The band Shannon and the Clams pose for a photo.
Shannon & the Clams Credit: Kristen Cofer

Shannon & the Clams’ new sixth album, Year of the Spider, is a welcome anomaly in this wretched second pandemic summer. The band completed the record in early 2020, just before COVID-19 brought the country and its music industry to a grinding halt, so it’s unmarred by that particular global catastrophe. Instead the album’s 50s- and 60s-inspired garage punk reckons with a series of challenges that had befallen Clams bandleader Shannon Shaw: In 2018, a Northern California wildfire nearly forced her parents from their home, and a year later she was exiled from her apartment of 14 years due to a relentless peeping tom. Soon after, her father was diagnosed with cancer. Seeking solace in the cosmos, Shaw contacted a local psychic, who encouraged her to call upon the wisdom of Durga, an eight-armed Hindu goddess. With that, Shaw embarked on her own “Year of the Spider,” summoning the power and protection of her new patron saint and bringing her trio of Clams along for the ride to make a new album. Produced by Black Keys front man and guitarist Dan Auerbach and released on his Easy Eye Sound label, Year of the Spider is a blunderbuss of punk, blues, funk, and girl-group tunes, just like you’d expect of a record cosigned by Dan Auerbach, but also introduces a welcome broadening of the Clams’ tonal horizons. The album bursts open with “Do I Wanna Stay,” a tour de force of Ennio Morricone-esque pomp, funk flourishes, and Shaw’s line storm of a voice. Lead single “Midnight Wine” is a thunderous flex of Shannon & the Clams’ uncanny ability to spin somber subjects into captivating rhapsodies; dedicated to overdose victims in the Oakland arts community, it’s ecstatic, eerie, and disturbingly groovy. Elsewhere the album’s heaviness is tempered by gummy, organ-powered pop (“All of My Cryin’”), candy-coated jangle (“Leaves Fall Again”), and ditties powered by the fury of a thousand raging Shirelles (“Mary, Don’t Go”). The Clams hit their stride on the tracks where the tenderhearted vocals of guitarist Cody Blanchard freely tangle with Shaw’s bruiser belts; he imbues “Flowers Will Return” with a lyricism and Americana-style lilt that recall Tusk-era Lindsey Buckingham. As lofty as the subject matter of Year of the Spider may be, Shannon & the Clams ease its existential weight with beauty and bombast—big beehives and bigger hooks, stacked harmonies and towering melodies. Facing grief feels and sounds different to all of us; to Shannon & the Clams, it sounds like a raging choir, singing in the face of fear.

Shannon & the Clams’ album Year of the Spider is available from Easy Eye Sound.