arthurian forests.”
Previously Weaver shared Flock’s first single, “The Revolution of Super Visions,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.
A previous press release said Flock is the album Weaver “always wanted to make, the most genuine version of Jane Weaver, complete with unpretentious day-glo pop sensibilities, wit, kindness, humor, glamour” and that it was “produced on a complicated diet of bygone Lebanese torch songs, 1980s Russian Aerobics records, and Australian Punk.”
Weaver’s last two solo albums were 2017’s Modern Kosmology and 2019’s Loops In The Secret Society (which was a remix album of sorts). In 2019 she teamed up with her long-term bandmates Peter Philipson and Raz Ullah to form Fenella and they released their debut album, Fehérlófia, which was a re-imagined soundtrack to Marcell Jankovics’ 1981 animated fantasy epic of the same name.
6. Still Corners: “White Sands”
Still Corners are releasing a new album, The Last Exit, on January 22 via the band’s own Wrecking Light label. This week they shared another song from it, “White Sands,” via a lyric video for the track, which features the lyrics in both English and Spanish. “White Sands” is almost like a dream-pop take on Chris Isaak.
Still Corners are the male/female American/British duo of Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray and The Last Exit is their fifth album, the follow-up to 2018’s Slow Air, 2016’s Dead Blue, and 2013’s Strange Pleasures (a criminally under-appreciated dream-pop gem released via Sub Pop).
Previously Still Corners shared the album’s title track, “The Last Exit,” via a video for the track (which was one of our Songs of the Week). Then they shared another song from it, “Crying,” via a video for the track (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).
With song titles like “White Sands” and “Shifting Dunes,” The Last Exit was inspired by the desert and “The Last Exit” video was filmed in Joshua Tree.
“We found something out there in the desert—something in the vast landscapes that went on forever,” said Hughes in a previous press release.
While the album was already in the works before the pandemic, COVID-19 prompted the band to refocus a bit. Murray explained: “There’s always something at the end of the road and for us it was this album. Our plans were put on hold—an album set for release, tours, video shoots, travel. We’d been touring nonstop for years, but we were forced to pause everything. We thought the album was finished but with the crisis found new inspiration and started writing again.”
“The Last Exit” single is considered the final chapter of the Still Corners’ Road Trilogy, following “The Trip” and “The Message.”
In 2016 Murray wrote a My Inner Geek guest blog post for us about Star Trek: The Next Generation and you can read that here.
Read our review of Slow Air.
7. Sleaford Mods: “Nudge It” (Feat. Amy Taylor of Amyl and the Sniffers)
English electronic punk duo, Sleaford Mods (Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn) released a new album, Spare Ribs, today via Rough Trade. Earlier this week they shared one last pre-release single from it, “Nudge It,” via a video for the track. Both the song and video feature Amy Taylor of Australian punks Amyl and the Sniffers. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Taylor’s part was clearly filmed separately, likely in Australia. Eddie the Wheel directed the video.
Frontman Jason Williamson had this to say about the song in a press release: “Imagine you’ve got limited options, unsure how you’re getting by that week, looking out the window of the damp flat you don’t want to live in, and seeing a bunch of posers having a photo shoot because ‘cool architecture bro, we feel your pain.’ Reduced circumstance isn’t a pantomime. If you haven’t lived within its confines don’t use it to enamor your ideas. It confuses the platform for those that truly live it and more often than not buries creative breakthroughs because the arena is polluted by the view of their world through someone else’s privileged lens. So beware the eager networkers, don’t settle for the 20p pay-out, nudge it, pop the posers. And don’t apologize for the fucker either.”
The band have also recently announced the SMtv Spare Ribs Special TV Show. It will be broadcast on their YouTube channel this Saturday (January 16) at 3 p.m. EST/12 p.m. PST and will feature interviews with the band and album collaborators Billy Nomates and Amy Taylor, plus live footage from their 100 Club livestream and cameos from special guests such as John Thomson, Robbie Williams, Iggy Pop, and more.
Previously Sleadord Mods shared Spare Ribs’ first single, “Mork N Mindy,” via a video for it. The song and video featured Billy Nomates. They also performed the song on Late Night with Seth Meyers. “Mork N Mindy” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then they shared another song from the album, “Shortcummings,” via a video for it (the song’s title referenced Dominic Cummings, the former Chief Advisor to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson).
Spare Ribs’ title was inspired by the pandemic, as Williamson explained in a previous press release: “the idea of the amount of people that died from the first wave of coronavirus; human lives are always expendable to the elites… We’re in a constant state of being spare ribs.”
Back in May 2020 the band released a career-spanning retrospective, All That Glue. Before that, their last album was 2019’s Eton Alive.
8. Mogwai: “Ritchie Sacramento”
Scotland’s Mogwai are releasing a new album, As the Love Continues, on February 19 via Temporary Residence Inc. This week they shared the album’s second single, “Ritchie Sacramento,” via a video for the track. The song features vocals, which is not often the case with Mogwai songs, and is partly inspired by the late David Berman (Silver Jews, Purple Mountains). Sam Wiehl directed the video.
In a press release Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite had this to say about the song: “‘Ritchie Sacramento’s’ title came from a misunderstanding a friend of ours had about how to say Ryuchi Sakamoto. The lyrics were inspired by a story Bob Nastanovich shared about his friend and bandmate David Berman who proclaimed ‘Rise Crystal Spear’ as he threw a shovel at a sports car. The song is dedicated to all the musician friends we’ve lost over the years.”
Previously Mogwai shared As the Love Continues’ first single, “Dry Fantasy,” which was one of our Songs of the Week.
As the Love Continues is the follow-up to 2017’s Every Country’s Sun. Dave Fridmann produced the album, which features Atticus Ross (on “Midnight Flit”) and Colin Stetson (on “Pat Stains”). The album was recorded in 2020 and was originally supposed to be recorded in America, but the pandemic adjusted those plans, with the band recording in the UK and Fridmann producing remotely.
Even though Mogwai won’t be able to tour the album anytime soon and travel is limited due to the pandemic, in a previous press release the band’s Stuart Braithwaite said he hopes the music will transport listeners to a different place, “unless you are somewhere really amazing and then why are you listening to some weird music like this?”
Read our interview with Mogwai on Every Country’s Sun.
Read our 2014 interview with Stuart Braithwaite on Mogwai’s Rave Tapes album, as well as our retrospective article on the band’s 2001 album Rock Action.
9. William Doyle: “And Everything Changed (But I Feel Alright)”
This week William Doyle (formerly known as East India Youth) announced a new album, Great Spans of Muddy Time, and shared a lyric video for his new song “And Everything Changed (But I Feel Alright).” Great Spans of Muddy Time will be released on March 21 via Tough Love. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Doyle says of the song in a press release: “Like other favorite songs of mine, this arrived when I least expected it, almost fully formed. It’s partly a reaction to the complexity and excess of my last album. I wanted to get back into the craft of writing individual songs rather than being concerned with overarching concepts.”
While working on Great Spans of Muddy Time, Doyle dealt with a hard-drive failure and was only left with cassette recordings of the album’s songs, which had a direct impact on the sonic quality and creative direction of the album. Regarding this situation, Doyle states: “Instead of feeling a loss that I could no longer craft these pieces into flawless ‘Works of Art,’ I felt intensely liberated that they had been set free from my ceaseless tinkering.”
Doyle goes on to speak about his influences that inspired him during the album’s creation: “The album this turned out to be—and that I’ve wanted to make for ages—is a kind of Englishman-gone-mad, scrambling around the verdancy of the country’s pastures looking for some sense. It has its seeds in Robert Wyatt, early Eno, Robyn Hitchcock, and Syd Barrett. I became obsessed with Monty Don. I like his manner and there’s something about him I relate to. He once described periods of depression in his life as consisting of ‘nothing but great spans of muddy time.’ When I read that quote I knew it would be the title of this record. Something about the sludgy mulch of the album’s darker moments, and its feel of perpetual autumnal evening, seemed to fit so well with those words. I would also be lying if I said it didn’t chime with my mental health experiences as well.”
“For the first time in my career, the distance between what I hear and what the listener hears is paper-thin,” Doyle concludes. “Perhaps therein reveals a deeper truth that the perfectionist brain can often dissolve.”
Doyle’s most recent album, Your Wilderness Revisited, was released in November 2019.
Check out our interview with Doyle from last year. By Joey Arnone
10. Lael Neale: “Blue Vein”
This week Lael Neale announced a new album, Acquainted With Night, and shared a self-directed video for a new song from it, “Blue Vein.” Acquainted With Night is due out February 19 via Sub Pop, her first album for the label. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Neale’s new album is the product of a long and arduous process in which she worked with many different producers. She states in a press release: “Every time I reached the end of recording, I felt the songs had been stripped of their vitality in the process of layering drums, bass, guitar, violin and organ over them. They felt weighed down.” Her artistic breakthrough occurred when she discovered the Omnichord, which she began to use frequently in creating her songs, and was assisted by Guy Blakeslee of the band Entrance in the recording process, where the songs were recorded onto tape. Blakeslee states in a press release: “An idea that was floating around in our conversations before and during the process was ‘lost tapes’—and I think these recordings feel like such an artifact—a sonic portrait of a season of a life, a sacred tape made in private by an artist at the peak of creative power and rediscovered by chance for the ages.”
Regarding the creation of “Blue Vein,” Neale states in the press release: “I wrote this song pre-Omnichord and it is the only recording I play guitar on. I wrote it around New Year’s Eve and it felt like a resolution.”
Though she is from rural Virginia, Neale has been living in Los Angeles for over a decade now, but in April 2020 returned to her family farm in VA because of the pandemic.
Acquainted With Night includes “For No One For Now,” a new single that was shared in November and made it to #1 on our Songs of the Week list. The album’s first single, “Every Star Shivers in the Dark,” was released in October on Sub Pop. By Joey Arnone
11. IAN SWEET: “Drink the Lake”
This week IAN SWEET, the project of Jilian Medford, shared a self-directed video for her new song “Drink the Lake.” The song will be featured on Medford’s third studio album under the IAN SWEET moniker, Show Me How You Disappear, which will be out March 5 via Polyvinyl and was also announced this week. Check out the album art and tracklist for Show Me How You Disappear here.
In a press release, Medford states that her new song “taps into my own twisted logic to try and break away from obsessive thought patterns.” She adds: “It turned into a pop anthem of seemingly silly ways to try and forget someone, like saying their name backwards, but I feel these devices contributed to my healing.”
Show Me How You Disappear was recorded by Andrew Sarlo (Big Thief, Empress Of) and Andy Seltzer (Maggie Rogers), among others, and was mixed by Chris Coady (Beach House, Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Medford wrote the album after undergoing therapy during a dark period of mental health struggles, which informs much of the subject matter on the album and even influenced her artistic process during the album’s creation. Medford adds in the press release: “This is the first record that I leave that space for myself. I feel a freedom on this one that I haven’t felt with the others. People always say ‘I put all of me into this,’ but I actually didn’t this time—I left space.”
Medford released her sophomore album Crush Crusher in 2018. Her most recent singles were “Dumb Driver,” which was one of our Songs of the Week, and “Power,” both of which will be featured on Show Me How You Disappear.
Check out our COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In with IAN SWEET. By Joey Arnone
12. Middle Kids: “Questions”
This week Australian trio Middle Kids shared a video for their horn-inflected new song “Questions.” The release coincided with an announcement by the band that their sophomore album, Today We’re The Greatest, will be out March 19 via Domino. W.A.M Bleakley directed the video for “Questions.” Check out the tracklist and cover art for Today We’re The Greatest here.
Frontwoman Hannah Joy describes the inspiration behind “Questions” in a press release: “I used to drink a lot and most of my previous relationships revolved around this. I don’t think I ever really knew them or they me as a result. ‘Questions’ is about people being around each other but not being close. People who are in intimate relationships can stop asking questions of each other because they are uncomfortable and confusing.”
Speaking about the new album, Joy adds: “I want to make music that loves its listener. Music that makes people feel seen, seen in the tiny little places that hide away in their hearts. I want people to hear our music, and feel a sense of love. And when I say love, it can be challenging, intense and tough. But it’s in the guts.”
Today We’re The Greatest was produced by Lars Stalfors (St Vincent, Cold War Kids, Soccer Mommy). Back in October of last year, the band shared a video for the new album’s lead single “R U 4 Me?”. Their most recent release was the 2019 EP New Songs For Old Problems, and their debut album, Lost Friends, was released in 2018.
Read our 2017 Pleased to Meet You interview with Middle Kids. By Joey Arnone
These six songs almost made the Top 10.
CARM: “Song of Trouble” (Feat. Sufjan Stevens)
Kiwi Jr.: “Waiting in Line”
Miss Grit: “Impostor”
Nation of Language: “Deliver Me From Wondering Why”
James Yorkston and The Second Hand Orchestra: “There Is No Upside”
Yung: “Friends On Ice”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
The Antlers: “Solstice”
Baio: “Take It from Me”
Guy Blakeslee: “Faces”
Blanck Mass: “Starstuff”
Buke and Gase & So Percussion: “Hold It In”
Camp Trash: “Bobby”
Claud: “Cuff Your Jeans”
Lana Del Rey: “Chemtrails Over the Country Club”
Descendents: “That’s The Breaks”
Katie Dey: “leaving (Laura Les Remix)” and “data (Tomberlin Cover)”
Editrix: “Tell Me I’m Bad”
Danny Elfman: “Sorry”
Foo Fighters: “Waiting On a War”
Fruit Bats: “Holy Rose”
Cory Hanson: “Angeles”
Danny L Harle: “On a Mountain” and “Boing Beat”
Hiss Golden Messenger: “Sanctuary”
LNZNDRF: “Brace Yourself”
Major Murphy: “Access”
Jimbo Mathus and Andrew Bird: “Sweet Oblivion”
Cristin Milioti: “715 Creeks” (Bon Iver Cover)
Noga Erez: “End of the Road”
The Notwist: “Al Sur” (Feat. Juana Molina)
Painted Shrines: “Gone”
Perfume Genius: “Your Body Changes Everything (Boy Harsher Remix)”
Speed Stick: “Protect Your Magic”
Tokyo Police Club: “Gone (Matt and Kim Remix)”
Wild Pink: “Oversharers Anonymous”
(Thanks to Joey Arnone for helping to put this week’s list together.)
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