Bad Bunny’s Surprising Return and 13 More New Songs

Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new tracks. 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, and The Amplifier, a twice-weekly guide to new and old songs.

Bad Bunny, ‘Mr. October’

Bad Bunny surprise-released a new album, “Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana” (“Nobody Knows what’s Going to Happen Tomorrow”). Many of its 22 songs circle back toward the programmed trap beats that helped start Bad Bunny’s career, but now they’re just part of the sonic domain of a world-conquering star. In “Mr. October” he sings and raps about wealth, clothes, fame, sex and celebrity, comparing himself to Michael Jackson and Reggie Jackson and rightfully claiming, “Yo cambié el juego”: “I changed the game.” But the track is far from triumphal; with tolling piano notes, filmy minor chords and skittering electronic tones, the music laces every boast with anxiety. JON PARELES

Ice Spice and Rema, ‘Pretty Girl’

The utterly unflappable Bronx rapper Ice Spice cannily connects with Afrobeats — and with the gentle-voiced, hook-making Nigerian songwriter Rema, who offers slick, robotic blandishments in what sounds like one repeating cut-and-pasted chorus. Ice Spice responds with encouraging, human-sounding specifics: “Think about my future, got you all in it.” But the track ends with Rema’s looped doubts — “Give me promise you ain’t gonna bail on me” — rather than her wholehearted welcome. Why give him the last word? PARELES

Desire Marea, ‘The Only Way’

The style-melting South African songwriter Desire Marea turns to funk and Afrobeat in “The Only Way.” His voice lofts a sustained melody and layered backup vocals over an arrangement that feels hand-played and organic: all staccato cross-rhythms — drums, bass, guitar, electric piano, horns — with a nervy, constantly shifting beat and one melodic peak topping another. The only lyrics in English are “It’s the only way” — and with such urgent music, there’s no need for more. PARELES

Esperanza Spalding, ‘Não Ao Marco Temporal’

If Esperanza Spalding has been in feeds this week for precisely the wrong reasons, consider this your cue to close that tab. Spalding’s mind has been elsewhere: specifically in Brazil, where the battle over the fate of the world’s largest rainforest is reaching a decisive point. On “Não Ao Marco Temporal,” recorded in Rio de Janeiro, Spalding and a small crew of musicians protest the Temporal Framework, a recent attempt to roll back Indigenous Brazilians’ land sovereignty that would have left the Amazon increasingly vulnerable to deforestation. (The Brazilian Supreme Court recently rejected the framework, but industry’s attempts to undermine that decision have continued.) Over strums on the cavaco and violão, the resounding of drums and the squeals of a cuica, Spalding sings of the “grabbing hands” that seek to violate the rainforest. “There are some men who stop at nothing to have their way with the body of a woman or a girl,” she and a small chorus of voices declare. “Right now they’re calling her Brazil.” GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Brittany Howard, ‘What Now’

Brittany Howard, who led the Alabama Shakes, grapples with a disintegrating relationship in “What Now,” singing “If you want someone to hate, then blame it on me.” Over a fierce, choppy funk groove, Howard restrains her far-ranging voice to make her point about “learning lessons I don’t want to.” She is not happy about the breakup; she sings like she has no choice. PARELES

Madi Diaz, ‘Same Risk’

Madi Diaz sings about a high-stakes infatuation in “Same Risk,” spelling out both her physical passion and her misgivings. “Do you think this could ruin your life?/’Cause I could see it ruining mine,” she asks, then wonders, “Are you gonna throw me under the bus?” What starts with modest acoustic guitar strumming rises with an orchestral crescendo to match the urgency of her questions. PARELES

Sleater-Kinney, ‘Hell’

“Hell” will be the opening track on “Little Rope,” the album Sleater-Kinney will release in January and which was made in the wake of the sudden deaths of Carrie Brownstein’s mother and stepfather. The song breaks wide open with anguish and inconsolable fury, as tolling, elegiac verses erupt into bitter power-chorded choruses. Corin Tucker unleashes her scream on the word “why.” PARELES

Jamila Woods featuring Saba, ‘Practice’

Jamila Woods takes the pressure off a new relationship in “Practice,” the latest single from her excellent album “Water Made Us.” “We don’t gotta hurry up, you ain’t gotta be the one,” she sings in an airy, unburdened voice, carried along by an insistent beat. The Chicago rapper Saba sounds similarly breezy and wise on his verse — “learned from her, moved on, learned more” — and Woods’s lyrics extend the song’s playful basketball metaphor. After all, in the immortal words of Allen Iverson, we’re talking about practice. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Sen Morimoto, ‘Deeper’

“I lost my senses like I’ve lost so many times/Why do the answers seem impossible to find?” sings Sen Morimoto, who plays most of the instruments on his tracks himself, in “Deeper.” A lurching beat, meandering chromatic harmonies and keyboard and guitar incursions that seem to have wafted in from other songs just add to the sense of disorientation. Morimoto’s saxophone solo sounds more sure of itself than he does, but he’s clearly not too perturbed. PARELES

Roy Hargrove, ‘Young Daydreams (Beauteous Visions)’

The trumpeter Roy Hargrove was just 23, but already near the top of New York’s jazz scene, when his friend and mentor Wynton Marsalis commissioned him to write “Love Suite in Mahogany.” The suite, which he performed with a septet at Marsalis’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, in fall 1993, begins in a downward slide of moonlit harmony, gesturing toward Gil Evans and Billy Strayhorn (this was the Young Lions era; a direct address to the masters was encouraged). It finds its way gradually into a slowly creeping groove before a false ending gives way to a coda of driving post-bop. The track cuts off as he cues the band into the suite’s next movement. You can hear the rest of the suite’s debut performance, which has just been released as an LP on J.A.L.C.’s Blue Engine Records. RUSSONELLO

Mendoza Hoff Revels, ‘New Ghosts’

There’s gristle and bone in every last satisfying bite of “Echolocation,” the debut album from Mendoza Hoff Revels, a four-piece band co-led by the guitarist Ava Mendoza and the bassist Devin Hoff. There is also a delightfully wide range of musical shapes at play. One moment, they’re descending straight from the slow drag of doom metal and stoner-rock; later, Mendoza’s wily, spiral-bound melodies have more to do with the tactics of John Zorn (both she and Hoff have played on Zorn projects). Her acid-soaked electric guitar rarely leaves center stage here. On “New Ghosts,” Mendoza, Hoff and the saxophonist James Brandon Lewis hover around a heavy minor chord, occasionally repainting it in an uncanny major. Then Hoff and the drummer Ches Smith join, and the improvisation ascends into a gray cloud of swirling saxophone and bludgeoning guitar. RUSSONELLO

boygenius, ‘Afraid of Heights’

Lucy Dacus regrets confessing her fear of heights on this wry highlight from boygenius’s new four-song EP, “The Rest”: “It made you want to test my courage, you made me climb a cliff at night.” Though, like all boygenius songs, it’s a collaboration with her singer-songwriter peers Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker, here Dacus takes the lead, bringing complexity to a simple chord progression through the specificity of her lyricism. “I never rode a motorcycle, I never smoked a cigarette,” she sings, balancing poignancy with dry humor. “I wanna live a vibrant life, but I wanna die a boring death.” ZOLADZ

Allegra Krieger, ‘Impasse’

The folky, deceptively understated songwriter Allegra Krieger released her album “I Keep My Feet on the Fragile Plane” in July; now she extends it with “Fragile Plane — B-Sides.” In “Impasse,” she calmly confronts someone who’s been “building quite a big brand,” touting “family values, patriot song” in a culture where “Everyone here is trying to win/Power or paper or recognition.” Over an unhurried modal guitar line, she warns how it could suddenly come crashing down, and she sings like she won’t mind if it does. PARELES

Ndox Électrique, ‘Lëk Ndau Mbay’

Gianna Greco and François R. Cambuzat, who have worked with post-punk artists including Lydia Lunch, have spent recent years traveling the world, documenting and collaborating with musicians who play traditional trance rituals. For their latest project, Ndox Électrique, they collaborated with Senegalese drummers and singers who perform spirit-possession healing rituals called n’doep, layering drones and assaultive noise-rock guitars atop the fiercely propulsive beat, translating and transmuting the music’s incantatory power. PARELES

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