10 Best Songs of Week: Saint Etienne, Geese, Helado Negro, W.H. Lung, and More
Plus The Fiery Furnaces, La Luz, My Morning Jacket, and a Wrap-up of the Week’s Other Notable New Tracks
Aug 27, 2021
Welcome to the 32nd Songs of the Week of 2021. It was an eclectic week for new tracks and there were lots to choose from (hence we have a slew of honorable mentions).
In the last week we posted interviews with Manic Street Preachers and Judy Collins.
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. Saint Etienne: “Penlop”
British indie-pop trio Saint Etienne are releasing a new album, I’ve Been Trying to Tell You, on September 10 via Heavenly. It is accompanied by a film. On Tuesday they shared the album’s second single, atmospheric slow-burner “Penlop,” via a video for it that is also a clip from the film and is a little bit NSFW. As the video can only be viewed on YouTube, due to some male nudity, we have also included the Spotify audio for the song. “Penlop” imbues effortless cool.
The band’s Bob Stanley had this to say about the new single in a press release: “‘Penlop’ is one of my favorite songs on the album. Sarah’s vocal makes me think of a travel guide, walking you around your half-remembered memories of the late ’90s. Pete’s production on this is wonderful, I like the way it bursts wide open at the end, like someone breaking through from the past into the present day.”
Previously Saint Etienne shared the album’s first single, “Pond House,” via a video. “Pond House” was one of our Songs of the Week. The album and film are about “optimism, youth, and the late ’90s.”
Alasdair McLellan directed the film, which premieres at the BFI (British Film Institute) in London on September 3 and is followed by a weekend of Saint Etienne film screenings and Q&As. The album was recorded remotely, a first for the band, with each member in a different location no doubt due to the pandemic. Pete Wiggs was in Hove, Sarah Cracknell was in Oxford, and Bob Stanley was in Bradford. Film and TV composer Gus Bousfield also contributed to two songs on the album.
A previous press release explained the album’s concept in more detail: “The album was made largely from samples and sounds drawn from the years 1997-2001, a period that was topped and tailed by Labour’s election victory and the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. Was the optimism of that era a lost golden age, or was it a period of naïvety, delusion and folly? The collective folk memory of any period differs from the lived reality. I’ve Been Trying to Tell You is an album about memory, how it works, how it tricks you and creates a dream-like state. It also taps into the way we think of our youth, a sense of place, and where we come from.”
The band members were each also quoted in the press release.
Bob Stanley: “To me it’s about optimism, and the late ’90s, and how memory is an unreliable narrator. Pete and Gus have done a properly amazing production job. I think it sounds gorgeous.”
Sarah Cracknell: “It’s the first sample driven album we’ve made since So Tough and it’s been a really refreshing experience, such fun! It’s both dreamy and atmospheric, late summer sounds.”
Pete Wiggs: “We’ve really pulled apart and dived deep into the samples; the concept and each of our interpretations of it have made this a very special sounding album, we hope you think so too.”
Director/photographer Alasdair McLellan also had this to say about the accompanying film: “My starting point was an interpretation of my memories from the time I first started to listen to Saint Etienne’s music. Of course, it is an interpretation of what I was doing then while looking back at it now. At that time, I was a bored teenager in a village near Doncaster, South Yorkshire; it was a place where very little happened. I now look back at that time as something quite idyllic—even the boredom seems idyllic—and a big part of its soundtrack was Saint Etienne.”
Saint Etienne’s last album was 2017’s Home Counties.
Read our 2017 print magazine interview with Saint Etienne.
Read our 2017 extended Q&A with Saint Etienne.
2. Geese: “Low Era”
On Tuesday brand new Brooklyn post-punk five-piece Geese announced their debut album, Projector, and shared a new song from it, “Low Era,” via a Fons Schiedon-directed video for the single, which has a bit of a Strokes vibe. Projector is due out October 29 via Partisan/Play It Again Sam (with a physical release on December 3). Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Projector includes the band’s auspicious debut single, “Disco,” which came out in June and was #2 on our Songs of the Week list and also garnered acclaim from other outlets.
Geese’s members are recently out of high school. The band wrote, produced, and recorded Projector during their junior and senior years of high school at their home studio (which they call The Nest). Singer Cameron Winter wrote each song, which was then fleshed out by guitarist Gus Green, guitarist Foster Hudson, bassist Dom DiGesu, and drummer Max Bassin. Each song had to be recorded between the end of the school day and 10 p.m., which is when they’d start getting noise complaints from the neighbors. Dan Carey (Squid, black midi, Fontaines D.C.) then mixed Projector.
The band collectively had this to say about “Low Era” in a press release: “We had been trying to get everything to sound super heavy, creepy crawly, and complicated, really because that’s all we knew how to do. Four-on-the-floor songs like ‘Low Era’ had felt a little like poison to us for a while, until we consciously tried to challenge ourselves to write something more danceable. Once we stopped enforcing certain boundaries, it ended up working out without us expecting it to, and even ushered in this psychedelic 3-D element that ends up appearing throughout the album. We like the idea of confusing the listener a little, and trying to make every song a counteraction to the last, pinballing between catchy and complicated, fast and slow. ‘Low Era’ is one end of that spectrum, and ultimately broadened the scope of songs we thought we could make.”
Geese will be performing at some festivals this year, including Shaky Knees and Desert Daze, as well as headlining Elsewhere (Zone 1) in Brooklyn on August 27.
3. Helado Negro: “Outside the Outside”
Helado Negro (Miami-born, New York-based artist Roberto Carlos Lange) is releasing a new album, Far In, on October 22 via 4AD. On Wednesday he shared its second single, “Outside the Outside,” via a video consisting of home movie footage of his family’s south Florida house parties in the 1980s.
In a press release Lange says that he felt like an outsider in his family’s community, while also feeling like he belonged. “I found space through music and outsiders finding each other,” he explains. “This is a song about intimate partnerships and long-loving friendships. To be loyal freaks and an outsider amongst outsiders.”
Of the video, Lange adds: “My family came to this country as outsiders looking for and finding community. People would come to our house and bond through music, food and dancing. They usually began at 8 PM and lasted until 5 AM.”
Previously Helado Negro shared Far In’s first single, “Gemini and Leo,” via a video for it. “Gemini and Leo” was one of our Songs of the Week.
Far In is his seventh album and the follow-up to 2019’s This Is How You Smile and 2016’s Private Energy.
“Escape is never out there, you have to go inward,” Negro simply said about the album in a previous press release.
4. W.H. Lung: “Gd Tym”
Manchester, England-based dance-rock band W.H. Lung were releasing a new album, Vanities, on September 3 via Melodic, but this week they pushed it back to October 8 due to COVID-19 and pressing plant issues. To tide fans over, on Tuesday they shared the album’s third single, “Gd Tym,” which was put out via a video starring a drag queen named Dylan as she wanders a small town in Northern England. The band’s Joe Evans co-directed the video with Craig McLaughlin.
Evans had this to say about the video in a press release: “The ‘Gd Tym’ video sees a drag queen sweep like a flame through a town in need of a party. She moves through the scenes bringing fierceness and love, fulfilling her divine task, before disappearing back into the land.
“I wanted the video to celebrate the central message of the song which rejoices in dancing and freedom and expression. I knew it had to be drag. We were so blessed to work with the amazing Dylan who brought such an elegance, glamour and vitality to their performance.
“I was inspired to create moving photographs, equally by the music videos of Solange and the vibrant slice-of-life photography of Martin Parr. The beautiful work of Craig McLoughlin who co-directed and edited this video and Jamie Haigherty, our DP, was essential in bringing these worlds together.
“The video was shot in the Calder Valley, around Heptonstall and our previous home of Todmorden. These are the real-life people and places from the period of our lives that informed the writing of this album. It’s a real joy to be able to pay homage to this these people and this scenery and here too.”
Previously W.H. Lung shared Vanities’ first single, “Pearl in the Palm,” via a video for it. “Pearl in the Palm” was one of our Songs of the Week. Then came the album’s second single, “Showstopper,” which features softlizard and was shared via a video. “Showstopper” also made our Songs of the Week list.
Vanities is the band’s sophomore album, the follow-up to 2019’s Incidental Music. W.H. Lung’s main songwriters are Tom Sharkett and Joe Evans.
In a previous press release, Sharkett said that their hometown is integral to their sound. “Manchester is a very important part of this record,” he says. “The White Hotel, nights like Wet Play, seeing Gerd Janson DJ at the End of Year Riot (Electric Chair) and then discovering all the amazing stuff on his label Running Back. Then when we moved to Todmorden it was the same. Seeing Andrew Weatherall down the road from our flat at The Golden Lion—it just felt like an exciting time for us and I wanted to consume as much new music as possible.”
Evans said that the dancefloor is also an important component of the new album. “Vanities is a musical representation of what Tom and I crave the most now that it’s been taken away from us,” he said. “In simple terms, we love to dance and have both fallen deeper in love with the music that facilitates that. Because of this voracious appetite for new music and the experiences that come with that hunger, influences on the album are vast: the aforementioned Weatherall, Robyn, Todd Terje, Grauzone, Kelly Lee Owens, Helena Hauff and countless others.”
5. The Fiery Furnaces: “The Fortune Teller’s Revenge”
After a near 11-year long hiatus, The Fiery Furnaces returned last year with the new single “Down at the So and So on Somewhere.” On Wednesday they announced some new live dates and digitally shared the song “The Fortune Teller’s Revenge,” which was originally the B-side of “Down at the So and So on Somewhere” when it was released on a 7-inch last year by Third Man. So we suppose it’s more of a newish song, but since it debuted online this week we’re including it on the list.
The live dates happen this November and will be supported by comedian/musician Fred Armisen. Check out the dates here.
Prior to last year, the last we heard from the brother/sister duo of Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger was 2009’s I’m Going Away.
“Down at the So and So on Somewhere” was one of our Songs of the Week.
“We’re very excited to be playing again, to get a chance to do new things with old stuff, or old things with new people,” the band collectively say in a press release. “And we’re very happy to have Fred opening the shows. We’ll be six on stage, joined by: Brian Betancourt, Noah Hecht, Emily Lee and Cameron Wisch.”
6. La Luz: “The Pines”
Los Angeles trio La Luz are releasing a new self-titled album on October 22 via Hardly Art. On Wednesday they shared a new song from it, “The Pines,” via a green screen-aided video. Hamilton Boyce directed the karaoke-inspired video.
La Luz is guitarist and songwriter Shana Cleveland, bassist Lena Simon, and keyboardist Alice Sandahl. The band’s last album was 2018’s Floating Features. La Luz includes the band’s single, “In the Country.” When the album was announced they shared another new song from it, “Watching Cartoons,” via a video. “Watching Cartoons” was one of our Songs of the Week.
Adrian Younge—known for his work with hip-hop, soul, and jazz acts—produced La Luz. He had this to say in a previous press release: “We both create music with the same attitude, and that’s what I love about them. They are never afraid to be risky and their style is captivating. I don’t work with many bands, but I love taking chances on people that share the same vision. We both love to be ourselves, and it was an honor to work with them.”
7. My Morning Jacket: “Regularly Scheduled Programming”
On Tuesday My Morning Jacket announced a new self-titled album and shared its first single, “Regularly Scheduled Programming,” via a video for it. My Morning Jacket is due out October 22 via ATO. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art, as well as the band’s previously announced upcoming tour dates, here.
My Morning Jacket’s frontman Jim James had this to say about “Regularly Scheduled Programming” in a press release: “This song really hits home for me after what we’ve gone through with the pandemic. But even before then, it felt like so many of us were trading real life for social media, trading our own stories for the storylines on TV, trading our consciousness for drugs. We need to help each other wake up to real love before it’s too late.”
James produced and engineered My Morning Jacket over two multi-week sessions at Los Angeles, CA’s 64 Sound. A press release says that the band almost called it quits prior to recording the album, but were inspired by performing four shows in summer 2019, in particular two nights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, that encouraged them to make a new album and keep going as a band.
“I hope this album brings people a lot of joy and relief, especially since we’ve all been cooped up for so long,” says James in the press release. “I know that feeling you get from driving around blasting music you love, or even lying in bed and crying to the music you love. The fact that we’re able to be a part of people’s lives in that way is so magical to us, and it feels really good that we’re still around to keep doing that.”
My Morning Jacket released a new album, The Waterfall II, just last year via ATO after announcing it only a few days earlier. The album was the long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s The Waterfall and was recorded at the same time as that album. When The Waterfall was released it was said to be part one of a two-part album and five years later they delivered on that promise. While no pre-release singles from the album were shared, when the album was released “Feel You” and “Wasted” both made our Songs of the Week list.
Their upcoming shows will be My Morning Jacket’s first full on headline tour in five years. Brittany Howard is set to co-headline some of the dates and support will also come from Flock of Dimes, Bedouine, and Durand Jones & The Indications. The band are partnering with PLUS1 so that $1.00 from every ticket “will go to support non-profits working for environmental justice, racial equity, and securing access to mental health care for all.”
In 2019, James released The Order of Nature, a new live album recorded with The Louisville Orchestra in collaboration with conductor/arranger/composer Teddy Abrams, via Decca Gold.
Read our interview with Jim James on the 2018 midterm elections.
Read our review of The Waterfall.
Read our interview with My Morning Jacket on The Waterfall.
8. Spirits Having Fun: “See a Sky”
This week Chicago-via-NYC post-punk experimentalists Spirits Having Fun shared a new song titled “See a Sky.” It is the latest release from their forthcoming sophomore album Two, due out on September 3 via Born Yesterday.
Frontwoman Katie McShane speaks about the new song in a press release: “There is a Russian cartoon with a small bear. I watched it in one of my many attempts to re-learn Russian. In one of the scenes, the rough translation is: ‘I will pretend that I am a small cloud. Then they won’t understand anything.’ In the foreground is the brown bear holding two balloons, one green, one blue. In the background is the field, colored pencil flowers, trees, and grass. I love this image, it activates my mind. From that place I’ve written a stream of consciousness on many related topics such as perspective shifting relationships and floating away into the universe.”
The band’s debut album, Auto-Portrait, came out in 2019. By Joey Arnone
9. Marissa Nadler: “Bessie, Did You Make It?”
On Wednesday Marissa Nadler announced a new album, The Path of the Clouds, and shared its first single, “Bessie, Did You Make It?,” via a video for it. The Path of the Clouds is due out October 29 via Sacred Bones and Bella Union. Check out the album’s tracklist and cover art here.
Nadler wrote and recorded the album during the pandemic and was partially inspired by binging reruns of Unsolved Mysteries as she “began to notice parallels between many of its stories and her own life,” as a press release puts it. On The Path of the Clouds she worked with various collaborators, including Mary Lattimore, Simon Raymonde (of Cocteau Twins and Lost Horizons and the head of Bella Union), multi-instrumentalist Milky Burgess, Jesse Chandler (Nadler’s piano teacher and a member of Mercury Rev and Midlake), Emma Ruth Rundle, and Black Mountain’s Amber Webber. Seth Manchester (Lingua Ignota, Battles, and Lightning Bolt) mixed the album.
Thou’s Mitch Wells directed the “Bessie, Did You Make It?” video and had this to say in a press release: “When I first got the chance to hear Marissa’s new album, and was asked, ‘Which song would you like to do a video for?’ I sort of panicked because literally every song is SO good. It was like being at a buffet of all your favorite food and only being able to choose one thing to eat. I had a blast making the video, but there was always the pressure of ‘don’t let down the song.’ It’s such a beautiful opening track and I’m really lucky I was given the chance to be a part of it.”
Nadler’s last album was 2018’s For My Crimes.
10. Shannon Lay: “A Thread to Find”
Shannon Lay is releasing a new album, Geist, on October 8 via Sub Pop. On Tuesday she shared its fourth single, “A Thread to Find,” via a video for it. Kai Macknight directed the video, which features in-the-studio footage.
Lay had this to say about the new song in a press release: “‘A Thread to Find’ is about finding pieces of yourself in unfamiliar places. It is about watching the people around you grow and evolve and admiring the chaos and the beauty of discovering new worlds within ourselves. It is recognizing the courage and strength in each other even in the face of great challenge. And it is a reminder for when you get lonely on your journey that we are in this together. You’re on your own but not alone.”
When Geist was announced Lay shared two songs from it, “Awaken and Allow” and title track “Geist,” via a joint video. Both songs jointly made our Songs of the Week list. Geist includes “Rare to Awake,” a new song Lay shared in May.
The initial vocals and guitar for the album were recorded by Lay at Jarvis Tavinere of Woods’s studio. Then various others worked on the songs from there: multi-instrumentalists Ben Boye (Bonnie Prince Billy, Ty Segall) in Los Angeles and Devin Hoff (Sharon Van Etten, Cibo Matto) in New York, Sofia Arreguin (Wand) and Aaron Otheim (Heatwarmer, Mega Bog) added additional keys, and then Ty Segall did a guitar solo on “Shores.”
These songs almost made the Top 10. Yep, we almost put William Shatner in the Top 10. I still kinda regret that we didn’t.
Caribou: “You Can Do It”
Fantastic Negrito: “Rolling Through California”
Steve Gunn: “Circuit Rider”
Hand Habits: “No Difference”
Japanese Breakfast: “Glider”
William Shatner: “Clouds of Guilt” (Feat. Joe Jonas)
Sylvie: “Falls On Me”
Other notable new tracks in the last two weeks include:
Julien Baker: “Favor (Jesu Remix)”
Courtney Barnett – “I’ll Be Your Mirror” (The Velvet Underground Cover)
Black Marble: “Ceiling”
The Bug: “Vexed” (Feat. Moor Mother)
Marie Davidson & L’Œil Nu: “Persona”
Deerhoof: “Plant Thief”
Dehd: “Desire (Lala Lala Remix)”
Dinner: “Midnight In My Head”
Explosions In The Sky: “Climbing Bear”
Gorillaz: “Meanwhile…” (Feat. Jelani Blackman with Barrington Levy), “Jimmy Jimmy” (Feat. AJ Tracey), and “Déjà Vu (Live from NW10)” (Feat. Alicaì Harley)
IDLES: “The God That Failed” (Metallica Cover)
Ada Lea: “partner”
Lydia Loveless: “You’re Leaving Me” and “Let’s Make Out”
Kacey Musgraves: “star-crossed” and “justified”
Nothing: “Amber Gambler”
R.E.M.: “Leave (Alternate Version)”
William Shatner: “So Far From the Moon” (Feat. Brad Paisley)
Sigrid: “Burning Bridges”
Sleigh Bells: “Justine Go Genesis”
Esperanza Spalding: “Formwela 10”
Yvette: “Contact High”
Classic Song of the Week:
A new addition to Songs of the Week we are trying out is each week highlighting an older song we like. We are starting with Andrew Gold’s 1978 single “Thank You For Being a Friend,” which 1980s sitcom fans will recognize as being the original version of the theme song to The Golden Girls. Cynthia Fee covered the song for beloved TV show, but Gold’s original and much longer version is glorious.
Andrew Gold: “Thank You For Being a Friend”
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