10 Best Songs of the Week: Gruff Rhys, Squid, Middle Kids, The Go! Team, and More
Plus Flock of Dimes, Lana Del Rey, Teenage Fanclub, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Mar 19, 2021
Welcome to the tenth Songs of the Week of 2021. Last week I told you that the wife and I got the Johnson & Johnson shot. This week more and more people I personally know are also getting vaccinated, and I’m talking people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, not just 65 and older. And Biden’s goal to vaccinate 100 million people in his first 100 days in office has been reached a month and a half early. So that’s all encouraging and things appear to be heading in the right direction. Then again, at a congressional hearing this week Republican Senator Rand Paul challenged Dr. Anthony Fauci on the need for people to still wear masks in public once they’ve been vaccinated, even though the science backs Fauci up. And a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 40% of Republicans were reluctant to get vaccinated, compared to only 6% of Democrats. So it still might be some time before we get to herd immunity, with the politics at play.
In the last week we posted interviews with three A artists: Alice Cooper, Allie Crow Buckley, and Another Michael.
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 10 best the last week had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last seven days. Check out the full list below.
1. Gruff Rhys: “Loan Your Loneliness”
On Monday, Gruff Rhys, Welsh frontman of Super Furry Animals, announced a new solo album, Seeking New Gods, and shared its first single, “Loan Your Loneliness,” via a video for the new song. The song has a bit of a pleasing glam stomp to it, with a bit of ELO and vocals reminiscent of Super Furry Animals’ Welsh language album Mwng.
Seeking New Gods is due out May 21 via Rough Trade. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Seeking New Gods is Rhys’ seventh solo album. It was recorded following a U.S. tour with his band. Mario C (Beastie Boys) mixed the album in Los Angeles.
Long-time Rhys collaborator Mark James art directed the album and directed the “Loan Your Loneliness” video, which a press release says “explores the narrative of a soloing guitarist accidentally inventing color TV with their sheer exuberance.”
Apparently, Seeking New Gods started off as a biography of an active volcano, Mount Paektu, on the Chinese-North Korean border. The press release explains that the more Rhys wrote, the more “he began to reflect on the inhuman timescale of the peak’s existence and the intimate features that have allowed mythologies to be built around it over centuries. Both the mountain and the songs became more and more personal to him as time went on.”
Rhys further explains: “The album is about people and the civilizations, and the spaces people inhabit over periods of time. How people come and go but the geology sticks around and changes more slowly. I think it’s about memory and time. It’s still a biography of a mountain, but now it’s a Mount Paektu of the mind. You won’t learn much about the real mountain from listening to this record but you will feel something, hopefully.”
In February Rhys released a new book, the amusingly titled Resist Phony Encores!, which a press release described as a “selective memoir.” For the book Rhys worked with designer Mark James, who provided Xeroxed graphics and doctored photos. The book included anecdotes from his life and also featured Rhys’ cue cards that he has used in live performances for 15 years now. Rhys did a performance version of Resist Phony Encores! as a “one-man slide show” at the Edinburgh Festival in 2018.
In 2014 Rhys released the book American Interior, which accompanied the album of the same name (there was also a film and mobile app). Last August, on Record Store Day, Rhys put out a new solo album of sorts, (Don’t) Welcome the Plague as a Blessing / The Babelsberg Basement Files, which was a companion piece to his 2018 album, Babelsberg, which was recorded with the 72-piece BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The new take featured the original versions of the songs, sans orchestra. The album was previewed via a video for the new album’s version of “Negative Vibes.” Rhys released another solo album, Pang!, in 2019 via Rough Trade.
Read our 16th Annual Artist Survey interview with Gruff Rhys.
Read our 2015 interview with Gruff Rhys about American Interior.
2. Squid: “Paddling”
On Tuesday, Brighton, England based five-piece Squid shared a new single titled “Paddling.” It is the latest release from their forthcoming album Bright Green Field, which will be out on May 7 via Warp.
Squid collectively talk about the concept behind the song in a press release: “Written from two different perspectives, ‘Paddling’ is a song about the dichotomy between simple pleasures and decadent consumerism. Recounting a familiar scene from The Wind in the Willows, the song reminds us that although we are humans, we are ultimately animals that are driven by both modern and primal instincts, leading to vanity and machismo around us in the everyday.”
In January, the band released the single “Narrator” upon announcement of the album. “Narrator” made it to #1 on our Songs of the Week.
The band features Ollie Judge (drums, lead vocals), Louis Borlase (guitars, vocals), Arthur Leadbetter (keyboards, strings), Laurie Nankivell (bass, brass), and Anton Pearson (guitars, vocals). Dan Carey produced the album.
Judge writes most of the band’s lyrics and had this to say about Bright Green Field in a previous press release: “This album has created an imaginary cityscape. The tracks illustrate the places, events and architecture that exist within it. Previous releases were playful and concerned with characters, whereas this album is darker and more concerned with place—the emotional depth of the music has deepened.”
They released their Town Centre EP back in 2019 on Dan Carey’s Speedy Wunderground. By Joey Arnone
3. Middle Kids: “Today We’re The Greatest”
On Wednesday, Australian trio Middle Kids shared a new song titled “Today We’re The Greatest,” via a video for the single. The song is the title track from their new album, Today We’re The Greatest, which came out today via Domino. W.A.M. Bleakley directed the cinematic video, which features frontwoman Hannah Joy (and later her bandmates) performing the song in a lush coastal area.
Joy had this to say about the song in a press release: “This is a simple song about people being tiny and our lives being fleeting but also that we are epic and great. It’s finding the beauty and majesty of the everyday. LIFE IS GORY AND BORING SOMETIMES: it’s both hectic and mundane and we have to accept both.”
The band also features Tim Fitz and Harry Day and the trio will be performing “Today We’re the Greatest” next Tuesday on The Late Late Show with James Corden.
Previously released songs from Today We’re The Greatest are “R U 4 Me?,” “Questions” (which was one of our Songs of the Week), “Cellophane (Brain),” and “Stacking Chairs.”
Today We’re The Greatest was produced by Lars Stalfors (St Vincent, Cold War Kids, Soccer Mommy). Speaking about the new as a whole album, Joy says: “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.”
Middle Kids’ 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.
4. The Go! Team: “World Remember Me Now”
On Thursday, English band The Go! Team announced their sixth studio album, Get Up Sequences Part One, which will be out on July 2 via Memphis Industries. The band also shared a video for a song from the album titled “World Remember Me Now.”
Midway through recording the album, the band’s leader Ian Parton lost his hearing in one ear. Check out the tracklist and cover art for the album here.
Parton speaks about the new song, which lyrically mimics the structure of a day in the life of a woman in the big city, in a press release: “I’ve always been interested in people’s daily routines—what people do all day. It was written ages ago but has become strangely relevant to the world now. It’s easy to feel forgotten at the moment.”
Parton also talks about the process of creating the new album, which took place as he began to lose his hearing. “I lost hearing in my right ear halfway during the making of this record,” he states. “I woke up one Thursday in October 2019 and my hearing was different in some way—it fluctuated over a few weeks and at one point everything sounded like a Dalek. I seem to remember listening to music was bordering on unbearable. Over time it settled into just a tiny bit of hi end being audible on my right side. I thought the hearing loss was from playing music too loud over the years but it turns out I was just unlucky and it was a rare condition called Menieres. It was traumatic to keep listening to songs I knew well but which suddenly sounded different and it was an odd juxtaposition to listen to upbeat music when I was on such a downer. The trauma of losing my hearing gave the music a different dimension for me and it transformed the album into more of a life raft.”
Back in November, the band shared the song “Look Outside (A New Year’s Coming)” for Memphis Industries’ Lost Christmas compilation.
Their most recent album, Semicircle, was released in January 2018 on Memphis Industries. By Joey Arnone
5. Flock of Dimes: “Hard Way”
On Tuesday, Flock of Dimes (the solo project of Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner) shared a video for her new song “Hard Way.” It is the latest offering from her upcoming album Head of Roses, which will be out on April 2 via Sub Pop.
Wasner speaks about the song in a press release: “Although I didn’t fully understand when I wrote it, this song is an example of the power of the subconscious mind to hide truths from ourselves that we’re not yet ready to see. When I wrote this song I was still in the throes of new love, and I thought I was writing a straightforward, earnest love song. But when I tried to record it, something about the tone of it was eerie, strange, a bit darker than I would have expected. It wasn’t until long after I wrote it that I became aware of its odd foreshadowing of what was to come—that something I intended to be bright and hopeful in the moment was floating on top of a deep current of unease.”
Flock of Dimes previously shared the songs “Two” and “Price of Blue” from her upcoming album. “Two” was one of our Songs of the Week and then “Price of Blue” also made our Songs of the Week list.
Her most recent solo project as Flock of Dimes was the EP Like So Much Desire, which came out last year on Sub Pop. By Joey Arnone
6. Lana Del Rey: “White Dress”
Lana Del Rey released a new album, Chemtrails over the Country Club, today via Interscope. In honor of release day, she shared a video for the album’s opening track, “White Dress,” which hadn’t been a pre-release single. Constellation Jones directed the “White Dress” music video, which features lots of cross-fades and shots of Del Rey rollerblading in the desert.
Today we posted our review of Chemtrails over the Country Club and you can read that here. On initial listen, I’m not as enamored with the album as I was with her last one, 2019’s acclaimed Norman Fucking Rockwell, and don’t like it as much as our critic Michael Watkins. Then again, I’ve never been a big Del Rey devotee. But “White Dress” does stand out and paint an evocative picture.
Jack Antonoff produced Chemtrails over the Country Club. Its closing track, “For Free,” features guest vocals from Zella Day and Weyes Blood and is another highlight.
Back in December Del Rey performed the album’s “Let Me Love You Like a Woman” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
7. Teenage Fanclub: “The Sun Won’t Shine On Me”
Scottish indie rockers Teenage Fanclub are releasing a new album, Endless Arcade, on April 30 via Merge. On Monday, they shared the album’s fourth single, “The Sun Won’t Shine On Me,” which was written by band co-founder Norman Blake.
The previous three singles for Endless Arcade were “Home,” “Everything is Falling Apart,” and “I’m More Inclined.”
Endless Arcade is the follow-up to 2016’s Here. It is the band’s first album without founding member Gerald Love, who has since left the band. Love was tired of the touring lifestyle, whereas the rest of the band felt it helped fuel their creativity, hence his departure.
Founding members Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley remain in the band as the main songwriters, and are joined by Dave McGowan (who’s been with Teenage Fanclub since 2004) and Euros Childs (formerly of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci).
“I think of an endless arcade as a city that you can wander through, with a sense of mystery, an imaginary one that goes on forever,” says McGinley in the album’s bio. “When it came to choosing an album title, it seemed to have something for this collection of songs.”
Says Blake: “We’re all getting older, and you can’t help but think about mortality, especially when you’re being creative and reflecting on your life.”
“I think emotional honesty is really the only lasting value you can offer,” McGinley adds. “Don’t create a pastiche of yourself. Don’t try to be cool or witty, or try too hard.”
8. Lord Huron: “Mine Forever”
Earlier today, Lord Huron announced their fourth studio album, Long Lost, which will be out on May 21 via Whispering Pines/Republic. They also shared a video for a new song from the album titled “Mine Forever.” The song has a pleasing retro ’50s vibe. Check out the cover art and tracklist for the album here.
“Mine Forever” was previously performed by the band during the second episode of their Alive from Whispering Pines series. The series introduced fans to a character named Mr. Tubbs Tarbell, and a letter supposedly written by him has also been released in conjunction with the album’s announcement. It can be read in full here.
Long Lost will also feature previously released song “Not Dead Yet.” Their most recent album, Vide Noir, came out in 2018 on Whispering Pines/Republic. By Joey Arnone
9. Lambchop: “A Chef’s Kiss”
On Tuesday, Lambchop (the project of Kurt Wagner) announced a new album, Showtunes, which will be out on May 21 via Merge. They have subsequently shared a song from the album entitled “A Chef’s Kiss.” The album’s tracklist and cover art can be found here.
Wagner describes the new song in a press release as “a reflection on the temporal nature of life and ultimately of song itself. A ‘chef’s kiss’ being a gesture toward something perfected or well done, even loved.”
Showtunes was created remotely by Wagner with the help of several other musicians, including Ryan Olson of Gayngs and James McNew of Yo La Tengo. Wagner states: “In hindsight, it made perfect sense. The original idea behind Lambchop was: anyone could be part of Lambchop (so long as they behaved themselves). This revolving-door policy is how the band has grown and contracted through our many years.”
He adds: “One of the things that holds Lambchop together, what binds us is that we are friends with similar likes and an appreciation and respect for what each other does. It’s what has kept this band evolving through time. With this approach, the group has just gotten larger with its members free to come and go, to be a part of the music as the songs and their interest might allow. Just like in the beginning.”
The band’s most recent album, TRIP, came out last year on Merge. By Joey Arnone
10. Lightning Bug: “The Right Thing Is Hard To Do”
On Thursday, Brooklyn-based shoegaze band Lightning Bug announced a new album, titled A Color of the Sky. It is the band’s first album after signing to Fat Possum, and it will be out on June 25. They also shared a video for the album’s lead single, “The Right Thing Is Hard To Do.” Check out the tracklist and cover art for the album here.
Frontwoman Audrey Kang speaks about her band’s new song in a press release, stating: “Here I wanted to connect how the struggles and flaws within the individual are mirrored in the greater problems of society. How do we as individuals know we are on the right path? How do we as a society, as a species, know we are on the right path? So I started with myself, and my own struggles, touching on how I hide myself away from other people, on my stage fright, on my inability to be vulnerable, on this feeling I used to have that I needed to prove I was worthy of being alive. Then I tried to connect these struggles outward to global issues like xenophobia, arbitrary borders, the lines we draw between ourselves and the environment, and the ways we sacrifice the health of the planet for human convenience.”
The band’s most recent album, October Song, came out in 2019. The band’s core lineup also features Kevin Copeland (guitar, vocals) and Logan Miley (engineer, synths, textures). Touring members Dane Hagen (drums) and Vincent Puleo (bass) also joined the band in the studio for the first time with this album. A Color of the Sky was recorded in the in the Catskills in a rundown old house turned into a makeshift studio.
Summing up the album, Kang says: “I want listeners to explore their own interior worlds. It’s about learning to trust yourself, about being deeply honest with yourself, and about how self-acceptance yields a selfless form of love.”
Check out our COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In interview with the band. By Joey Arnone
These three songs almost made the Top 10.
Laura Mvula: “Church Girl”
Sorry: “Separate” and “Cigarette Packet”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
Aesop Rock: “Long Legged Larry”
Lydia Ainsworth: “Parade”
Marisa Anderson & William Tyler: “Lost Futures”
Daniel Bachman: “Coronach”
Bing and Ruth: “Gigantic” (Pixies Cover)
Mykki Blanco: “Free Ride”
Ethel Cain: “Crush”
The Coral: “Lover Undiscovered”
Efterklang: “Postal” (Piano Magic Cover)
El Michels Affair: “Fazed Out”
Fiddlehead: “Million Times”
Fog Lake: “Dakota”
Francis of Delirium: “Red”
Future Islands: “We Don’t Need Another Hero” (Tina Turner Cover)
Nick Hakim and Roy Nathanson: “Moonman”
Helado Negro: “Futurism” (Deerhunter Cover)
Hit Like a Girl: “Monsters” (Feat. Bartees Strange)
Yves Jarvis: “Body of Work”
Mick Jenkins: “Designer Frames”
Tom Jones: “One More Cup of Coffee” (Bob Dylan Cover)
The Knocks (Feat. Foster The People): “Bittersweet Symphony” (The Verve Cover), “Devil’s Haircut” (Beck Cover), and “South Side” (Moby Cover)
Alex Lahey: “This Kiss” (Faith Hill Cover)
Museum of Love: “Cluttered World”
Open Mike Eagle & The Lasso: “Gold Gloves”
Peaches: “Pussy Mask”
Rose City Band: “Silver Roses”
claire rousay: “Peak Chroma”
Allison Russell: “Nightflyer”
Spencer.: “Genesis” (Grimes Cover)
Spirit of the Beehive: “I SUCK THE DEVIL’S COCK”
Thundercat and Ace Hashimoto: “VAPORWAVES”
Tune-Yards: “Cannonball” (The Breeders Cover)
Chad VanGaalen: “Starlight”
Warpaint: “Paralysed” (Gang of Four Cover)
Lucinda Williams: “Save Yourself” (Sharon Van Etten Cover)
(Thanks to Joey Arnone for helping to put this week’s list together.)
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