Hear tracks by Bartees Strange, Nicki Nicole, Caroline Rose and others.
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
Miley Cyrus featuring Brandi Carlile, ‘Thousand Miles’
From Miley Cyrus’s new album, “Endless Summer Vacation,” comes this rugged, low-to-the-ground duet with the polished roots-rock yowler Brandi Carlile. Both are capable of broad vocal theatrics, but it should be said, Carlile is holding back here, in order to allow Cyrus the space to ruminate in this song about failure: “I’m not always right/but still I ain’t got time for what went wrong.” In her post-Disney career, Cyrus has flirted with various forms of adulthood in terms of performance — sexual defiance, hippie experimentalism and so on. But she’s perhaps at her most appealing when applying restraint.
Nicki Nicole, ‘No Voy a Llorar’
Latin R&B enjoys a whiff of hyperpop helium in “No Voy a Llorar” (“I’m Not Going to Cry”), a preemptively defensive breakup song. The 22-year-old Argentine songwriter Nicki Nicole insists she’s fully prepared if things go wrong. “When you leave, I’m not going to suffer,” she predicts. The song’s chord progression could have come from the 1950s, but its production is as contemporary as its brittle attitude. Her pop soprano gets pitched further upward as the track begins; elusive background vocals and synthesizers puff their syncopations around the beat. Even the exposed voice-and-piano coda, the sincere payoff, gets computer-tweaked.
Baaba Maal featuring the Very Best, ‘Freak Out’
The Senegalese songwriter Baaba Maal, with an extensive catalog behind him, has lately been heard worldwide with vocals on the soundtracks of the Black Panther films. He collaborated with the African-tinged English group the Very Best on “Freak Out,” from his coming album, “Being.” Ignore the song’s psychedelic title. The lyrics draw on an old proverb from Maal’s culture, the Fulani, instructing that someone who has deep knowledge should say neither too little nor too much. Its music merges programmed and hand percussion with a desert drone, an electric-guitar lick and the backup vocals of the Very Best’s Malawian singer, Esau Mwamwaya. It’s both up-to-the-minute and resolutely grounded in traditional wisdom.
Eladio Carrión featuring Future, ‘Mbappe’ (Remix)
Last year, the Puerto Rican rapper Eladio Carrión had a hit with “Mbappe” a drowsy and delirious Migos-esque boast. Future appears on this remix with a pair of verses that are somehow both utterly rote and also grossly charming, rapping about the place where carnality and expensive jewelry intersect, and the elation of toxic love.
NF has always rapped as if full of anxiety, and on a core level, that hasn’t changed on “Motto,” a clever narrative about unshackling oneself from the stressors of pop music success. But over classicist boom-bap production amplified with a whimsical swing and some of the howling dynamics of rock groups like Imagine Dragons, “Motto” feels somehow lighter. In his early career, NF sounded as if he was internalizing all the pressures of the world, but now he sounds free and calm, dismissing those same pressures with a shrug.
Bartees Strange, ‘Daily News’
“Daily News” was tucked away on the vinyl version of the album Bartees Strange released in 2022, “Farm to Table.” Now it’s streaming, and it sums up and expands the album’s moods and dynamics. Strange sings about alienation, numbness and anxiety — “I can feel the weight/Crashing over me again” — as electric-guitar lines coil and intertwine around him. A bridge finds him even more alone — reduced to nervous, isolated vocals — but someone rescues him. Perhaps it’s a partner; perhaps it’s an audience. “I’ve found you,” he exults, in a full-band onrush of drums, saxophone and tremolo-strummed guitars, and the connection sounds rapturous.
Caroline Rose, ‘Tell Me What You Want’
A breakup could hardly be messier or more noisy than the one Caroline Rose depicts in “Tell Me What You Want.” “I am just pretending not to lose my mind,” she explains, in a track that swerves between acoustic-guitar strumming and full grunge blare. She blurts both “I can’t bear to lose you” and “Boy you’re going to hate this song!” She wonders if she should hold on; she wants to smash everything and move along. The video clip, a drunken trek through Austin, Texas, spells out all of her conflicting impulses.
Angel Olsen, ‘Nothing’s Free’
The steadfastness of vintage soul carries Angel Olsen through “Nothing’s Free,” as she sings about an unspecific but primal revelation. Slow gospel organ and piano chords, bluesy saxophone and patiently hand-played drumming sustain her amid — and in a long closing instrumental, beyond — something that sounds both life-changing and inevitable, as she sings, “Nothin’s free like breaking free/out of the past.”
Noia, ‘Verano Adentro’
Noia is Gisela Fullà-Silvestre, a songwriter from Barcelona who’s now based in Brooklyn. In “Verano Adentro” (“Summer Inside”), she wafts her voice over an amorphous, ever-shifting electronic backdrop. At first it’s tentative — chords and pauses, the clatter of a rainstick — but other, more ominous sounds crowd in: distorted guitar, insistent drums, rumbly low arpeggios. Nothing ruffles her as she basks in bliss: “All I need is an ocean, all I need is time,” she coos.
Sarah Pagé, ‘Premiers Pas Au Marécage’
“Premiers Pas Au Marécage” translates as “First Steps in the Swamp,” and it’s a meditation on evolution — formlessness into forms — by Sarah Page, a harpist and composer from Montreal. She mingles electronics and plucked strings in this piece, which opens with yawning, amorphous sounds and recordings of Hungarian frogs, then deploys a quintet of Japanese kotos to join her in a measured, echoey waltz and march, a tentative climb toward order.
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