Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new songs and videos — and anything else that strikes them as intriguing. This week, Sophie takes on glamour and artificiality, ASAP Rocky resurrects Moby’s “Porcelain” and Sudan Archives plucks out a self-empowerment anthem.
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Poo Bear featuring Justin Bieber and Jay Electronica, ‘Hard 2 Face Reality’
This is … unexpected! “Hard 2 Face Reality” begins as a meditative croon by Poo Bear, the singer-songwriter who’s been a behind-the-scenes force for Justin Bieber. So when Mr. Bieber arrives with a warm, tightly-controlled verse, the transition isn’t too jarring. But just when things get comfortable, in drops Jay Electronica, hip-hop metaphysician, with some confidently delivered and unusually phrased truisms: “Reality is kinda hard to face/Like actual facts is to flat-earthers.” Which is, I suppose, true. And yet. JON CARAMANICA
ASAP Rocky featuring Moby, ‘ASAP Forever’
This is … unexpected! But that said, why wouldn’t ASAP Rocky resurrect Moby’s “Porcelain” — a grand, sweeping proto-EDM anthem that sounds like modernist folk music — to rap over. It broods, and it’s hazy, and if you said Clams Casino produced it, no one would blink. J.C.
Glamour, commerce, artificiality, digital manipulation, perceptual games: Sophie both confronts and revels in them in “Faceshopping.” The robotic female vocals run verbal permutations — “My face is the real shop front/My shop is the face I front” — over a track that clanks, crunches, slides, squeals and mockingly tosses in pop hooks, pausing for an interlude that only makes the finale more brutal. The images strobe near-subliminal words and turn Sophie’s face into digital Silly Putty. Mere flesh could never compete with this much technology. JON PARELES
Sudan Archives, ‘Nont for Sale’
Self-determination and plucked strings, high and low, frame the self-produced environment for the songwriter, singer and violinist from Ohio who calls herself Sudan Archives because she was inspired by North African music. “Nont for Sale,” from her second EP, moves on loops of pizzicato fiddle, loping bass lines, flickers of electronic percussion and fleeting nests of her own backing vocals, carrying advice that’s all the more convincing because of her absolute aplomb: “Don’t get into my flight path.” J.P.
Dafnis Prieto Big Band, ‘Danzonish Potpourri’
Traditional Cuban dancers would probably have no problem finding a groove inside Dafnis Prieto’s “Danzonish Potpourri,” a buoyant, latticelike piece on his new disc, “Back to the Sunset.” It’s not simple music, but it maintains a lilting groove derived from the romantic Cuban dance music known as danzón. Mr. Prieto, a Cuban-American drummer and MacArthur fellow, has just released “Back to the Sunset,” his first recording with a big band. The group pulls down snugly around his elaborate compositions, creating a fluid momentum in a range of styles — and comfortably welcoming a few big-name guests on other tracks: the saxophonists Henry Threadgill and Steve Coleman, and the trumpeter Brian Lynch. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO
Walter Wolfman Washington, ‘Even Now’
Walter Wolfman Washington, a longtime New Orleans bluesman, and the indomitable New Orleans R&B singer Irma Thomas share “Even Now,” a breakup ballad (written by Dave Egan, previously recorded by Johnny Adams) that’s suffused with the deepest regret on both sides. It’s from his next album, “My Future Is My Past,” due April 20. “Passion, suspicions, we took them all too far/All of the wrong decisions,” he sings. “I still love you,” she admits. “Sometimes I wonder how.” The tempo is all aching slow motion with deliberative electric-piano chords; the vocals are grown-up, endearing and still estranged. J.P.
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: ‘Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don’t’
A hard-nosed, old-fashioned honky-tonk singer and songwriter whose album “Years” arrives on Friday, Sarah Shook knows exactly how to make good on an opening line like “I didn’t mean to stay out all night drinkin’.” As the title (and chorus) suggest, explanations are not forthcoming when the singer returns home at dawn, urging, “Baby, it’s gettin’ light outside/let me in.” But a frisky track with a rockabilly backbeat and droll, squiggly pedal-steel fills are her best chance at getting away with it. J.P.
Aminé featuring Injury Reserve, ‘Campfire’
One of the most appealingly lighthearted new rappers of the past few years, Aminé returns to the hard-thwacking West Coast bounce he dabbled in on his debut album on his new single “Campfire.” He’s limber and astute, and also fun: “Might catch me at a Whole Foods/and if you see that red Mercedes then you know who.” J.C.
Renee Rosnes, ‘Elephant Dust’
On “Elephant Dust,” as Chris Potter’s tenor saxophone solo pulls rapidly away from center, squeaking at the hinges, the pianist Renee Rosnes feeds him in various ways. She tosses cold splashes of harmony, sketches out little countermelodies at a downward angle, opens up pockets of silence. By the time she picks up from Mr. Potter and begins her own solo, the rhythm section — Peter Washington on bass and Lenny White on drums — is slashing. G.R.
Jeremy Zucker, ‘All the Kids Are Depressed’
As the song begins, Jeremy Zucker’s earnest tenor and lightly plucked guitar chords might seem to place him alongside dweeby-sincere pop boyfriend material like Charlie Puth and Shawn Mendes. But it’s camouflage. Eventually the track switches over to the icy, minimal but tuneful electronic pop that fills Mr. Zucker’s previous EPs. With those releases and this one, he has been working a different persona: bummed-out, apathetic, confused, self-pitying, unromantic yet still needy. With “All the Kids Are Depressed,” he realizes he’s not alone; plenty of his peers, even if they’re not SoundCloud rappers, are drinking and popping pills too. “We’re scared,” he concludes. J.P.
A searing ballad by the tender-voiced R&B singer Gallant, “Gentleman” pulses and throbs and oozes. It moves slowly, and never really swells — it begins to feel like a tease, but in truth, anticipation is the most potent thing. J.C.
William Selman, ‘Polysemy’
Near stillness enfolds hints of agitation in “Polysemy” by the electronic composer William Selman. High shimmers and washes of abstract sound are punctuated by bird calls and sampled percussion, and sustained synthesizers test the boundaries between drone and glacial melody. Its five minutes aren’t quite ambient; something transpires. J.P.
Jon Hassell, ‘Dreaming’
Jon Hassell, an esteemed trumpeter and electronic musician, is about to release “Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume One),” his first new album in nine years. “Dreaming” makes reference to the painting technique of “pentimento,” or the appearance of elements from an earlier draft on a canvas. The track’s hazy sounds have a similar appeal: Over a background of gently spinning harmonies, a small corps of trumpets restates its part over and over, warped a little differently each time. G.R.
One rhythm persists all the way through “VVVVV” by the Paris-based D.J.-producer Bambounou; a three-beat pattern defined by a deep, reverberating tom-tom (or timpani?) with a quieter syncopation layered in. Placed atop it one or two at a time, like a series of cultures added to identical Petri dishes, are faster rhythms — plinks, hisses, clatters, typewriter-like clicks — calculated to move in and out of phase with the unswerving beat, merging with it and tugging against it, making each millisecond a reconsideration of timbre and momentum. It’s a monolith with dizzying details. J.P.
Andrew Drury with Seungmin Cha and Tomeka Reid, ‘STA 1’
Andrew Drury is a sensitive avant-garde drummer, but he’s also a lot else. He offers lessons to music teachers across the globe, organizes concerts in Brooklyn under the name Soup and Sound, and has just started Different Track Recordings, a small label to release some of the many live recordings he’s captured over the years. “STA 1” comes from a concert that the bamboo flutist Seungmin Cha, the cellist Tomeka Reid and Mr. Drury played in 2017. The album, titled simply “August, 2017,” combines drones, rustles and simple harmonies that beckon and dissolve. G.R.