H.E.R.’s Soulful Suspicions, and 11 More New Songs

Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new songs and videos. Just want the music? Listen to the Playlist on Spotify here (or find our profile: nytimes). Like what you hear? Let us know at [email protected] and sign up for our Louder newsletter, a once-a-week blast of our pop music coverage.

H.E.R., ‘Cheat Code’

H.E.R. (Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson) has a rich grasp of soul and R&B history backed by her old-school musicianship as a singer, guitarist and keyboardist. There are 21 songs on her new album “Back of My Mind,” but most of them cling to a narrow palette: ballad tempos, two-chord vamps, constricted melody lines. “Cheat Code” is still a ballad, but a little more expansive. Its narrator is coming to grips with a partner’s infidelity — “What you’ve been doing’s probably something I ain’t cool with” — and warning, “You need to get your story straight.” The arrangement blossoms from acoustic guitar to quiet-storm studio band, with wind chimes and horns, only to thin out again, leaving her with just backup voices and a few piano notes, alone again with all her misgivings. JON PARELES

Brittney Spencer, ‘Sober & Skinny’

An insightful take on the way some relationships become sites of push and pull, one promise traded for another, one letdown making room for the next. “Sober & Skinny” is lonesome and doleful (some light melodic borrowing from Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” notwithstanding), the story of two people bound by their habits, and to each other, and how that can be the same thing: “I empty the fridge, you empty the bottle/we’re stacking up a mountain of hard pills we’ll have to swallow.” JON CARAMANICA

Aldous Harding, ‘Old Peel’

The music is methodical and transparent: steady-ticking percussion, grumbling piano chords, spindly high guitar interjections, a melody line that barely budges. But Aldous Harding’s intent and attitude stay cheerfully, stubbornly, intriguingly opaque. “Old peel, no deal/I won’t speak if you call me baby,” she sings, utterly deadpan, enjoying the standoff. PARELES

Yves Tumor, ‘Jackie’

Yves Tumor, the ineffable and audacious experimentalist, once again brandishes a reverence for Prince on “Jackie,” another venture into magisterial rock that clings to devastating grandeur. Tumor, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, assumes the role of a tortured ringleader, shepherding listeners into their surreal world of sexual and musical provocation. It’s almost easy to miss the song’s reality: a lament for the end of the relationship, in which Tumor’s anguish makes it difficult to eat and sleep. “These days have been tragic,” they wail, yearning for the possibility of a return of their body’s biological rhythms, and a promise that they will one day be whole again. ISABELIA HERRERA

Tyler, the Creator, ‘Lumberjack’

A return to croaky bragging for Tyler, the Creator, over a beat that heavily samples “2 Cups of Blood,” from the Gothically gloomy debut album by the Gravediggaz. Tyler’s boasts take the gleaming aesthete excess Pharrell once celebrated and gives it a tart edge: “Rolls-Royce pull up, Black boy hop out”; “Salad-colored emerald on finger, the size of croutons”; a credit card that “really can’t max out.” It’s a posture he’s earned:

That’s my nuance, used to be the weirdo
Used to laugh at me, listen to me with their ears closed
Used to treat me like that boy Malcolm in the Middle
Now I’m zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero


Stiff Pap featuring BCUC, ‘Riders on the Storm’

Stiff Pap is an electronic duo from Johannesburg: the producer Jakinda and the rapper and singer Ayema Probllem. For “Riders on the Storm,” they’re joined by the Soweto band BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness), adding gritty voices and salvos of percussion to both deepen and destabilize a track that’s already skewed and wily. Amid buzzing, hopscotching keyboard lines and fitful drumming, the song addresses, among other things, perpetual striving and social-media anxiety, doubled down by music that keeps shifting underfoot. PARELES

Chucky73, ‘Diri’

A false start, a tiptoeing piano hook, a video featuring a golf course invasion: with “Diri,” the Bronx rapper Chucky73 has assembled an easy home run. The chubby-cheeked, beaming Lothario dazzles here, his slap-happy persona only amplified by his self-assured, nimble baritone and punch lines about the spoils of his success: “En do’ año’ me hice rico/El dinero me tiene bonito.” “In two years, I got rich,” he says. “The money’s got me looking cute.” HERRERA

Young Devyn, ‘Like This’

Elsewhere on her debut EP, “Baby Goat,” Young Devyn leans into her Trinidadian roots and her past as a soca singer, and also toys with Brooklyn drill music. But on “Like This,” she’s just rapping — pointedly, nimbly, eye-rollingly: “I don’t even speak to my pops /How the hell would you think I would speak to my exes?” CARAMANICA

Cochemea, ‘Mimbreños’

Cochemea Gastelum, the saxophonist for the Dap-Kings soul and funk band, claims his heritage for “Baca Sewa Vol II,” his coming solo album. “Mimbreños” is named after his ancestors from the Mimbres Valley in New Mexico. It’s a call-and-response, his saxophone tune answered by vocal la-las, carried by calm, six-beat percussion. Then a marimba, hitting offbeats, supplies a vamp for Cochemea’s saxophone improvisations, abetted by biting electronic timbres. It’s untraditional, yet it feels deeply rooted. PARELES

Leon Bridges, ‘Why Don’t You Touch Me’

Leon Bridges, the Texas-based singer whose voice harks back to Sam Cooke, probes his unhappiness as a lover’s desire wanes in “Why Don’t You Touch Me.” A patient beat and lean electric-guitar chords accompany him as he questions, apologizes, complains and begs. “Don’t leave me out here unfulfilled/’Cause we’re slowly getting disconnected,” he reproaches, desperately longing to get physical. PARELES

Harold Land, ‘Happily Dancing/Deep Harmonies Falling’

“Westward Bound!”, a collection of never-before-released concert recordings from the early-to-mid-1960s at Seattle’s Penthouse club, offers a chance to revisit the overlooked career of Harold Land. A coolly expressive tenor saxophonist, Land left his mark in bands led by Max Roach and Clifford Brown and by the vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, but his own career as a bandleader never rose fully above the fray. In ways, “Happily Dancing/Deep Harmonies Falling,” a Land original, is quintessential hard-bop: the waltz-time swing feel, caught between elegance and heft; the cooperation between Land and the trumpeter Carmell Jones; the commingling of hard blues playing and balladic lyricism. But what sets this recording apart is Land, and his way of articulating each note with just enough restraint and sly timing to pull you in close. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Ben Goldberg, ‘Everything Happens to Be.’

The clarinetist Ben Goldberg arranged “Everything Happens to Be.,” the title track from his rewarding new album (its name riffs on a jazz standard), in such a way that everyone in his quintet has a load-bearing role to play. The guitarist Mary Halvorson, the bassist Michael Formanek and the saxophonist Ellery Eskelin all carry different melodic parts, as the drummer Tomas Fujiwara employs a light touch to push things ahead, mirroring Formanek’s cadence without bearing down on him. RUSSONELLO

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