The 5 Best Songs We Heard This Week: M.I.A., Clams Casino, King Creosote

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It’s the middle of July, which means we’re stuck in the middle of a new music desert, grasping for quality tunes like a parched traveller looking for an oasis. But guess what: we found one! Or, at least, we found new tracks from M.I.A., Clams Casino and King Creosote, along with a couple of excellent covers by The Julie Ruin and Sharon Van Etten. Which is pretty much just as good, no?

M.I.A. — “Go Off”

She can be endlessly frustrating, but when Maya Arulpragasam focuses her attention on making music instead of making questionable public pronouncements, she’s still capable of producing music that’s both interesting and booty-shaking. This isn’t quite up to the standards of her best work, but even a middling M.I.A. single is better than the proverbial kick in the balls, right?

Clams Casino — “Ghost in a Kiss” (feat. Samuel T. Herring)

This was officially released last week, but since it comes from Clams Casino’s 32 Levels, which was released in full today, we reckon it still counts. As I wrote earlier this week, it’s probably the most fully realized example of the approach Clams Casino takes on his official debut artist album, due in no small part to Future Islands frontman Samuel T. Herring’s growling, ominous vocals.

King Creosote — “You Just Want”

All hail the mighty King Creosote, who’s been making beautifully morose acoustic music from a garret in Scotland for the best part of 20 years now. This is the lead single from his upcoming album Astronaut Meets Appleman, and its quietly intimate sound recalls other Scots luminaries like Arab Strap — although, it must be said, it’s not nearly as filthy as anything that band’s released, instead being characterized by a sort of wide-eyed optimism, like the sunlight breaking through the clouds on a grey winter morning.

Sharon Van Etten — “Do You Realize???” (Flaming Lips cover)

Remember when the Flaming Lips were a profoundly wonderful, life-affirming listening experience, instead of a vehicle for Wayne Coyne’s inexplicable descent into mid-life dickishness? Sharon Van Etten does, clearly, because she’s chosen to cover “Do You Realize???”, the existential centerpiece of The Lips’ 2002 masterpiece Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, for, um, the finale of Amazon series Gortimer Gibbon’s Life On Normal Street. It’s one of four covers recorded for the show by various artists; they’re all pretty good, and you can hear them all above.

The Julie Ruin — “Pedestrian at Best” (Courtney Barnett cover)

More notable for enthusiasm than quality, although the terrible quality of the recording doesn’t help — but honestly, who’d have thought two years ago that we’d hear Courtney Barnett being covered by Kathleen Hanna? What a time to be alive.