10 Best Songs of the Week: Metronomy, Sleater-Kinney, Sufjan Stevens, Lower Dens, and More
Plus Electric Youth, Hot Chip, Penelope Isles, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
May 31, 2019
By Christopher Roberts
Welcome to another Songs of the Week. After two weeks where we couldn’t even muster a Top 10, this week was an embarrassment of aural riches. We almost went for a Top 12 instead of our usual Top 10, but restrained ourselves.
Elsewhere on the website this week we posted interviews with Julia Holter and Sharon Van Etten, as well as a Self-Portrait feature with Lotti Benardout of HÆLOS.
In the last week we also reviewed a bunch of albums, including the latest by Drugdealer, Morrissey, Josephine Wiggs, Spiral Stairs, L7, Sacred Paws, and Cate Le Bon. Plus we posted reviews of various DVDs, Blu-rays, films, concerts, and TV shows.
Don’t forget about our current print issue. The issue features Mitski on the front cover and boygenius (Julien Baker + Phoebe Bridgers + Lucy Dacus) on the back cover.
To help you sort through the multitude of fresh songs released in the last week, we have picked the 10 best the last seven days had to offer, along with highlighting other notable new tracks shared in the last week. Check out the full list below.
1. Metronomy: “Lately”
This week Metronomy returned with a new song, “Lately,” shared via a video for the track directed by the band’s frontman Joseph Mount in his directorial debut. The inventive clip features miniature versions of the band crawling out of a mixtape and performing on it. It is said to be the first taste of the band’s new album, which is due out this fall. It will be the follow-up to 2016’s Summer 08. Since then Mount also did production work on Robyn’s Honey (Robyn also appeared on Summer 08). Any of the Top 5 could’ve been our #1 this week, but it was Mount’s precise production on “Lately” that sold us on making it the top song.
Mount had this to say about the video in a press release: “This music video is a pop promo in the grand tradition of pop promos: End of school on a Friday afternoon, mysterious little people that live in a cassette tape, concerned parents, and special FX. The song and video are both about growing up. I’ve absolutely loved taking the opportunity to direct our own music videos. I have quite strong opinions on what music videos are for in 2019 and how they should be presented and this has been a chance for me to put my money where my mouth is! The most impressive thing I’ve realized is how much of a group effort creating a music video is. I’ve always known it, but this time I’ve obviously worked much closer with the various characters, involved in every department. So, thank you to them.”
Read our 2016 interview with Metronomy.
2. Sleater-Kinney: “Hurry On Home”
This week Sleater-Kinney shared a brand new song, “Hurry On Home,” via a lyric video for the track. St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) produced the song and Miranda July directed the video (and also appears in it). They have also announced some tour dates. Check out the tour dates, as well as the cover art for the single, here.
Sleater-Kinney consists of Carrie Brownstein (guitar/vocals), Corin Tucker (guitar/vocals), and Janet Weiss (drums). They released a well-received comeback album, No Cities to Love, in 2015 via Sub Pop and are due to release their follow-up later this year. It’s expected that St. Vincent also produced the album.
Weiss had this to say about the song and the new album in a press release: “I think for Carrie and Corin it was liberating to explore a different sound palette.”
Brownstein added: “Instead of just going into the studio to document what we’d done, we were going in to explore and to find the essence of something. To dig in deeper.”
3. Sufjan Stevens: “With My Whole Heart”
This week Sufjan Stevens shared two new songs, “Love Yourself” and “With My Whole Heart,” in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month. Both songs make this list, but we slightly preferred “With My Whole Heart.”
Both songs are available digitally now, with a 7-inch release due on June 28 via Asthmatic Kitty. “Love Yourself” was written in 1996 and “With My Whole Heart” is a brand new song. In a press release Stevens said that “With My Whole Heart” stemmed from a challenge he set himself to “write an upbeat and sincere love song without conflict, anxiety, or self-deprecation.”
Some of the proceeds from the songs will be donated to two organizations that provide support for LGBTQ and homeless kids in America, which are the Ali Forney Center in Harlem, NY and the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit, MI. Stevens has also designed a Pride T-shirt and bumper sticker that are exclusively available from www.sufjamz.com, Stevens’ new merchandising platform.
4. Lower Dens: “Young Republicans”
This week Lower Dens (which is led by singer/songwriter Jana Hunter) announced a new album, The Competition, and shared a video for its first single, “Young Republicans.” The Competition is due out September 6 via Ribbon Music. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
The Competition is the follow-up to 2015’s Escape From Evil. A press release says The Competition “might be Hunter’s most vulnerable, hook-filled album yet, a leftfield, resistance pop record that could only be released in 2019.”Raul Gonzo directed the Young Republicans” video and the press release says the song is “about a certain sect of society’s elite and their insatiable appetite to consume the lower classes both figuratively and literally.”
Hunter had this to say about the album in the press release: “The issues that have shaped my life, for better or for worse, have to do with coming from a family and a culture that totally bought into this competitive mindset. I was wild and in a lot of pain as a kid; home life was very bleak, and pop songs were a guaranteed escape to a mental space where beauty, wonder, and love were possible. I wanted to write songs that might have the potential to do that.”
5. Electric Youth: “The Life”
This week Electric Youth announced a new album, Memory Emotion, and shared its first single, “The Life,” via a video for the track. Memory Emotion is the duo’s first new album in five years and is due out August 9 via Watts Arcade Inc./Last Gang. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
The Toronto-based duo (vocalist Bronwyn Griffin and multi-instrumentalist Austin Garrick) first garnered attention due to their song “A Real Hero” being featured prominently in the 2011 film Drive (directed by Nicolas Winding Refn). Their debut album, Innerworld, arrived in 2014. Since then they have kept busy working on more soundtrack work with Winding Refn and other collaborations. The band self-produced Memory Emotion. Chris Muir directed the video for “The Life.”
Garrick had this to say about the album in a press release: “Memory Emotion is much more outer-world, an album focused on the external world we live in and the way in which we interact with the world as a result of the emotions attached to our memories. Innerworld was finding that sense of self, developing and establishing a viewpoint, and Memory Emotion is us taking that viewpoint with us out into the world. ‘The Life’ encapsulates the spectrum of that experience, from the dark to the light, the birth and rebirth, the destruction, degeneration and regeneration of living things on our planet, the home to all greedy megalomaniacs and generous martyrs alike. There really is a strong link between music and memory and emotion, and Memory Emotion is what we came up with for that link.”
6. Sufjan Stevens: “Love Yourself”
As we mentioned above, this week Sufjan Stevens shared two new songs, “Love Yourself” and “With My Whole Heart,” in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month. “Love Yourself” charts at #6 on this week’s list. He also shared a 1996 demo of “Love Yourself” as well as a reprise of the song and you can hear both of those below too.
7. Hot Chip: “Melody of Love”
Hot Chip are releasing a new album, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, on June 21 via Domino. Previously they shared a video for its first single, “Hungry Child” (which was one of our Songs of the Week). This week they shared another song from it, “Melody of Love,” also via a video for it. Nima Nourizadeh directed the video, which mainly features just the heads of the band members (and other people).
For A Bath Full of Ecstasy, the band (Owen Clarke, Al Doyle, Joe Goddard, Felix Martin, and Alexis Taylor) worked with outside producers for the first time: France’s Philippe Zdar and Scotland’s Rodaidh McDonald. The album was recorded in Paris and London. Turner-prize winning artist Jeremy Deller and Fraser Muggeridge Studio created the album’s artwork. The album is the follow-up to 2015’s Why Make Sense?, although in 2018 founding member/lead vocalist Alexis Taylor released a new solo album, Beautiful Thing, also via Domino.
8. Penelope Isles: “Leipzig”
Penelope Isles are a new British four-piece that are releasing their debut album, Until the Tide Creeps In, onJuly 12 via Bella Union. This week they shared another song from the album, “Leipzig,” via a video for the track. The band’s Jack Wolter directed the video.
Previously their single “Chlorine” was one of our Songs of the Week and they also shared a video for the song. Then they shared another song from the album, “Round” (which was also one of our Songs of the Week).
The band features siblings Jack and Lily Wolter and are from Isle of Man-via-Brighton. The quartet is completed by Jack Sowton and Becky Redford.
Jack and Lily had this to say about the song in a press release: “We filmed the video in Berlin, Munich, Hannover, Diest and Luxembourg whilst on tour in Europe last year. We would constantly be on the lookout for perfect spots along the way and would keep our jeans and white t shirts folded up in a pile in the van ready to go. It’s funny that we actually forgot to shoot anything whilst in Leipzig! Although the shot of of J Sow playing drums in the woods looks very picturesque, we were actually all surrounded by German truck driver’s roadside turds! We had a laugh making the video and were all very impressed by Becky’s moves on the bridge in Munich! Germany is one of our favorite places to tour and it feels lovely to have these places within our music video.”
The musical partnership between the siblings came together when Jack came home from studying art at university.
“By the time I moved home Lily was not so much of an annoying younger sister anymore and had grown up and started playing in bands and writing songs,” Jack said in a previous press release. “We soon became very close. I had written some songs, so we started a band called Your Gold Teeth. We toured a bit and then Lily left for Brighton to study songwriting. A couple of years later I moved down and we started Penelope Isles together.”
Jack said the album consequently deals with themes of “leaving home, moving away, dealing with transitions in life and growing up. We are six years apart, so we had a different experience of some of this, but we share a similar inspiration when writing music. Family, leaving home, disconnection and connection all ring bells!”
Jack added: “It’s cool to have two songwriters in the band because I love her songs so much!”
Jack also directed the “Chlorine” video and produced the album, which was co-mixed by Iggy B (The Duke Spirit, John Grant, Spiritualized) in London’s Bella Studios.
9. Absolutely Free: “Geneva Freeport”
Toronto trio Absolutely Free are releasing a new EP, Geneva Freeport, onJune 20 via Idée Fixe. This week they shared another song from it, title track “Geneva Freeport.”
According to a press release, the song “details an absurd fantasy about taking a holiday to one of the world’s most notorious high security art storage facilities.”
The band also had this to say in the press release: “Through fantasy and the starkest of realities, this song brings to question the process in which economic value is prescribed to cultural artifacts, how that value is exploited through storing them in high security storage facilities (like the Geneva Freeport) to avoid paying taxes, and how it all seems so antithetical to why most artists create their work in the first place.”
Previously Absolutely Free shared the EP’s first single, “Currency (Extended Mix),” which features U.S. Girls (aka Meghan Remy) and was one of our Songs of the Week.
Absolutely Free haven’t released an album since their 2014-released self-titled debut album, although last November they released the one-off single “Still Life.” The band consists of Moshe Fisher-Rozenberg, Michael Claxton, and Matt King.
10. Bruce Springsteen: “Tucson Train”
Bruce Springsteen is releasing a new solo album, Western Stars, on June 14 via Columbia. This week he shared another song from it, “Tucson Train,” a string-backed workingman’s love song, via a video for the song. Thom Zimny directed the black & white video, which features Springsteen and his band performing the song with string and horn sections, including many of the people who played on the album.
Western Stars is his first studio album in five years, since 2014’s High Hopes. Previously he shared a lyric video for its first single, “Hello Sunshine.” The string-backed song features slide guitar and has a late ’60s and early ’70s country vibe à la Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell. It was our #1 Song of the Week. Then he shared another song from it, “There Goes My Miracle.”
The album features 13 original songs by Springsteen and was primarily recorded at his home in New Jersey, with additional recording in California and New York. A previous press release said that Springsteen’s 19th studio album draws “inspiration in part from the Southern California pop records of the late ’60s and early ’70s” and that the tracks “encompass a sweeping range of American themes, of highways and desert spaces, of isolation and community and the permanence of home and hope.”
Springsteen produced the album alongside Ron Aniello, who also plays bass, keyboard, and other instruments. Patti Scialfa provides vocals and contributes vocal arrangements on four tracks. The musical arrangements include strings, horns, pedal steel and contributions from
The album also features more than 20 other players, such as Patti Scialfa (who does vocals and vocal arrangements on four tracks), Jon Brion (on celeste, Moog, and farfisa), David Sancious, Charlie Giordano, and Soozie Tyrell. Tom Elmhirst mixed the album.
Springsteen had this to say about the album in the previous press release: “This record is a return to my solo recordings featuring character driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements. It’s a jewel box of a record.”
These eight songs almost made the Top 10, with Palehound and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds coming closest to making the Top 10.
Africa Express: “Become The Tiger” (Feat. Sibot, Damon Albarn, and Mr. Jukes)
Beak>: “We Can Go”
Charles Bradley: “Lucifer”
Cosmo Gold: “Drown the Fly”
Cross Record: “PYSOL My Castle”
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: “Rattling Rose”
Palehound: “Black Friday”
Pom Pom Squad: “Heavy Heavy”
School of Language: 45
School of Language is the side-project of David Brewis of Field Music (which is a duo with his brother Peter Brewis) and yesterday he surprise-released 45, a new album about Donald Trump and, as a press release puts it, “his dubious rise in politics, his capricious behavior while in office, and the motley cast of characters he has surrounded himself with.” We are still digesting the album and had trouble singling out one track for this week’s Songs of the Week, so we’re including the whole album as a special mention.
A portion of the proceeds (£1 from each digital purchase of the album on Bandcamp) will go to Planned Parenthood and The Alliance for Choice in Northern Ireland. The album is out now digitally via Memphis Industries and is timed to Trump’s state visit to the UK in early June. A physical release will come later in the year.
45 is School of Language’s third album, following 2008’s Sea From Shore and 2014’s Old Fears. The album was written and recorded over the course of two months at Field Music’s studio in Sunderland, England. A press release says it was “inspired by Bob Woodward’s book Fear, articles in The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and The New York Times and by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.” Musically it was “also inspired by James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, The Meters, Otis Redding and Free.”
Brewis had this to say about the album in a press release: “For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by U.S. politics and that fascination became an obsession in the run up to the 2016 election. It really made me wonder as to whether I had any understanding of people whatsoever. It feels like Trump’s success has rendered in perfect detail every fault line in Western democracy – how profile beats policy, how corporate interests overwhelm the needs of ordinary people and how ethics and the rule of law are at the mercy of partisanship. To be honest, I could probably have written twice as many songs such is the wealth of scarcely believable material surrounding the Trump administration. It’s like King Lear populated by the cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Here in the UK, I feel far enough removed that I can turn my revulsion into satire. I don’t think I could do the same with Brexit. It’s too close.”
Other notable new tracks in the last week include:
!!!: “UR Paranoid” and “Off The Grid”
Bill Callahan: “747,” “Watch Me Get Married,” “Young Icarus,” “Released,” and “What Comes After Certainty”
Cardi B: “Press”
Charli XCX, Diplo, and Herve Pagez: “Spicy” (Cover of The Spice Girls’ “Wannabe”)
Chromatics: “Petals” (Hole Cover)
Crumb: “Fall Down”
Florist: “Shadow Bloom”
French Vanilla: “Lost Power”
Adam Green: “Freeze My Love”
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard:“Self-Immolate”
Albert Hammond Jr.: “More to Life”
Lisa Loeb: “First Day Of My Life” (Bright Eyes Cover)
Katy Perry: “Never Really Over”
Phantogram: “Into Happiness”
Mark Ronson: “Find U Again” (Feat. Camila Cabello)
Julia Shapiro: “Shape”
Slaughter Beach, Dog: “One Down”
Titus Andronicus: “Just Like Ringing a Bell” and “Troubleman Unlimited”
Tove Lo: “Glad He’s Gone”
The Voidz: “The Eternal Tao”
White Reaper: “Might Be Right”
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