Songs of the Week: Sturgill Simpson, Huey Lewis and … Harry Nilsson?
Here's everything you need to hear from the week of 9/23
This was a pretty weird week, and we’re not just saying that because of everything going on politically. The past seven days have featured some truly unexpected musical releases, from a Raffi ode to climate-change activist Greta Thunberg to a tune by Future Islands’ Sam Herring’s rap alter-ego. Plus: a new Huey Lewis album, a long-lost Harry Nilsson recording and an Addams Family-inspired Christina Aguilera song about haunted houses. There was a lot to listen to, and as always, we’ve compiled the most noteworthy into one convenient playlist for your aural pleasure. Check them out below.
Huey Lewis & the News, “Her Love Is Killin’ Me”
On Thursday, Huey Lewis & The News made their return with “Her Love Is Killin’ Me,” their first original song in over a decade. It’s our first taste of the band’s as-yet-untitled new album due out in 2020, and sadly, it was recorded just before Lewis was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, which has left him unable to hear music well enough to sing or perform. The record will be the “The Power of Love” band’s first original LP since 2001’s Plan B. (They released a Stax tribute album in 2010.)
Raffi, “Young People Marching (For Greta Thunberg)”
The famed children’s singer behind “Baby Beluga” has released a new track inspired by teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg. “Young People Marching (For Greta Thunberg)” features a sample of Thunberg speaking, and it encourages its young listeners to fight back against “decades of lies, decades of denial.” Climate change is an issue close to Raffi’s heart; he previously addressed it on 2007’s “Cool It.”
Hemlock Ernst, “Down”
Hemlock Ernst is the rap moniker of Future Islands singer Samuel T. Herring, and on Thursday he announced a new collaboration with producer Kenny Segal called Back to the House. The album is out Oct. 25 via Ruby Yacht, but we have our first listen in the form of “Down.” “Me and Sam just had a moment where we clicked and I started sending him beats and around  he started recording some demos that went on to become the backbone of this project,” Segal said in a press release.
Sharon Van Etten ft. Norah Jones, “Seventeen”
Sharon Van Etten’s stunning “Seventeen,” one of the highlights of her Remind Me Tomorrow album, was released way back in January, but this week the singer released a new Amazon-exclusive version of the track that features none other than Norah Jones. “I’m a fan of Sharon as a person and an artist, so I was more than excited to finally get to sing together,” Jones said in a press release. “I loved her idea to do the song in a different way. It felt really great to be in the studio together, I hope we get to sing more. Singing with her and watching her at the show was breathtaking, she’s a true rock star.”
Jeff Lynne’s ELO, “From Out Of Nowhere”
Electric Light Orchestra is back for the second time under the “Jeff Lynne’s ELO” name. “From Out of Nowhere” is the first single from the forthcoming album of the same name, due out Nov. 1 via Columbia Records, and as Lynne says in a statement, it was the catalyst for the rest of the follow-up to 2015’s Alone in the Universe. “From Out of Nowhere — that’s exactly where it came from,” he said. “That’s the first one I wrote for this album, and it’s kind of like that.”
Harry Nilsson, “Losst and Founnd”
Legendary singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson died of a heart attack back in 1994, but he had been working on new material at the time, and some of those recordings will finally see the light of day thanks to the just-announced Losst and Founnd. The posthumous release, which is the first new collection of Nilsson songs in almost 40 years, will be out Nov. 22 via Omnivore Recordings, but this week we got a sneak peek in the form of the title track.
Sturgill Simpson, “Remember to Breathe”
Sturgill Simpson’s new album Sound & Fury, out today, is strikingly different from all of the country singer’s previous efforts. The whole record, which soundtracks an original anime film on Netflix, is worth your time, but the fuzzy “Remember to Breathe” is proof of what anyone with a passing knowledge of Simpson already knew: he can do anything.
The New Pornographers, “Leather on the Seat”
The New Pornographers’ eighth LP, In the Morse Code of Break Lights, is an excellent collection of songs inspired by four wheels (as AC Newman explains, “I was about two-thirds of the way through the record when I began to notice that lyrically so much of it was pointing toward car songs”). Of course, the album (out today) is about a lot of other stuff too, and that’s perhaps best encapsulated by the lush “Leather on the Seat,” on which Neko Case and Newman move quickly from road rage “in the parking lot of a dead mall” to a broader acceptance, singing, “The house always wins and you lose your name/I can swing blindly for years.”
Christina Aguilera, “Haunted Heart”
As we head into October, we have the first new track to add to those tired old Halloween playlists. Christina Aguilera’s “Haunted Heart” is a spooky track from the soundtrack to the upcoming The Addams Family movie. “My heart is a haunted house,” she sings. “Once you’re in, you ain’t getting out.”
FOALS, “Into the Surf”
“Into the Surf” is the latest offering from Foals’ forthcoming Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 2 (out Oct. 15th), and as frontman Yannis Philippakis told DIY Mag, it has a sense of doom to it. “There are threads that run through all these songs, and on ‘Into the Surf’ there’s this shadow of death, of someone not returning from a voyage,” he explained.