What Are You Listening To? is a weekly rundown of what A.V. Club staffers are streaming. Listen to these songs and more on our Spotify playlist, updated weekly with new stuff.
Tirzah, “Holding On”
I was enough of a fan of Mica Levi’s debut as Micachu & The Shapes, released way back in 2009, to make it out to catch the band live after work some night. They struck me at the time as the exact sort of indie-rock curio to catch on a first tour, destined for diminishing returns as the years went on. Good god, was I wrong. In the decade since, Levi has continued releasing interesting, experimental works with that outfit, and also produced two of the greatest film soundtracks of the decade in Under The Skin and Jackie. This year, she has also produced the debut full-length of Tirzah, resulting in one of the most thrilling experimental R&B albums of the year. Levi’s front-to-back production eschews the dancier vibe of her earlier EPs with Tirzah, favoring clattering boom-bap and wheezing found-sound samples. It’s all great, but maybe start with the pulsing kick of “Holding On,” which perfectly illustrates the mood the two can conjure, with Tirzah’s close, conversational voice tracing the give and pull of a relationship over breezy robotic drums. [Clayton Purdom]
Blind Pilot, “New York”
One morning on my long commute into Chicago, I found myself in the fun, paradoxical state of being too exhausted to stomach the coffee that I needed to combat my exhaustion. I moved back to the city I grew up in at the beginning of the summer, only to find that, as an adult, I don’t know it anymore. My friends are scattered across the country, my future uncertain, and I’m living at my childhood home after spending the last few years growing accustomed to independence. It all started to get to me on that pre-coffee train ride, and I decided that the antidote to my anxiety was the wholesome, musical nostalgia of Blind Pilot. Maybe it was the unconscious memory of the song’s opening lyrics (“I hear the train all night, sound of its wind blowin’ through our subtle lives”) that made me choose “New York” right as I was stepping off the train and into the rush of fellow commuters. The swell of the strings layered over a slow, pulsing beat echoed the ebb and flow of the crowd pushing forward and spreading out into the city, the feeling of being caught up in that motion, the “pulses” and the “sound” of Chicago and all that it meant to me. Maybe it was just the song’s soaring melody and simple but lovely lyrics, but I felt a bizarre sort of optimism bubbling up. It was a feeling not unlike sonder, but less isolating, one which made me feel bound up with the people around me rather than disconnected from them. (Not coincidentally, the album from which the song hails is called We Are The Tide.) The song has since become a fixture in my morning routine. [Maggie Donahue]