Jack Harlow Goes Deep on Race and Rap, and 8 More New Songs

Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new tracks. 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, and The Amplifier, a twice-weekly guide to new and old songs.

Jack Harlow, ‘Common Ground’

On his third major label album, “Jackman,” Jack Harlow leans away from the lithe boasts that shaped “Come Home the Kids Miss You,” his 2022 breakthrough LP. Instead, he pivots to issues — specifically, on the opening track “Common Ground,” the issue of whiteness. It’s a fleet, acute look at the ways white participants in hip-hop cloak themselves, to be present but not quite seen (or maybe vice versa): “Reciting rap lyrics about murder and cash profit/Get to feel like a thug but don’t have to act on it.” White rappers rapping about the condition of whiteness in hip-hop isn’t new, and Harlow has addressed these themes on earlier releases; he raps about these topics with self-awareness and skepticism (though not quite self-indictment). But as he is beginning to become a bigger mainstream rap star, he’s not shrugging off the conversation as if it doesn’t apply to him anymore. JON CARAMANICA

Jessie Ware, ‘Freak Me Now’

The British pop singer Jessie Ware pivoted to disco on her excellent 2020 album “What’s Your Pleasure?,” but she shifts n into a higher gear on its ecstatic follow-up, “That! Feels Good!,” out on Friday. The kinetic, house-inflected dance-floor anthem “Freak Me Now” is a highlight, and its vampy attitude and attention to sonic detail finds Ware in complete control of her vision. “That sparkle in my eye, you are a jewel, baby,” she purrs on the verse, as if an entire glittering, sweaty congregation of partygoers is orbiting around her confident stillness. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Four Tet, ‘Three Drums’

Fresh off a raucous, last-minute gig headlining Coachella with his pals Skrillex and Fred again.., Kieran Hebden has released “Three Drums,” a slow-burning, eight-minute reverie that’s much more subdued than what he played for the festival crowd. But such is the duality of Four Tet. “Three Drums” contrasts the textures of live percussion and otherworldly synth gradients, resulting in a hypnotic composition that ebbs and flows like an ocean. ZOLADZ

Miguel, ‘Give It to Me’

Miguel returns to one of his favorite modes — the flirt — in “Give It to Me,” which is blunt: “I like what you got,” he repeats. He has plenty of blandishments, among them “I’ll be your doctor, let me operate.” But he surrounds them with a production, credited to Scoop DeVille, that keeps melting down and reshaping itself around him: with synthesizers and handclaps, with hard-rock guitars, with echoey backup voices. It’s as if he wants to try every possible seduction strategy, all at once. JON PARELES

Joy Oladokun, ‘Somebody Like Me’

“I’ve watched even my best intentions turn into disaster/Everything goes backwards,” Joy Oladokun sings in “Somebody Like Me” from a new album, “Proof of Life.” It’s a plea for consolation and support from friends and from God; it’s a confession and a rallying cry. “I’ve never been as honest as I want to be/when I need help through,” she adds. The syncopated beat is steady, yet she knows the sentiment is widely shared. PARELES

Bebe Rexha & Dolly Parton, ‘Seasons’

Aging, loneliness and despair aren’t the usual makings of Bebe Rexha’s songs, so the folky “Seasons” is unexpected — even more so with the appearance of Rexha’s duet partner, Dolly Parton. They sing in close harmony through the song, and Rexha adapts her voice to share Parton’s feathery vibrato, but Parton is upfront in the bridge. “How come nobody warns us about what’s coming for us?” she sings. “That you live and die alone.” PARELES

The 3 Clubmen, ‘Aviatrix’

Andy Partridge, the often elusive co-founder of XTC, has re-emerged with two longtime collaborators, Jen Olive and Stu Rowe, as the 3 Clubmen. “Aviatrix” is a warped, meter-shifting, proudly eccentric pop extravaganza. The lyrics touch on historical and modern aviation, from “made like a bird out of canvas and sticks” to “your seat is a flotation device,” while the music just keeps piling things on — percussion, flute, saxophones, vocal harmonies, lead guitar — all wrapped around a bouncy acoustic guitar lick that loops all the way through. PARELES

Bill Orcutt, ‘The Life of Jesus’

The guitarist Bill Orcutt has recorded in all sorts of configurations, from raucous punk to acoustic ruminations to tautly composed minimalistic electric ensembles. His new album, “Jump on It,” returns to solo acoustic guitar, a format in which he can be pristinely meditative or wildly eruptive at any moment. “The Life of Jesus” promises stability at first, steadily tolling a major chord. But midway through, breakneck dissonant lines burst out; when consonance returns, it seems far more fragile. PARELES

Rob Moose featuring Brittany Howard, ‘I Bend But Never Break’

The violinist Rob Moose, a founder of the chamber group yMusic, has been a ubiquitous studio musician and string arranger for — among hundreds of credits — Miley Cyrus, Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, John Legend, Phoebe Bridgers and Alabama Shakes. Brittany Howard, Alabama Shakes’ leader, returns the favor with her song “I Bend But Never Break,” which will appear on Moose’s EP due in August, “Inflorescence.” Howard sings about seeking, and claiming, the strength to rise above obstacles and tribulation: “I am not fearless but fear will stop me,” she vows. She’s backed by a lush, cello-rich, harmonically convoluted string ensemble, as her solo testimony gives way to a choral affirmation. PARELES

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