10 Best Songs of the Week: Mdou Moctar, Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth, St. Vincent, and More
Plus Sons of Kemet, CHAI, Storefront Church, POND, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Apr 02, 2021
Welcome to the 12th Songs of the Week of 2021. In the nation was gripped (or more accurately, traumatized) by the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd. So far the evidence against him has been quite damning, but on the other hand police officers are rarely found guilty of murder. If he isn’t sent to jail, protests (and perhaps riots) across the land are likely. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
In the last week we posted interviews with: Jess Williamson, The Natvral (Kip Berman, formerly of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart), Ratboys, and a The End interview with Jenn Wassner of Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak.
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. Mdou Moctar: “Afrique Victime”
On Thursday, Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar shared the title track from his upcoming album Afrique Victime, due out May 21 via Matador. An accompanying video for an edited version of the song, which originally clocks in at seven and a half minutes, has also been released. But the full version is the one that makes the list. Still, the video is worth watching as it has a translation for the politically charged lyrics.
Moctar speaks about the new song in a press release: “‘Afrique Victime’ is a message to all of the countries with money and power who come into Africa and kill the leaders who try to empower the people and lead revolutions. This pushes the area into danger and instability and emboldens the terrorists, and it’s the people who suffer and have no justice. Africa is innocent. The French use our uranium, but 90% of the people here don’t have electricity. Imagine.”
Upon announcement of the album last month, Moctar shared the song “Tala Tannam,” which was one of our Songs of the Week. He also shared a live performance video for “Tala Tannam.”
Afrique Victime features contributions from Moctar’s band, which features Mikey Coltun on bass, Ahmoudou Madassane on guitar, and Souleymane Ibrahim on drums.
His most recent album, Ilana (The Creator), was released in 2019. By Joey Arnone
2. Bobbie Gillespie and Jehnny Beth: “Remember We Were Lovers”
On Wednesday, Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream and Jehnny Beth from Savages announced a new collaborative album together, Utopian Ashes, and shared its first single, “Remember We Were Lovers,” via a video for it. Utopian Ashes also features some other members of Primal Scream and is due out July 2 via Third Man. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
As well as Gillespie and Beth, the album also features Beth’s musical partner Johnny Hostile (bass) alongside three members of Primal Scream—Andrew Innes (guitar), Martin Duffy (piano), and Darrin Mooney (drums).
Utopian Ashes is a concept record of sorts that chronicles the collapse of a marriage. A press release compares the album to country-soul classics such as Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris’ Grievous Angel and George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s We Go Together.
“In the same way you create characters for a novel, we’ve created characters here,” says Beth in the press release. “But you put yourself in it, because you’re trying to understand the human situation. The singing has to be authentic. That’s all that matters.”
“When you write a song you marry the personal with the fictional and make art,” adds Gillespie. “I was thinking about two people living alone, together but apart, existing and suffering in a psychic malaise, who plough on because of responsibilities and commitments. It’s about the impermanence of everything—an existential fact that everyone has to face at some point in their lives.”
It was in 2015 when they were both invited to get up on stage with Suicide at the Barbican in London that the duo first met. In 2016 Beth joined Primal Scream on stage for a duet of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s “Some Velvet Morning” (a Primal Scream staple). Sessions for the album happened in Paris in 2017.
Summing up his intentions with Utopian Ashes Gillespie says: “I wanted to put pain back into music. I wasn’t hearing a lot of it in modern rock music.”
Beth released her debut solo album, To Love Is to Live, last year via Caroline.
Read our 2020 interview with Beth on To Love Is to Live.
Primal Scream’s most recent album, Chaosmosis, was released back in 2016 via the band’s own label, First International.
Read our 2016 interview with Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie on Chaosmosis.
Also read our 2013 interview with Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie on More Light.
3. St. Vincent: “The Melting of the Sun”
(aka Annie Clark) is releasing a new album, Daddy’s Home, on May 14 via Loma Vista. On Thursday she has shared the album’s second single, “The Melting of the Sun,” via a lyric video for it. As befitting the theme of the album, the song has a ’70s vibe. Its lyrics seem to reference the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, and perhaps Tori Amos. This weekend St. Vincent will be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, where she will likely perform the song.
Previously St. Vincnt shared the album’s first single, “Pay Your Way In Pain,” via a video for the track. The sleazy and funky “Pay Your Way In Pain” sounds like something from Beck’s Midnite Vultures album (from 1999) and was one of our Songs of the Week. The song was previewed with a teaser video.
Daddy’s Home was teased with a series of outdoor advertisements. Jack Antonoff co-produced the album with Clark, which was recorded by Laura Sisk, mixed by Cian Riordan, and mastered by Chris Gehringer. In 2019 Clark’s father was released from prison after being incarerated for nine years, hence the album’s title, Daddy’s Home. This led her to revisiting the vinyl records her dad used to play her when she was a child. As a press release puts it: “The records she has probably listened to more than any other music in her entire life. Music made in sepia-toned downtown New York from 1971-1975.” Hence the vibe of the album’s promotion and packaging is decidedly ’70s.
In the press release Clark puts it this way: “Daddy’s Home collects stories of being down and out in downtown NYC. Last night’s heels on the morning train. Glamour that’s been up for three days straight.”
St. Vincent’s last studio album, MASSEDUCTION, came out in 2017 on Loma Vista, and made it to #3 on our Top 100 Albums of 2017 list.
4. Sons of Kemet: “Hustle” (Feat. Kojey Radical and Lianne La Havas)
On Tuesday, British jazz quintet Sons of Kemet announced a new album, Black to the Future, which will be out on May 14 via Impulse! The band also shared a video for the album’s lead single, “Hustle,” featuring Kojey Radical. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Saxophonist and band leader Shabaka Hutchings speaks about the new album in a press release, stating: “Black to the Future is a sonic poem for the invocation of power, remembrance and healing. It depicts a movement to redefine and reaffirm what it means to strive for Black power. The meaning is not universal and the cultural context of the listener will shape their understanding. Yet in the end, the overarching message remains the same: for humanity to progress we must consider what it means to be Black to the Future.”
He adds, regarding the “Hustle” video: “The dancers represent the duality present within any struggle to transcend internal limitations. As the video progresses, we see that it’s only once the differing elements of the self are reconciled and act in unison that rebirth (symbolized by the immersion in water) can occur.”
The band’s most recent album, Your Queen Is a Reptile, came out in 2018 on Impulse! and was nominated for a Mercury Prize. By Joey Arnone
5. CHAI: “Nobody Knows We Are Fun”
Japan’s CHAI are releasing a new album, WINK, on May 21 via Sub Pop. On Wednesday, they shared another song from it, “Nobody Knows We Are Fun” (even the band does indeed present an image that they are quite fun), via a video for the single. Hideto Hotta directed the colorful video, which features the band driving around at night and going to an indoor swimming pool.
The band’s lyricist/bassist Yuuki wrote the song after watching the 2019 high school comedy Booksmart, in which two brainy senior girls decide to attend a big graduation party because “Nobody knows we’re fun!”
“I thought, ‘We, CHAI, can really relate to that scene,” Yuuki says in a press release, while the band the band collectively describe the song as “a mix of screaming our annoyances—why don’t you guys notice us!—while trying to be cute and sexy.”
The band previously shared the songs “ACTION,” “Donuts Mind If I Do,” and “Maybe Chocolate Chips” (featuring Ric Wilson) from their upcoming album. “Maybe Chocolate Chips” was one of our Songs of the Week.
CHAI’s sophomore album, PUNK, was released in 2019 on Burger. Back in August of last year, CHAI teamed up with Spanish rock band Hinds for the joint single “United Girls Rock‘n’Roll Club.”
6. Storefront Church: “After the Alphabets” (Feat. Cole Smith of DIIV)
On Thursday, Storefront Church (the Los Angeles-based band led by Lukas Frank) announced their debut album, As We Pass, due out May 21 on Sargent House. They also shared the album’s lead single, titled “After the Alphabets,” which features Cole Smith of DIIV. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Last year, the band signed with Sargent House, and had their first single for the label, “The Gift,” featured on the soundtrack to Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit.
The most recent DIIV album, Deceiver, came out in 2019 via Captured Tracks. By Joey Arnone
7. POND: “Pink Lunettes”
On Thursday, Australian psych-rock band POND shared a video for a new song titled “Pink Lunettes.” It is their first new music release since their 2019 album Tasmania, and it is out now via Spinning Top/Secretly Distribution.
Frontman (and former Tame Impala bassist) Nick Allbrook speaks about the new song in a press release: “We sort of lurched straight outta mid-tempo into totally wired speed wobble punk so I didn’t really have time to write lyrics, just blurt scrapbook snippets and jitter around in fast forward. I think we managed to jitter along the neon tightrope between totally unhinged, strobing spontaneity and focused forward momentum.”
Tasmania featured the songs “Burnt Out Star” (one of our Songs of the Week), “Daisy” (another one of our Songs of the Week), “The Boys Are Killing Me,” and “Hand Mouth Dancer.” By Joey Arnone
8. Flock of Dimes: “One More Hour”
On Tuesday, Flock of Dimes (the solo project of Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner) shared a video for her new song “One More Hour.” It is the latest song release from her new album Head of Roses, which is out today on Sub Pop.
Wasner speaks about the new song in a statement: “This song is about getting lost in a fantasy—of another life, of someone else, or of a different version of yourself. And it’s about the ways in which a combination of nostalgia and longing can make imagining the past or dreaming about the future so much more appealing than whatever present reality we happen to be inhabiting.”
She adds: “It’s in our nature to make myths and tell stories about the events of our lives, and in doing so create a deeper meaning out of the most seemingly mundane events. But so often this interior projection can act as a distraction from presence—standing in the way of our ability to be awake to the fullness of our experience as it unfolds, making it difficult to see and appreciate the entire world of experience and sensation that’s right in front of our eyes. I’m paying attention now.”
Previously shared songs from Head of Roses are “Two” (which was one of our Songs of the Week), “Price of Blue” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week), and “Hard Way” (which was also recently featured as one of our Songs of the Week).
9. Poté: “Young Lies” (Feat. Damon Albarn)
This week, Sylvern Mathurin, also known as Poté, announced his new album A Tenuous Tale of Her, which will be coming out on June 4 via Outlier. He also shared a new song, the immersive and atmospheric “Young Lies,” which features Damon Albarn (of Blur and Gorillaz), with contributions by Gorillaz producer Remy Kabaka Jr. It was shared via a video to accompany the track. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Poté talks about the unique direction of this album in a press release: “I wanted to write something that can live on stage without me being present. I think it’s just working with other people, and people who actually write songs, and not just producers—that really shaped my ear for melodies and writing.”
The music on A Tenuous Tale of Her follows his last record, Spiral, My Love released in 2018. The new album features collaborations with Kojey Radical, Chelou and Alxndr London. The new track features the rhythmic sounds of his Caribbean childhood accompanied by explorative and expressive songwriting that work together to produce the beginning of a multi-dimensional performance throughout the album.
Poté has been featured in Bonobo’s 2019 Fabric Presents mix, the 2019 Africa Express album EGOLI, and produced remixes for Little Dragon and Gorillaz. By Emma Goad
10. Dry Cleaning: “Unsmart Lady”
On Tuesday, London-based post-punk band Dry Cleaning shared a video for a new single titled “Unsmart Lady.” It is the latest single release from their new album, New Long Leg, which is out today on 4AD.
Frontwoman Florence Shaw states in a press release regarding the concept behind the song: “‘Unsmart Lady’ is driven by a pleasing bone-rattling grunge groove and lyrics about body image. ‘Fat podgy, non make-up’—I was thinking about these things that are supposed to be a source of shame about your appearance and wanting to use them in a powerful way. Just trying to survive when you feel knackered and put-upon and shit about yourself, but you say, ‘I don’t care what I’m supposed to be.’”
Previously released singles from New Long Leg are “Scratchcard Lanyard” (one of our Songs of the Week) and “Strong Feelings” (another one of our Songs of the Week).
Last week, 4AD shared a Dry Cleaning cover of Grimes’ “Oblivion” for their forthcoming compilation Bills & Aches & Blues.
These three songs almost made the Top 10.
Beak>: “Oh Know”
Angel Olsen: “It’s Every Season (Whole New Mess)”
Squirrel Flower: “Hurt a Fly”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
The Armed: “AN ITERATION”
Nicole Atkins and Marissa Nadler: “Mr. Blue” (The Fleetwoods Cover)
Courtney Barnett and Vagabon: “Don’t Do It” (Sharon Van Etten Cover)
Becky and the Birds: “The Wolves Act I and II” (Bon Iver Cover)
Big Thief: “Off You” (The Breeders Cover)
BROCKHAMPTON: “Count On Me” (Feat. A$AP Rocky & SoGoneSoFlexy)
Cold Cave: “Night Light”
Current Joys: “American Honey”
Dead History: “Sleep Safe”
Dinosaur Jr.: “Garden”
Nicole Dollanganger: “Whispering Glades”
Du Blonde: “All the Way” (Feat. Andy Bell)
Danny Elfman: “Kick Me (Zach Hill Remix)”
Ex:Re: “Misery is a Butterfly” (Blonde Redhead Cover)
Garbage: “The Men Who Rule the World”
Claire George: “Pink Elephants”
Half Waif: “Take Away the Ache”
Damon Locks and Black Monument Ensemble: “Keep Your Mind Free”
MNDR: “Love in Reverse” (Feat. Empress Of)
Moontype: “Stuck on You”
Gary Numan: “Saints and Liars”
Olivia Rodrigo: “deja vu”
Shamir: “Lose to Win”
SOHN: “Song to the Siren” (Tim Buckley Cover)
Richard Swift: “KFC” and “A Man’s Man”
Laura Veirs: “The Panther”
Wavves: “Sinking Feeling”
Waxahatchee: “Fruits of My Labor” (Lucinda Williams Cover), “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” (Dolly Parton Cover), and “Streets of Philadelphia” (Bruce Springsteen Cover)
Zombi: “Black Forest”
(Thanks to Joey Arnone for helping to put this week’s list together.)
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