Welcome to this week’s edition of Essential Listening, which found me completely wrapped up in preparing for the holiday season without actually paying attention to the fact that the week of December 13th – 17th didn’t have a proper update on the Far Out Playlist. I blame myself, and will relinquish my badge and gun in the morning.
Anyway, just because I had a brain freeze doesn’t mean that we didn’t get some great new music over the past five (now actually seven) days. Mostly these were previews for some highly anticipated full-length releases coming next year from the likes of Animal Collective and Big Thief, but also included some fun one-offs and some great new videos as well.
The “new music” content is actually quite flexible, as you’ll see in the list down below. If an older song has something new about it, like a new video in two of these cases, than it qualifies for inclusion here. We try to keep it diverse around the halls of Far Out, but when George Harrison assembles a ludicrous cast of talent from beyond the grave to produce a goofy and heart-warming new video for ‘My Sweet Lord’, we can’t help but give it some props.
Here are the best new songs and videos for the week of December 13th – 17th, assembled together in the Far Out Playlist.
Best songs (and videos) of the week:
1. ‘Walker’ – Animal Collective
Baltimore’s favourite band of experimental rockers are back and in a poppier state of mind on their latest single, ‘Walker’. Mostly a tribute to iconoclastic singer Paul Walker, the song walks in the same art-rock footsteps that the late singer pioneered in his own music.
Giving off plenty of Merriweather Post Pavilion vibes, everything that you could expect from the slightly poppier side of the band is here: discernible melodies, unobscured instrumentation, angelic harmonies. But after three minutes of great alt-pop, there’s plenty of dense noise and bizarre left turns to appeal to the more cerebral sides of your brain.
2. ‘Rare Symmetry’ – American Football
As the final stand with original drummer and trumpet player Steve Lamon, who founded the band with Mike Kinsella and Steve Holmes back in 1997, emo heroes American Football have released their most bittersweet track in years with the sprawling ‘Rare Symmetry’.
The song sees Steve Lamos determined to go out with a bang. The snap of his snare is precise to an almost inhuman extent, mathematical in its exactitude. ‘Rare Symmetry’ truly is a testament to the near-telekinetic dynamic that the American Football members have formed during their time together.
3. ‘I Hear You Calling’ – Kevin Morby
American indie rocker Kevin Morby took on one of his heroes last week with the release of ‘I Hear You Calling’, a cover of legendary singer-songwriter Bill Fay originally featured on 1971’s Time of the Last Persecution, Fay’s final album for over 40 years.
The gentle folk of Morby’s cover is the perfect tribute to Fay’s piano-based original. The song is part of a collection of 7-inch singles reinterpreting Fay’s work, with the first release in the series being American vocalist Steve Gunn’s take on ‘Dust Filled Room’.
4. ‘Spud Infinity’ – Big Thief
Big Thief actually gave us two new previews of their umping double album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You last week with the one-two shot of ‘No Reason’ and ‘Spud Infinity’. While the former certainly has its pastoral charms, it’s the backwoods atmosphere of ‘Spud Infinity’ that wins this spot.
Complete with a jews harp (courtesy of lead singer Adrianne Lenker’s brother Noah Lenker) and fiddle (courtesy of Mat Davidson), the song still retains a fair amount of beauty. It’s as close as the band has ever come to country – complete with Lenker almost yodelling – and it’s a wonderfully goofy way for the band to diversify their sound.
5. ‘Joe Rogan’ – Georgia Maq
Certain songs just take over the zeitgeist in ways that others don’t. We have no illusions here at Far Out that we don’t always cover the most mainstream of artists, but we were happy to cover the manic indie pop of Georgia Maq for her recent single ‘Joe Rogan’.
‘Joe Rogan’ is essentially about having bad choices in men, according to the singer, who quite eloquently executes the use of synth arpeggios alongside delicate harmonies to create this melancholic dream-pop track. The relatable song alludes to being stuck on a bad date with a Joe Rogan fan and narrates around the history of her bad choices in men, cheekily referencing the podcaster in this self-aware track.
6. ‘My Sweet Lord’ (Video) – George Harrison
Yeah, ‘My Sweet Lord’ isn’t exactly a new song. In fact, this year found the track and its parent album, All Things Must Pass, celebrating their 50th birthdays. So what’s the deal? Well, ‘My Sweet Lord’ got a sweet new video complete with just about every celebrity you could get assembled for one day in Los Angeles.
That includes former Beatle bandmate Ringo Starr, his brother-in-law Joe Walsh, Fred Armisen, Vanessa Bayer, Mark Hammil, Jeff Lynne, Taika Waititi, Darren Criss, Jon Hamm, Rosanna Arquette, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, Reggie Watts, and Patton Oswalt, along with comedy duos Tim and Eric (Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim) and Garfunkel and Oates (Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome). Also at the party are Dhani and Olivia Harrison, which makes the whole thing feel very familial.
7. ‘Les Cerfs’ – Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
After releasing one of the year’s best albums with Carnage, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis returned with another new collaboration. This time its for the upcoming French film La Panthère Des Neiges, or The Velvet Queen, and the latest preview comes in the form of the beautifully orchestral track ‘Les Cerfs’.
Featuring a mix of electronic soundscapes and Cave’s signature baritone drawl, ‘Les Cerfs’ finds Cave and Ellis working right in their sweet spot, prying beauty out of the darkest of recesses. Ever perfect piano cadence and string swoop adds to the remarkably sweet nature of the track.
8. ‘Leading’ – Best Coast ft. The Linda Lindas
In January of the upcoming year, Best Coast will celebrate the two year anniversary of their most recent LP, Always Tomorrow. To celebrate, the duo have released an upbeat pop-punk number, ‘Leading’, featuring backing vocals from American teenage sensations The Linda Lindas.
Featuring a mix of spacey drums and distorted guitars, ‘Leading’ is just simply an infectious and joyous take on anxiety and uncertainty: fun for those people who aren’t having any fun. Any song that can turn lines like “I’m a believer in a healthy dose of pessimism/ ‘Cause expectations are just resentments waiting to happen” into a sing-along is alright in my book.