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Bon Iver’s Plea, and 8 More New Songs - Press "Enter" to skip to content

Bon Iver’s Plea, and 8 More New Songs

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“Please don’t live in fear,” Justin Vernon pleads in this benefit single for Direct Relief, which supports medical workers; later, he promises, “There will be a better day.” It’s ultraslow and thickly layered, with voices and instruments coming and going and seemingly random sounds — even a crowd! — drifting in from a faraway outside world. A recurring, rising three-note saxophone sample keeps providing the will to go on. JON PARELES

“How I Weep” speaks to the formless but pervasive sorrow of this moment. An imperturbably ticking metronome, a modest piano accompaniment and a handful of discreetly arranged strings accompany Norah Jones as she sings about “a loss that’s so deep/that it hardens and turns into stone.” PARELES

American Football first released “Stay Home” in 1999; it’s a sociophobe’s plaint that “empathy takes energy” and “that’s life, it’s so social.” So while other bands Google around for quarantine-appropriate songs — John Lennon’s “Isolation” already has at least one too many cover versions — American Football could simply revive “Stay Home,” layering separate home recordings, shorter and in a lower key than the original. Now as then, the song is calm, rippling, fingerpicking Minimalistic math-rock, sounding relieved not to interact in any way but musically. PARELES

Haux makes unerringly pretty music about unerringly sad things. “Heavy,” the first single from his forthcoming debut album, “Violence in a Quiet Mind,” exists near the intersection of Bon Iver and quiet storm R&B. It’s bracing — weepy, pulsing, as still as when you close your eyes and can only hear the air funneling in and out of your nose. CARAMANICA

The Streets’s Mike Skinner returns, his deadpan speak-rapping not having aged a day. This excellent new song — from a forthcoming mixtape, “None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive” — is about the calm thrill of seeing an ex call relentlessly, and letting it go unanswered. “Whoever’s with my ex needs to do better/She’s still texting me at two ’til 10,” Skinner raps, though there’s self-loathing lurking just beneath the dart. Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, singing the hook, is both soothing and terse. CARAMANICA

Here’s pop-R&B from the distant era — before last month? — of conjugal business as usual. Over a coolly plinking, pointillistic track — Syd from the Internet is among the producers — Kelly Rowland insists on starting the day with sex: “I know you need the stress relief,” she prescribes. PARELES

Exuberant gobbledygook from Playboi Carti over a jubilant beat by jetsonmade. Like Alvin & the Chipmunks singing Madball lyrics over “Neo Geo”-era Ryuichi Sakamoto. Ferociously spartan and unanticipatedly cheerful. CARAMANICA

Lila Iké, a singer from central Jamaica whose star is on the rise, has no use for coyness. On “I Spy,” backed by a thick, syncopated bass line and a rhythm guitar flicking on every upbeat, she dares, “Why don’t you come over if you really feel it?” But the feathery, floating tone of her voice tells the other half of the story. She’s confident enough to make the move, but her talent lies in the ability to use a soft touch even as she’s calling the shots. You got the invitation, she’s saying; now it’s on you to show you deserve it. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

In the mid-1960s, Albert Ayler and John Coltrane were the tenor saxophonists working hardest to yank jazz toward an ethos of transcendence, making it a vessel for a kind of nonverbal liberation theology. Some spirit seemed to course through their horns, erupting and dispersing. James Brandon Lewis is a bristling young New York saxophonist who has been heavily influenced by both of them, but in his playing, the spirit refuses to escape. Much of the sweat and passion in his music springs from a sense that he is still toiling to unloose what’s within; the listener is a party to that work. “Twenty Four” is Lewis’s mash-up of the Coltrane classics “Giant Steps” and “26-2,” both built on a tornado of harmonic changes. But on this tune — included on the newly released “Live in Willisau,” Lewis’s second duo album with the eminent drummer Chad Taylor — he spends a lot of time with his body planted around a simple motif, stating and restating it, wringing it for life, as if trying to chase it down and set it free in a single act. RUSSONELLO


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