The 5 Best Songs We Heard This Week: Jarvis Cocker, Psychic Ills, Tanya Donnelly

Our music editor Matthew Ismail Ruiz has been struck down with the dreaded influenza, so you get me writing about the five songs you need to hear this week (never fear, he should be back by next Friday!) Happily, it’s a pretty easy week to pull together five songs worth hearing — there’s new music from long-term music industry absentees Jarvis Cocker (!) and Tanya Donnelly, the return of Wolf Parade, and tracks from Flavorwire favorites Clams Casino and Psychic Ills. Behold!


Jarvis Cocker — “Theme from ‘Likely Stories'”

New songs from Jarvis Cocker these days are as rare and precious as warm English summer days, so the news that he’s releasing a new four-track EP next Friday is welcome indeed. The songs in question were written for English TV series Likely Stories, which adapts four Neil Gaiman stories for the small screen. The EP’s first track — the show’s theme song — is streaming now on Apple Music and Spotify. It’s a quietly menacing affair, with Cocker’s voice backed by brooding piano and John Barry-esque strings as he relates a lyric full of sinister imagery — at one point, there’s a mention of “a baby in a jar.” Eeeep.


Psychic Ills — “Baby”

If you like psychedelic rock, you really can’t go wrong with Psychic Ills — the New York band have been making driving, fuzzed-out psych for the best part of a decade now, and they’re consistently great, both on record and live. “Baby” is from their fifth album, Inner Journey Out, which is due out on June 3rd through Sacred Bones, and it’s as strong as ever.


Clams Casino — “Blast”

There are very few hip hop producers who have a more recognizable signature sound than New Jersey’s Michael Volpe, alias Clams Casino — his woozy, reverb-laden beats have underpinned tracks from rappers as diverse as Lil B and Vince Staples, and they work just as well as instrumentals as they do as the basis for vocal tracks. “Blast” is from his upcoming album 32 Levels, and it’s classic Clams Casino, based around a dreamy vocal sample, washes of synth and echoing beats.


Tanya Donnelly — “Tooraloo”

O frabjous day! This week saw the release of Swan Song Series, a new triple album by Tanya Donnelly — it collects five previously released digital EPs, all of which are varying degrees of excellent, and more excitingly, seven new songs. This is the pick of them, a quiet, country-tinged farewell to a lover at the end of an affair that both participants “recognize… for what it is/ A stumble, and that’s all.” It wasn’t so long ago that Donnelly appeared to have quit music entirely — it’s good to have her back.


Wolf Parade — “Mr. Startup”

None of the songs on Wolf Parade’s EP 4, released May 17, reach the heights of their early anthems, but “Mr. Startup” does manage to remind us that Spencer Krug is in possession of some of the best lyrical skills and synth sounds in the business. This particular song chugs along on the back of a truly throwback-sounding electro beat and tells the real-life story of one of Krug’s friends who went a little nuts. “Blessed be the ones who let their blessings go,” Krug says about his friend, who he says “is like Picasso drawing in the sand.” It’s sad, beautiful, and just a bit condescending: the Krug hat-trick. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor