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.
I’ve got nothing to add to our review of Nasir, Nas’s messy and unsatisfying collaboration with Kanye West. Two of the four records Kanye’s released in the past month have been borderline disasters—but goddamn if he can’t still pull it off occasionally. “Cops Shot The Kid” is the sort of gobsmacking, audacious track these two talents were bound to produce, the eternal cool of Slick Rick’s voice juxtaposed with abrasive, Yeezus-style screeches. Nas’s pen is still sharp enough to draw blood, splicing elliptical images of night-time dust-ups with historical insight of police oppression; Kanye, now an objectively bad rapper, manages to not rap poorly, layering mournful synth lines over the track as it goes on. Nasir’s not exactly the rapper’s late-career resurgence, but moments like this—and the later “Adam And Eve”—keep hope alive that he might still have a 4:44 in him. Maybe in another six years. [Clayton Purdom]
Time has caught up to Jon Hassell, whose experimental forays into what he christened the Fourth World—a liminal realm located in the overlap between glitchy electronics, African exotica, and Miles Davis-derived modal jazz—predicted a generation of ambient, new wave, techno, and avant-pop artists who similarly dig playing around with the soul-stirring timbres of “world music.” But his new Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One) still sounds much fresher than you’d expect from an artist who’s been mining this area for some 40 years now. More daring, too: While some of his albums since his 1980 Brian Eno collaboration, Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics, have tread far closer to the new age side of this particular spectrum, tracks like “Ndeya” pit Hassell’s haunting trumpet refrain, a gentle rain of Rhodes piano, and the occasional frantic scratch of violin against a persistent throb of digital squelches that threatens to overtake them, like an extraterrestrial signal trying to break through. It is, as usual, an engrossing listen, and one that still feels several steps ahead. [Sean O’Neal]
No song captures the Chicago winter quite like the Lawrence Arms’ “The Slowest Drink At The Saddest Bar On The Snowiest Day In The Greatest City”: the frigidity, the isolation, the modes of comfort (namely, drinking). And because no season holds its grip on my city quite like winter, the song usually stays in rotation well into spring. But winter really dug its heels in this year, interrupting days-long stretches of sunshine with rain and 30-degree temperature drops, so I was still listening to “The Slowest Drink” when I flew to New Orleans last month. Now that we’ve seen our first 90-degree day, though, I feel comfortable putting this song away with the sweaters and coats. [Danette Chavez]
A member of The Lawrence Arms, Brendan Kelly, is an employee of Onion, Inc.