What Are You Listening To? is a weekly run-down of what A.V. Club staffers are streaming. Listen to these songs and more on our Spotify playlist, updated weekly with new stuff.
I have a confession: I did not love Coloring Book, Chance The Rapper’s near-universally adored 2016 mixtape. Don’t get me wrong: He’s one of the best and most exciting rappers alive, Acid Rap is a certified classic, and Coloring Book tracks like “Angels” and “No Problems” are skyscraping achievements of the sort only a certain other Chicagoan used to make. But aside from its best moments, the tape sounded too much like Chance proving his talent rather than exercising it, creating showcases for his worldliness and bottomless pathos rather than, you know, good tracks.
Last week, though, he released four extremely good tracks, possibly coming out of his sessions with Kanye or Donald Glover or just hewn whole cloth out of his manic, sparkling creativity. All four show a clearer, more fluid connection between his melodic and lyrical sensibilities, with hooks that tumble bright and easy into bars and vice versa. So, let’s pick one: “Wala Cam” is a theme song of sorts for one of the endlessly enterprising emcee’s many projects, a Chicago-area talent platform called Wala Cam TV. Chance turns it into a jubilant dance-off, full of low-stakes and easy gags (“My feet like my hands / Your feet like quicksand”) that skip right over the surface of the beat. It’s the best track I’ve heard since, well, all those other Chance tracks that came out last week, a fact that bodes pretty well for those projects he’s brewing up. [Clayton Purdom]
I’ve long suspected Dan Auerbach’s fascination with gonzo garage rockers Shannon And The Clams—the first act signed to his recently founded label—mostly had to do with the band’s bassist and co-vocalist, Shannon Shaw. She’s a force of nature, with a voice equally capable of raspy disdain, soaring balladeering, and sheepish vulnerability. She’s the kind of flexible, multi-talented throwback Auerbach would seemingly love to get his hands on, and of course, after producing and releasing The Clams’ latest album, it was announced that he’d be collaborating with Shaw on her solo debut. The Clams seemed to struggle with the expanded palette such shimmering production afforded them, but it proves to be a perfect fit for Shaw, who emerges on Shannon In Nashville sounding like a lost ’60s pop icon. The album is primarily fueled by its lush Orbison-esque ballads, and stunning opener “Golden Frames” makes that clear from the very start. It’s a two-and-a-half-minute emotional roller coaster, with Shaw handily showing off her range as it restlessly shifts from valleys of self-assured calm to breathless, sentimental crescendoes as she wrestles with the ghost of a past relationship. [Matt Gerardi]
My unabashed affection for all things kitschy and spooky reached new heights recently, after L.A. “Satanic doo-wop band” Twin Temple released its debut LP, Twin Temple (Bring You Their Signature Sound). Lead vocalist Alexandra James’ voice has a full, brassy, Amy Winehouse-esque quality, which is especially evident on the hedonistic, horns-and-drug-fueled party song “The Devil (Didn’t Make Me Do It)“ that opens the album. They’re not kidding about the Satanic part, either: “Lucifer, My Love” is a girl-group-style lovelorn adolescent plea, complete with spoken-word bridge; the key difference here is that the song is addressed to Satan, rather than Billy from the football team. “I’d never sell my soul, but I give it freely to you,” James belts over plaintive organ, lonesome guitar, and a full horn section, proving that the band’s devotion to both golden oldies and the Prince Of Darkness is real. [Katie Rife]