Listen to these songs and more on The A.V. Club’s Spotify playlist, updated weekly with what we’re listening to.
Jenny Hval, “Spells”
Jenny Hval is having a hell of a year. On top of the great EP she released in March under her Lost Girls project (with frequent collaborator Håvard Volden), she’ll publish her debut novel in October and release her first solo effort since 2016’s acclaimed Blood Bitch, an EP titled The Long Sleep, this May. Blood Bitch was actually my introduction to the Norwegian artist’s work, and I’ve been meaning to dig back further into her catalog. But in the meantime, I’m hung up on new single “Spells,” a shifting stream of a pop song with one of the most beautiful choruses I’ve heard in a long time. The track was recorded with some of Hval’s “favorite contemporary musicians” from the jazz world, and the new set of collaborators takes her work to an incredibly exciting, novel place, one driven by intuition. It’s reflected in the song’s movement, and summed up in one particularly illuminating lyric: “Not even you belong to you.” It feels and sounds like letting go. [Kelsey J. Waite]
Weirdly unable to crossover into much American success during the group’s heyday, Girlschool was nonetheless an early favorite of mine after discovering a battered copy of its 1980 debut album, Demolition, in a used record bin during my high school years, and quickly wearing out the addictive hard rock/metal/pop stew. I hadn’t listened to the band in years and was delighted when a copy of the new collection of early singles came across my desk. Printed on fittingly Day-Glow orange vinyl, the album collects some of the best songs from those initial years when the band was hitting the charts in the U.K. and elsewhere abroad. Sure, there are the beloved covers—Kim McAuliffe’s vocals on “20th Century Boy” and “Race With The Devil” remain immensely appealing—but the four women crafted some killer hits of their own as well, my personal favorite being “Emergency,” which still sounds as vital as ever, a hard-charging slice of late-’70s rock that can hold its own against the giants of the era. Plus, getting the singles collection means the old saying “all killer, no filler” applies. [Alex McLevy]
The Packman, “I’m The Packman (Eat Everything I Can)”
This week while I was digging around in the dregs of early electro (as in, “It’s not hip-hop. It’s electro, prick”), I discovered that “Pac-Man Fever” is not the only novelty song about Pac-Man released in the game’s original era, nor is it even close to being the best. That honor, for my money, goes to this cheesy dance track from 1982, a wacky storm of buzzy electro clichés and Pac-Man-inspired lyrics that somehow landed on Enjoy Records, the label run by record-store owner Bobby Robinson and responsible for publishing some of the earliest rap releases. The thing that really puts this over the top, though, is the comically harsh robot voice. (Pac-Man, for the record, is definitely not a robot.) Just imagine being the guy recording that, having to shout into a vocoder about being “the packman.” It’s all ridiculous enough to work. [Matt Gerardi]