“Angels” — Chance the Rapper
Rappers are infamous for leaving home when they make it big: to live somewhere prettier, more glamorous and more insulated. Chance the Rapper does not seem tempted by that prospect; in fact, he is gleeful in his determination to stay home (in his local Chicago) and help his community. At the beginning of his new single “Angels,” he brags, “I got my city doing front-flips, when every father, mayor, rapper jump ship… Clean up the streets so my daughter can have somewhere to play.”
At a time when rap is dominated by different shades of negativity, from Drake’s depressed narcissism to Future’s void-staring nihilism, Chance is refreshingly positive. “Angels” is yet another Chance song that is joyful and optimistic without being sappy or corny, featuring some of Chance’s most exuberant rhyming since 2013’s Acid Rap supported by a slang-laden hook from fellow Chicagoan artist, Saba. “Angels” makes good use of Donnie Trumpet, the trumpet player in Chance’s touring band and collaborator, The Social Experiment. As always, Donnie Trumpet’s supremely melodic riffs and fills add a natural flavor to the intricate production.
“Angels” is a love letter from Chance to his hometown, overflowing with slang and shout-outs. His ebullient performance on Late Night with Stephen Colbert also featured a group demonstration of footwork, Chicago’s signature and homegrown dance style. However, even for those of us not from Chicago, “Angels” has plenty of love to offer.
— Jack Jones
“Elegy to the Void” — Beach House
In keeping with their signature ethereal, dreamy soundscape, Beach House’s new single, “Elegy to the Void” captures the whimsical duo’s melancholy vibe while at the same time bringing a quizzically spiritual tone to their gloomy subject matter. Perhaps a little less “moreish” than some of their more well known songs, the single seems to be a tentative probing of a re-conceptualized voice the group is trying on.
It is sad for the sake of being sad, without any addictive breaks or more upbeat insertions. Stretching a long seven minutes, the song begins with a brooding and somber build up: Victoria Legrand gently crooning ominous imagery. Playing with themes of temporality and earthy incantations, the song toys with the dualism of the sacred and the profane. With references to “the altar,” “extinguished “flames” and a “freckle faced young virgin,” the song is almost spell like. The lyrics eerily create a dark dimension in which morbidity is tied to religious idealism, ultimately pointing to the ever-looming presence of death marked by the tick tick tick of the clock. The song is bleak and depressing to the point of being a little exhausting. However, the lyricism is stunning and poetic. While enchanting and lovely, this single is to be listened to carefully. Potent in its mournfulness, it gives the listener the sinking feeling that they are going under, spell-bound, “deep beneath the waves.”
— Tamar Law