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Earl Sweatshirt Exhibits His Evolution, and 14 More New Songs


In 2010, Earl Sweatshirt released his debut mixtape, “Earl,” and his new song titled for that moment in time shows how much he’s evolved while still retaining his sagely iconoclastic spirit. Earl’s more recent releases — “Some Rap Songs” from 2018; “Feet of Clay” from 2019 — have represented his music at its most avant-garde, moving through murky, collagelike atmospheres in a constant state of transformation. “2010,” though, is more straightforward and sustained, with an understated beat from the producer Black Noise that allows Earl to lock into a hypnotic flow. The succinctly poetic imagery (“crescent moon wink, when I blinked it was gone”) and strangely satisfying plain-spoken admissions (“walked outside, it was still gorgeous”) pour out of him as steadily as water from a tap. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

This song’s distinctive descending chord progression, dramatic swells and even its lyrics — “the measure of a hero is the measure of a man” — could make it a James Bond theme. That’s a sign of FKA twigs’s overarching ambitions, her willingness to engage carnality and idealism, and how carefully she gauges the gradations of her voice in every phrase. JON PARELES

Call it a meet twee: “You lent me ‘Nine Stories,’ while you starred in mine,” the Australian-born, California-based musician Hazel English sings at the beginning of her ode to every artsy teen’s favorite J.D. Salinger book. The track is a three-minute dream-pop reverie, obscuring lyrics wryly bookish enough for a Belle & Sebastian song beneath a swirl of jangly guitars and shyly murmured vocals. It’s also something of an act of nostalgia, finding the 30-year-old conjuring the sounds and memories of her high school days: “Now that I’m falling, I can’t ignore it,” she sings sweetly, sounding as blissfully crush-struck as a teenager. ZOLADZ

The young Chicago trio Horsegirl is proof that the shaggy-dog spirit of Gen X indie rock is alive and well within a certain subset of Gen Z. Nora Cheng and Penelope Lowenstein’s overlapping vocals are buried beneath a dissonant avalanche of “Daydream Nation”-esque guitars, but enough lyrical imagery comes to the surface to create a strangely poetic impression of their titular character on this stand-alone single, their first release since signing to Matador Records. “He washes off his robes in preparation to be crucified,” Cheng intones, while Lowenstein’s more melodic vocal line adds additional texture to the song’s enveloping, shoegaze-y atmosphere. ZOLADZ

On “Touch. Don’t Scroll,” Ben LaMar Gay and Ayanna Woods, two musical polymaths from Chicago, sing about trying to stay connected to each other in an overcorrected world. “Now, baby, I will never leave you ’lone/Oh, can you hear me or are you on your phone?” they drone in unison, an octave apart, over a syncopated beat and lightly twinkling electronics. The track is nestled deep within “Open Arms to Open Us,” Gay’s latest album and probably his most broadly appealing, pulling together influences from country blues, Afro-Brazilian percussion, puckish Chicago free jazz and 2000s indie-rock. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

“Bet It,” from the soundtrack to Halle Berry’s directorial debut “Bruised,” is only the second solo single Cardi B has released this year. And while it’s nowhere near as fun or inspired than that previous hit, “Up,” “Bet It” is more like a braggadocios status update on Cardi’s recent past, taking in her Grammy wins and her memorable Met Gala appearance in a dress with a “tail so long it drag 30 minutes after.” ZOLADZ

An impressively feverish turn from Morray, whose 2020 breakout single “Quicksand” leaned toward the spiritual. Here, though, he’s ferocious, rapping with a scratchy yelp and a sense of defiance. He’s accompanied by Benny the Butcher, who is among the calmest-sounding boasters in hip-hop. An unexpected and unexpectedly effective pairing. JON CARAMANICA

The producer Frank Dukes — who’s made understated, hauntingly melodic work with Frank Ocean, the Weeknd, Rihanna and many others — is releasing “The Way of Ging,” his first project under his own name. It’s an album of beats — a beat tape, as they used to say — that’s available for a limited time online, and will eventually be removed from the internet and available only as a set of NFTs. “Likkle Prince” channels early ’80s electro along with some squelched disco majesty. It’s spooky and propulsive. CARAMANICA

A rousing and trippy burst of hyperpop mayhem, “Everybody’s Dead!” is a new single from underscores, who earlier this year released “Fishmonger,” an excellent, scrappy, and puckish debut album. CARAMANICA

The Mexico City sound artist Microhm, born Leslie Garcia, produced “Spooky Actions” and its accompanying EP using only modular synths. The result feels like hurtling through a Black Hole, where sound and time warp into quantum dislocation. Ambient textures swirl over the lurch of steady drum kicks, as the moments drip into oblivion. ISABELIA HERRERA

Leon Bridges looks back to Sam Cooke’s soul; Jazmine Sullivan can go back to the scat-singing of bebop. They trade verses over a slow-motion beat and rhythm guitar in “Summer Rain” to evoke endless conjugal bliss, urging each other “don’t stop now,” for less under minutes of suspended time meant to play on repeat. PARELES

Ibeyi’s music has always harnessed a sense of ancestral knowledge: The Afro-Cuban French twins grew up listening to Yoruba folk songs that channel the spirit of enslaved people brought to the Caribbean over the middle passage. But their new single, “Made of Gold,” featuring the Ghanian British rapper Pa Salieu, trades the simple but potent piano and cajón for a celestial, spectral otherworldliness. Culling references to the Yoruba deities Shango and Yemaya, as well as Frida Kahlo and the ancient Egyptian “Book of the Dead,” the duo summons power from intergenerational sources to shield them. “Oh you with a spine, who would work your mouth against this Magic of mine,” they intone. “It has been handed down in an unbroken line.” HERRERA

Sting’s new album, “The Bridge,” often harks back to the jazz-folk-Celtic-pop hybrids he forged on his first solo albums in the 1980s; one song, “Harmony Road,” even features a saxophone solo from Branford Marsalis, who was central to “The Dream of the Blue Turtles” in 1985. Many of the new songs lean toward parable and metaphor, but not “Loving You,” a husband’s confrontation with the cheating wife he still loves: “We made vows inside the church to forgive each others’ sins,” he sings. “But there are things I have to endure like the smell of another man’s skin.” Written with the British electronic musician Maya Jane Coles, the track confines itself to two chords and a brittle beat, punctuated by faraway arpeggios and tones that emerge like unwanted memories; it’s memorably bleak. PARELES

With patient arpeggios and soothing bass notes, the harpist and composer Mary Lattimore builds a grandly meditative edifice behind Chelsey Coy, the songwriter and singer at the core of Single Girl, Married Girl, in “Scared to Move.” It’s from the new album “Three Generations of Leaving.” Cale’s multitracked harmonies promise, “In a strange new half-light, I will be your guide” as Lattimore’s harp patterns construct a glimmering path forward. PARELES

“Deciphering the Message,” Makaya McCraven’s first LP for Blue Note Records, could easily get you thinking of “Shades of Blue,” Madlib’s classic 2003 album remixing old tracks from that label’s jazz archive. On “Deciphering,” McCraven — a drummer, producer and beat dissector — digs through 13 tracks from the label’s catalog and attacks them through his personal method of remixing and pastiche. “Deciphering” crackles with McCraven’s sonic signatures: viscid ambience, restlessly energetic drumming, the recognizable sounds of his longtime collaborators (Marquis Hill on trumpet, Matt Gold on guitar, Joel Ross on vibraphone, et al). “Tranquillity” stems from a track by the vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, from his 1966 album “Components,” and McCraven’s intervention is two-pronged: He doubles down on the original’s curved-glass effect, adding whispery trumpet and fluttering flute atop the original track, but his own drums — kinetic, unrelenting — keep the energy at a rolling boil. RUSSONELLO

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