Silk Sonic’s Retro Roller Jam, and 12 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.

Silk Sonic, ‘Skate’

With a new single, “Skate,” it becomes ever clearer that Silk Sonic — the collaboration of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak — is a project in vintage reverse engineering, finding and recreating the sounds and structures of the era when 1970s soul melted into disco. “Skate” — invoking bygone roller discos — has the scrubbing rhythmic guitars, the glockenspiel, the Latin percussion, the back-talking string section and the rising bridge of late 1970s hits. Can young 21st-century listeners feel nostalgia for a time before they were born? JON PARELES

Bomba Estéreo featuring Yemi Alade, ‘Conexión Total’

Bomba Estéreo’s new single, “Conexión Total,” is an effervescent blend of pan flutes, marimbas and drum loops featuring the Nigerian Afropop idol Yemi Alade, whose 2014 song “Johnny” remains an anthem in the genre. The Colombian duo’s maneuver adds to a growing list of collaborations between African and Latin American artists, a much-needed reminder of the links between Afro-diasporic sounds and their origins. Euphoric lyrics from the lead singer Li Saumet and layers of carefully placed air horns coalesce into a prismatic summer jam, like a cool, carbonated drink foaming to the surface. ISABELIA HERRERA

Saint Etienne, ‘Pond House’

You’d be forgiven for assuming that the looped, airy voice at the center of Saint Etienne’s new song belongs to the group’s lead vocalist Sarah Cracknell — but it’s actually a sample of Natalie Imbruglia’s 2001 song “Beauty on the Fire.” The British pop icons’ forthcoming “I’ve Been Trying to Tell You” (their first sample-driven album since the 1993 classic “So Tough”) is a collage of sounds culled from 1997 through 2001; they’ve described it as something of a concept album about late-90s optimism and the collective delusions of pop-cultural memory. Heady and idea-driven as that may sound, though, “Pond House” is as light as a sea breeze, a steady, aquamarine undertow drawing you into its hypnotic atmosphere. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Los Lobos, ‘Los Chucos Suaves’

Through four decades of recording, Los Lobos have always chosen their occasional cover versions instructively. During the pandemic they made their new covers album, “Native Sons,” filled with songs from Los Angeles bands including the Beach Boys, War, Buffalo Springfield and Thee Midnighters, along with one new Los Lobos song. “Los Chucos Suaves,” originally released in 1949 by Lalo Guerrero y Sus Cinco Lobos (!), recognizes an emerging Los Angeles pachuco culture, with elegant, zoot-suited Mexican Americans broadening their tastes — and dance moves — to Cuban music. Los Lobos’s version places Cesar Rosas’s rasp atop a mesh of cumbia and mambo, with distorted guitar, brawny baritone sax and frenetic timbales celebrating an early Latin cultural alliance. PARELES

Béla Fleck featuring Billy Strings and Chris Thile, ‘Charm School’

The album due in September from the banjo innovator Béla Fleck — who has collaborated with jazz musicians and chased down the banjo’s African roots — is “My Bluegrass Heart,” billed as his return to bluegrass. “Charm School” uses a classic bluegrass quintet lineup, with Fleck on banjo, Chris Thile on mandolin, Billy Strings on guitar, Billy Contreras on fiddle and Royal Masat on bass. But “Charm School” is by no means a traditional bluegrass tune; it’s a speedy, ever-changing suite, vaulting through keys, meters and tempos. The quintet alights in a seemingly familiar bluegrass zone only to dart off someplace else entirely, again and again. PARELES

Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor, ‘Long Tall Sunshine’

Barry Altschul’s drumming, and especially his rambunctious ride cymbal, is a study in something more than contrast: He knows how to skip across the surface of a beat while also giving it serious heft; his pocket is magnetic, but he’ll just as soon dice it up or splatter it to bits. Over an almost six-decade career in jazz, he’s played on both sides of the aisle, avant-garde and straight-ahead, and in his running trio — the 3dom Factor, with Jon Irabagon on saxophones and Joe Fonda on bass — he lassos it all together. “Long Tall Sunshine” is the title track from the 3dom Factor’s new live album, and it’s classic Altschul: brimming and charging but holding back too (thanks especially to Fonda’s bass), with a harmonically rangy melody that sets up Irabagon for an uncorked solo. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Dry Cleaning, ‘Tony Speaks!’

On its magnificently odd debut album “New Long Leg,” released earlier this year, the London band Dry Cleaning fused post-punk grooves with the deadpan musings of the frontwoman Florence Shaw, a sharp, dryly funny observer of modern life’s absurdities. But “Tony Speaks!,” one half of a double-A-side single the band released this week, is its most barbed and political track yet. The song is an unnerving meditation on the banal but weighty effect that systemic problems can have on individual psyches: “I’m just sad about the collapse of heavy industry, I’ll be all right in a bit.” But Shaw’s most piercing musings come when she widens her lens and ponders climate change; her reflections poised in a delicate balance between comedy and tragedy. “I always thought of nature as something dead and uninviting,” she mutters, “but there used to be a lot more of it.” ZOLADZ

Ada Lea, ‘Damn’

“Damn,” from the Montreal-based singer-songwriter Ada Lea, unfolds like a quiet epiphany: a gradual accumulation of feelings and frustrations that, in an instant, snap into a sudden clarity. Atop an understated arrangement of guitar and percussion, Lea (whose real name is Alexandra Levy) sings of gradually slipping into an emotional rut: “Every year’s just a little bit darker, then the darker gets darker,” she sings in a low, throaty drawl, “then it’s dark as hell.” But in the song’s closing moments, Lea recollects herself and summons all her energy into a spirited, defiant refusal of everything that’s gone wrong: “Damn the work, damn the music, damn the fun that’s missing.” It’s the sound of hitting bottom but finally looking up. ZOLADZ

Ekyu, ‘Oh Dje’

Ekyu, a songwriter from Benin, sings about destructive envy in “Oh Dje”: “When someone goes up, we want to take them down/When someone moves forward, we want to stop him.” His voice is husky and melancholy, with an electronic veil; the rhythm is ticking, ratcheting Afrobeats-meets-trap, while guitar licks and manipulated vocals ripple in the distance. Below them all are bassy, looming synthesizer tones, threatening, as the lyrics suggest, to drag down everything. PARELES

Nao, ‘And Then Life Was Beautiful’

“Hope will come someday soon,” the English songwriter Nao (Neo Jessica Joshua) promises in her helium-high soprano in “And Then Life Was Beautiful,” the title song from her next album. To recover from the way “Change came like a hurricane” in 2020, she advises self-preservation, patience, contemplation and gratitude amid invigorating triplets, rising chromatic chords and airborne vocal harmonies. She’s determined to conjure a sense of uplift. PARELES

Silvana Estrada, ‘Marchita’

Silvana Estrada’s voice oozes quiet fury. It’s a quality that connects her to a long line of women in Latin America, whose voices are almost synonymous with the experience of suffering and abandonment: icons like Chavela Vargas and La Lupe. But unlike some of her forebears, the 24-year-old Mexican artist’s anguish is so quiet, so raw, it burns in her chest, smoldering under the surface. On “Marchita,” the rolling melismas of Estrada’s voice glide over the warmth of a Venezuelan cuatro, blooming into waves of violin and violoncello strings. “Me ha costado tanto y tanto/Que ya mi alma se marchita,” she weeps. “It’s cost me so much that my soul is withering,” she says. That is the kind of slow-burning despair that steals life from you. HERRERA

Grouper, ‘Unclean Mind’

Grouper, a.k.a. Liz Harris, effortlessly collapses the grittiest of emotions into simple jolts of sorrow. Though she is known for her hypnotic tape loops, breathy whispers and quiet piano arrangements, on “Unclean Mind,” Harris swaps the familiar, morose piano keys of previous releases for the strum of an acoustic guitar. Her harmonic vocals are weightless, almost imperceptible, but the sentiment is transparent. “Tried to hide you from my unclean mind,” she sighs, “Put it in a costume/Turning patterns with a perfect line.” We may not know what kind of relationship she refers to, but the enigmatic beauty of Grouper’s music is that it is immersive without being obvious, so potent it needs little explication to convey the trickiest emotions. HERRERA

Dot Allison, ‘Long Exposure’

The Scottish songwriter and singer Dot Allison has recorded, as leader and collaborator, with arty musicians like Kevin Shields, Massive Attack and Scott Walker beginning in the 1990s. Her new solo album, “Heart-Shaped Scars,” is her first since 2009. It’s largely acoustic and minimal, with songs that meditate on the unhurried growth of plants. “Long Exposure” intertwines Allison’s voice with steady guitar picking, single piano notes and a chamber-pop string section, but it’s far from serene. It’s an indictment of a partner’s gradually revealed infidelity that gathers pain and wrath from the realization that it went on so long. PARELES

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