The dazzling and provocative return of Sky Ferreira and 11 other new songs



The nine long years since Sky Ferreira’s cult classic 2013 album “Night Time, My Time” disappears in the opening moments of “Don’t Forget,” a dazzling return to form set to appear on the Ferreira’s much-delayed second album, “Masochism.” In his nearly decade (mostly) away from music — in part due to disagreements with his record company — Ferreira’s grungy synth-pop sound has barely changed. But “Night Time, My Time” still sounds odd enough that “Don’t Forget” (which she co-produced with Jorge Elbrecht and co-wrote with Tamaryn) is comfort rather than disappointment. It’s refreshing to hear the 29-year-old pick up exactly where she left off, inhabiting the dull, resonant atmosphere of a song with its breathless intensity and blotchy glamour. “Keep in mind, no one here is a friend of mine,” Ferreira sneers, proving that his melodramatic provocative side is still intact. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Philadelphia-based freelance artist Alex G has both an easily recognizable aesthetic sensibility and a playful, springy sense of self. On his excellent 2019 album ‘House of Sugar’, Alex (surname: Giannascoli) occasionally shifted and distorted his vocals as if embodying different characters – then on the next track he sang a twangy and seemingly serious ditty of acoustic guitar that could break your heart in two. Its predictable unpredictability strikes again on “Blessing,” which contrasts quasi-spiritual lyrics (“Everyday/Is a Blessing”) with a sound that borrows from the moody, alt-rock/nu-metal sound of the late 90s. Alex sings in a menacing whisper, and an explosion of apocalyptic synths completely transforms the song midway through. As inscrutable as it may be, the whole thing is eerie, hypnotic and, in a way, oddly moving. ZOLADZ

London band Superorganism turn boredom and monotony into something almost perky in ‘On & On’. “No more space, press replay / It goes on and on and on,” Orono sings with brooding nonchalance, then repeats “and on” another 16 times. The track is gummy bubble pop with a hint of reggae, and it’s filled with ever-changing little hooks and effects, but nothing breaks the boredom. JON PARELES

As she got older, Wynonna Judd sang with an assured voice, cutting through the crisp country she played for decades with just a hint of blues. Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, over a career that began in DIY warehouses, found her bridge to American roots music. The two singers meet on “Other Side”, a gentle reflection on impermanence. For Judd – whose mother and longtime singing partner Naomi died last month – it’s a solid, low-key but invested breeze. For Crutchfield, it’s a soft landing in a new home. JON CARAMANICA

“Empathy for Bethany” continues to squirm without expectations. Saya Gray, a Canadian songwriter who played bass in Daniel Caesar’s band, begins the song folksy, picking triplets over an acoustic guitar. But almost immediately, the chord progression begins to wander; then his voice twists into multitrack and pitch shifting, and soon a breathless trumpet drifts from the realm of jazz; by the time the track ends, it has become a loop of electronic sequels. “Honestly, if I get too close, I’ll go ghost,” Gray sings, and the track backs it up. Talk

Bruce Hornsby has remained productive and exploratory during the pandemic, doubling down on his musical craftiness and structural ambition. His new album, “’Flicted”, brings together sharp dissonances and folk warmth, chamber orchestrations and electronic illusions, modesty and benevolence. “Fun and games in the plague / We could use, use some caring kindness,” he sings in “Tag,” adding, “Always shake your fist / Some kind of gritty bliss.” The music oscillates between rumbling, dissonant piano over a funky backbeat and richly chiming folk-rock, deftly juggling skepticism and hope. Talk

The songs from Maria BC’s debut album, “Hyaline”, are daydreams built around patiently chosen guitar patterns and quiet melodies, though they may at any time sprout electronics, percussion or orchestrations from chamber music. In “April”, the voices overlap and multiply in cascading chords while unexpected sounds are heard behind the guitar. “Listen to me / Anything you want,” the lyrics promise. Talk

Experimental artist Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Oscar-nominated film composer Emile Mosseri struck gold with their collaborative album, “I Could Be Your Dog/I Could Be Your Moon.” It’s only two minutes long, but “Amber,” from the second half of the project, works like a spaced-out symphony. On bubbling synth tones, Smith’s aerial vocalizations turn into diverted entanglements, metamorphosing into oceans of cosmic wrecks. The effect is appropriately cinematic, like a long-lost Pipilotti Rist immersive video. ISABELLE HERRERA

New label Blue Note Africa’s debut album, “In the Spirit of Ntu”, is South African pianist Nduduzo Makhathini’s tribute to the universal energetic force known in Bantu cultures as “ntu”. It includes this melancholy but fast tune, “Mama”, written by Makhathini’s wife, Omagugu, in memory of his recently deceased mother. Omagugu sings in a broad, bushy tone, holding his syllables open, while Makhathini surrounds him in a pattern of rising and rising chords. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Falling somewhere between gritty hardcore and warped jungle, Rico Nasty’s “Intrusive” scrapes like metal through a meat grinder. With her latest single, the Maryland rapper continues her return to music after her 2020 album “Nightmare Vacation.” On “Intrusive,” she harnesses punk verve and raps over a distorted breakbeat, letting her intrusive impulses and fiercest desires flow in a torrent of consciousness. It’s bratty, rambunctious and delightfully cathartic, like a childhood tantrum. “Mom, if you hear that, I’m sorry,” she raps. Hey, at least she warned you. HERRERA

There’s not much to Kansas City rapper SleazyWorld Go’s “Sleazy Flow”: a few piano tinkles, growling bass beats, a sleepy, ominous tempo and, most importantly, chosen lyrics mixing street beef. and sexual conquest: “How you mad she choose me? / I like what she does to me / She says she feels safer here where the shooters are. This excerpt became an earlier TikTok escape this year, and Lil Baby picks up that smirking theme on the song’s official remix. His verse is almost shredded: “Act like I’m chasing her or something, she’s chasing me / Can’t hold her back, she’s chasing me says all the time that she wishes you were me.” CARAMANIC

David Virelles has nothing against the piano. A virtuoso improviser and classically trained pianist from Santiago de Cuba, he doesn’t seem to have any intention of turning the instrument upside down as Thelonious Monk did; or throw it away entirely, like a John Cage; or turning him into an android, like some of his contemporaries. Virelles is a more subtle expander. He plays the grand piano with sensitivity and deference, working with and not against. He weaves dense harmonies into other harmonies, shading his music with deep browns and grays – like an island sky darkening before a storm. And on “Al Compás De Mi Viejo Tres” (“By the Compass of My Old Guitar”), from his masterful new album, “Nuna”, he celebrates the rhythm of the classic Cuban danzón playing with total elegance and clarity – stopping every so often to get in its own way with a few irruptive slashes or serious, caustic chords. RUSSONELLO

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