Record of the Week: Shannon and the Clams’ ‘Year of the Spider’

Shannon and the Clams

Shannon and the Clams frontwoman Shannon Shaw and band guitarist Cody Blanchard have, over a decade-long creative collaboration, created a sound that is unique to them. The genre descriptors they attract range from garage punk to doo-wop, psych to surf and everything in between, which can only mean that they’ve created an identity that stands out.

This musical relationship began at the California College of the Arts, where they met, and they have since forged a chosen family-level of closeness that carries over to how they create. Shaw calls their singing together “a blood harmony…where you can’t find the beginning of one voice and the end of the other,” and that blend is showcased in its best form on their new record, Year of the Spider.

To say that the creation Year of the Spider was a journey is an understatement. Their sixth studio album was written everywhere from Blanchard’s goat shed in Oregon to Shaw’s former home of Oakland and even during a small vacation in Hawaii—songs were never off their mind. Besides the physical journey, there were very real tragedies that Shaw and Blanchard are vulnerable and open to deliver within this project. The California wildfires almost consumed Shaw’s family home, her father was diagnosed with cancer, and she moved from her home of fourteen years because of a menacing peeping tom, separating her from one of her dearest friends. Meanwhile Blanchard was channeling our Tennessee hero, Dolly Parton, using another person’s perspective to get through writing on some pretty challenging topics like “Midnight Wine.”

Together they didn’t just make a record, they wrote an epic with a beautiful soundtrack.

The group laid down the album at Nashville’s own Easy Eye Sound Studios with Dan Auerbach, surviving mixing the record the same week the tornadoes ripped through Nashville. Shaw explained that Aurbach was a fan before they ever knew they would work with him or work in Nashville which ended up working in their favor. “I feel like Dan really gets us…and is really good at helping us reach for the stars sounds wise, things that we just didn’t think were possible.” You can hear this reflected in the sound, keeping the DIY feel but sonically building from there, adding elemental sounds from their favorite records, adding strings to songs without them knowing, and it all working together. Motown and punk are two of my very favorite genres and putting the signature two and three part harmonies on top of the music hit a frequency that satisfies like no one else, landing on my personal list of top records of 2021.

Although the title of the record is about the spider, Shaw is arachnophobic. After all of these tragedies, she had a conversation with her astrologist who helped connect the dots to get through these piling events and fears, asking Shaw to channel the goddess Durga, the demon slayer. She then realized Durga has eight arms like the spider and decided to channel her fears and use the spider to empower her instead of terrify her. In the last couple of years we can relate to this story and use this album as a guide to face your fears and use them in your favor, taking back power in the Year of the Spider.