What Are You Listening To? is a weekly run-down of what A.V. Club staffers are streaming. This week, we’re looking at tracks by artists we’re excited to see at the Pitchfork Music Festival this weekend. Listen to these songs and more on our Spotify playlist, updated weekly with new stuff.
Chaka Khan, “Like Sugar”
Chaka Khan is omnipresent in my life. As one of my favorite singers of all time, she’s a fixture on our turntable at home and my own daily commute playlists. Her deep catalog, with and without Rufus, continues to be my longest ongoing exploration of any artist, something I’ve savored and drawn out over many years. Chaka Khan Way, the Chicago street dedicated to her, is around the corner from my apartment in Hyde Park, where she went to high school. She seems to be played everywhere in the neighborhood, too: I always hear her overhead at the bodega or on someone’s speaker at the bus stop, blasting from the terrace of The Promontory or from trikes cruising Lake Shore in the summer months. She hasn’t put out a new album in 10 years, and yet she’s everywhere, a testament to her outsize talent and charisma. But finally, a few weeks ago, she confirmed she’s got a new record on the way with the release of “Like Sugar.” It’s a funky throwback of a jam produced by Major Lazer’s Switch (best known for his work with M.I.A.), and it feels like a great sign of what’s to come. Forty years into anyone’s career, it’s easy for expectations to slip, but Chaka sounds as great as ever on this track—as her voice has matured, it’s only gotten more exaggerated in its swagger, drawing out those ecstatic highs and the soulful, mind-melting way she slurs her low notes. You can imagine how excited I am to see her, live and in the flesh, for the first time this Sunday. [Kelsey J. Waite]
Moses Sumney, “Make Out In My Car”
From his acclaimed 2017 full-length debut, Aromanticism, Moses Sumney’s “Make Out In My Car” presents a simple desire in a not-so-simple package. (The lyrics in their entirety: “I’m not tryna go to bed with you / I just wanna make out in my car.”) The soulful, layered instrumentation whirs and rushes, then stops on a dime. Fluttering strings conjure the anxious butterflies that anticipate physical affection, and the flute wanders playfully, while the heartbeat bass suggests a deeper intimacy than the speaker may be after. A lot gets packed into just two and a half minutes. Whether or not a fellow Pitchfork performer will join the L.A. musician on stage for this one (as Sufjan Stevens and others did on an EP this spring), here’s hoping the live version—and maybe even this relationship—lasts longer than that. [Laura Adamczyk]
I’ve been thinking this week about what songs I’m most curious to hear the Chicago noise-rock band translate into the always-odd situation of a middle-of-the-day festival spot, the bright sun shining down as the group delivers its frenetic and impassioned sound. And while I’m excited for the four-on-the-floor rock assault of “Twin Lookin Motherfucker” or “Off The Lot,” I have to admit I’m most eager to see one of Chicago’s best bands get a little expansive. The song at first seems to be a sludgy down-tempo amble, the slower rhythms interspersed with gently pounding toms while Miranda Winters delivers a combination of sing-speak accusations and lilting melodies. But then, about halfway through, the tempo is ripped apart, the track seems to stop dead in its tracks, and instead, we start to build. And build. And build. As if playing a more focused version of Nirvana’s “Endless Nameless,” the band creates a pummeling sound of noise while never once losing a sense of angular musicality. And just when you think it’s going to collapse under its own weight, Melkbelly brings it back to the verse for one last round of slick sonic recovery. It’s a potent cocktail even on wax, but live it’s killer. I can’t wait to see them fill the often sparsely populated grassy landscape of early Friday afternoon with such noise—unaware kids ready for good vibes and festival chill won’t know what hit them. [Alex McLevy]