Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” and 12 other new songs

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The first song from Beyoncé’s July 29 album, “Renaissance,” has a clubby house beat and an attitude that equates defiant self-determination with salvation. She and her co-producers, Tricky Stewart and The-Dream, work two chords and a foursome on the floor in an ever-changing track. They sampled shouted advice – “Release your anger! Free your mind! Free your work! Free up the time!” — from “Explode” by rebounding New Orleans rapper Big Freedia. Beyoncé extrapolates from there: joining the Great Resignation, building “my own foundation,” insisting on love and love- own, face all obstacles with the promise that “You will not break my soul”. When she invokes the soul, a gospel choir arrives to affirm her inner strength, as if anyone could doubt it. JON PARELES

A sort of living cartoon character in his own right, charismatic bassist Thundercat fits naturally into the Gorillaz universe, so much so that it’s almost surprising he’s never collaborated with them before. Thundercat’s insistent bassline and backing vocals add a funky jolt to the band’s “Cracker Island,” a sleek, summery jam that just happens to be on… an invented cult? Fortunately, the melody doesn’t get bogged down in anything too conceptual, and invites the listener to simply lock into its blissful groove. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Memphis-based singer Elizabeth King once seemed headed for gospel stardom. In the early 1970s, she and an all-male band of backing vocalists, the Gospel Souls, scored radio success and won the Gospel Gold Cup, presented by the city’s gospel DJs. But then King backtracked, spending decades raising 15 children; her public performances were limited to singing on a weekly gospel radio show. It was only last year that King, now 70, released her first full album, the impressive ‘Living in the Last Days’. She returns this week with “I Got a Love”. On the title track, King recaptures the sultry style of praise singing she perfected in the 1970s, telling us about her rock-solid romance with God over a slow, savory tempo. Behind her, an amplified tube guitar slices through riffs, an organ alternates between full chords and long rests, and heavy, thrusting bass keeps the band’s muscles flexing. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

The title track from Amanda Shires’ upcoming album is a poetic and provocative torch song driven by an electrifying vocal performance. Featuring her husband Jason Isbell on guitar, “Take It Like a Man” is a breathtaking ballad that continually gains in searing intensity — much like something Shires bandmate Highwomen Brandi Carlile might release. But the song is a showcase of the unique power of Shires’ voice, which is both edgy and extremely vulnerable. “I know the cost of flight lands,” she sings as the melody rises higher and higher, “and I know I can take it like a man.” ZOLADZ

“Carolina,” from the soundtrack to upcoming movie “Where the Crawdads Sing,” has the distinction of being one of the scariest songs in Taylor Swift’s catalog; save for “No body, no crime” it’s the closest thing to a killer ballad. Co-produced with Aaron Dessner, “Carolina” sounds one-piece with Swift’s folky pair from 2020: The arrangement begins with just a low strummed acoustic guitar that eventually swells into a hazy atmosphere with the addition of strings and banjo . As on his 2015 single “Wildest Dreams,” there’s a hint of Lana Del Rey influence as Swift digs into her breathy low register to intone ominously, “There are places I’ll never go, and things only Carolina will ever know.” ZOLADZ

‘Canção da Cura’ (‘Healing Song’) from Brazilian singer-songwriter Sessa’s new album, ‘Estrela Acesa’ (‘Burning Star’), alludes to a clandestine ritual. In her soft tenor, Sessa sings: “To the sound of the drums, I will consume you. Acoustic guitars and percussion create an intricate web of syncopations, and in her soft tenor, with backing vocals muted above, Sessa sings, “To the sound of drums, I’ll consume you.” This is a brief glimpse into a mystery. Talk

After a decade of other projects, wildly virtuoso guitarist and puzzle-shooter Omar Rodríguez-López and singer and lyricist Cedric Bixler-Zavala have reunited as Mars Volta, with a tour kicking off in September and a new song: “Blacklight Shine.” He’s a bilingual six-beat rocker, full of intricate drumming and rushing guitar lines, with lyrics like “the high control hex he obsessively strokes with his thumbs/thinking no one’s watching but j ‘have the copy he can never erase’. But unlike many past Mars Volta efforts, this one strives to be catchy, and its rolling beat and harmonic vocals allude, unexpectedly, to to Steely Dan, another band that hid musical and verbal exploits behind pop hooks. “short film” connects the song’s underlying rhythm to the Afro-Caribbean rhythms of the Puerto Rican bomba. Talk

Commitment is an uncertain thing; in “Watawi”, Nigerian singers CKay and Davido and South African rapper Focalistic remain evasive when girlfriends ask “What are we?” CKay sweetly sings a non-answer: “We are what we are.” Keeping things airy is South Africa’s Abidoza production, hovering around a syncopated one-note pulse as she fuses the cool keyboard chords of South African amapiano with crisp Afrobeats percussion. In its final minute, the track introduces a fiddle that could easily lead to a whole new phase of the relationship. Talk

There is something wonderfully strange about the music of Alex G. of Philadelphia. His songs often evoke familiar sounds and textures – “Runner”, from his forthcoming album “God Save the Animals”, melodically resembles, of all things, early Soul Asylum tracks. Nineties anthem “Runaway Train” – but their gradual accumulation of small, idiosyncratic sonic details produces an overall feeling of strangeness. “Runner” initially sounds like a warm and enjoyable alt-rock pastiche, but before it can lull the listener into nostalgia, the song suddenly bursts into unruly emotion: “I’ve done a few bad things,” sings Alex several times with increasing desperation. , before letting out an exciting and unexpected cry. ZOLADZ

Exile takes many forms – sometimes it’s spiritual, sometimes it’s literal. Pop-rap phenom Lil Nas X recently took umbrage — seriously or not, who can tell — about not being nominated for a BET Award at this year’s ceremony. YoungBoy Never Broke Again remains under house arrest, one of rap’s most popular figures, but who achieved this success without the involvement of traditional tastemakers. Together they share the kinship of Strangers, though they never quite align on this song, which is nominally for BET; the video features a clip of someone urinating on a BET Award trophy. They’re radically different artists — two different styles of rapping, two different subject matter obsessions, two different levels of seriousness. In the end, it feels like they seek exile from each other. JON CARAMANICA

“What does a girl like me want from you?” asks Swedish songwriter Tove Lo in “True Romance,” a four-minute catharsis. The track uses only two synthesized chords and a slow beat, but the vocals are painful, aching and constantly intensifying the drama: a desperate human voice trying to escape an electronic grid. Talk

Composer Rachika Nayar explores the textural and orchestral possibilities of the electric guitar and digital processing: effects, loops, overlays. Much of his work has been meditative, much like the start of “Heaven Come Crashing,” with shimmering, sustained touches of guitar and abstract vocals from Maria BC. But there’s a surprise halfway through: a searing drumbeat kicks in, and what had been a weightless drift is suddenly a high-speed thrust forward. Talk

In an alternate universe, the release of new music from tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton and drummer Eric McPherson would be a major event. The two are eminences of Gen X jazz, and over decades of playing together, their styles have grown to complement each other. Burton holds long notes in a loud but undulating howl or hurls notes in bursts of strings, conveying a wounded tenderness despite all that volume and power. McPherson has a relatively soft touch on the drums, but still channels Elvin Jones’ soulful polyrhythmic force. Last summer, these longtime musical partners performed a concert, joined by bassist Dezron Douglas, as part of Giant Step Arts’ Outdoor Series at the site of the former Seneca Village in Central Park. The performance ended with “Will Never Be Forgotten”, a lament with a descending bass line and a melody that descends like a tear. A complete recording of the concert was released on June 19, as “The Summit Rock Session at Seneca Village”. RUSSONELLO


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