The Playlist: Iggy Pop’s Jazzy Whimsy, and 12 More New Songs (Published 2019) (2022)


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The Playlist: Iggy Pop’s Jazzy Whimsy, and 12 More New Songs (Published 2019) (1)

By Jon Pareles,Jon Caramanica and Giovanni Russonello

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 and sign up for our Louder newsletter, a once-a-week blast of our pop music coverage.

Iggy Pop, ‘Sonali’

Iggy Pop’s new album, “Free,” relies on jazz-rooted collaborators for most of its words and music, particularly the trumpeter, keyboardist and producer Leron Thomas. “Sonali” suggests what Iggy might have sounded like backed by Weather Report. He sings its semi-absurdist lyrics — “Do like the Romans/pop melatonin” — over a rushing, fluttering, quasi-waltz that hurries toward an undisclosed destination, whimsical but driven. JON PARELES

Björk, ‘Features Creatures’ (The Knife Remix)

Björk and Karin Dreijer — who has recorded in a duo, the Knife, and solo as Fever Ray — agreed to trade remixes. Dreijer applied both groups’ different personae to Björk’s “Features Creatures,” a song from the album “Utopia” that was a free-floating soliloquy about the nature of attraction, squaring it off and finding beats for it. As Fever Ray, Dreijer set Björk’s vocals atop a half-remembered girl-group beat, weighted with a throbbing low synthesizer. The Knife’s remix suggests a happier flirtation, with a plinking, strutting, carnival-like beat and synthesizers hooting like air horns. Björk, meanwhile, went bleak: She excised all the pop elements and doubled down on the most brutal impacts of Fever Ray’s “This Country,” for a profanity-laced (and retitled) revamp of the song. PARELES

Camila Cabello, ‘Liar’

Uncontrollable desire is Camila Cabello’s recurring topic, and it figures in both songs she just released: “Shameless,” which shamelessly echoes Rihanna’s belting in “We Found Love,” and “Liar,” a canny pan-Caribbean and Spanish mélange. As she sings about how a certain kiss makes her lose control despite herself — “Clothes are on the floor,” she notes at the end — the ultra-canny track segues from mariachi horns to the stark electronics of Latin trap to flamenco handclaps (hello, Rosalía!) to a ska-pop chorus: border-hopping at the speed of pop. PARELES

Los Wembler’s de Iquitos, ‘Los Wembler’s para el Mundo’

The sound of Los Wembler’s de Iquitos hasn’t changed a lot since 1968, when these five Peruvian brothers (at that time led by their father) began putting their stamp on the wobbly, psychedelic, surf-rock-indebted, Afro-Latin jungle funk known as chicha. But there’s enough depth and delirium in this music for it to stay fresh, even today. A few years ago the group mounted a successful comeback, and briefly toured the United States for the first time. “Los Wembler’s para el Mundo,” from a new album, is a well-deserved victory lap, and a paean to their own powers. In it they sing (in Spanish) of traveling “from the jungle to the world,” toting a “fascinating rhythm that makes the people dance.” GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Kelsea Ballerini, ‘Homecoming Queen?’

This macro version of the micro-level empowerment anthems that Kelsea Ballerini has excelled at isn’t quite as effective. Her singing is more measured, her phrasing more deliberate, her emotional keen more even. JON CARAMANICA

Mallrat, ‘Drive Me Round’

The peculiarly structured “Drive Me Round” starts out almost sleepwalking, with Grace Shaw — the Australian songwriter who records as Mallrat — murmuring, “Are you still awake?/I know you’re up late” in a melody that doesn’t quite align with the pillowy keyboard chords around it. It’s a whispery late-night phone call, one misfit trying to connect with another. Suddenly, about two minutes in, the tempo picks up and Shaw’s voice multiplies, imagining love and open roads while repeating “And you drive me round,” as if she’s lapsed into a blissful dream. PARELES

Tinariwen featuring Warren Ellis, Noura Mint Seymali and Jeiche Ould Chighaly, ‘Zawal’

Modal guitar riffs, handclaps, dryly urgent voices: this is what Tinariwen has been doing since the group emerged from the North African desert. The stark six-beat beauty of “Zawal,” abetted by Western and African collaborators, carries far more for those who understand its apocalyptic lyrics: “All whose consciences won’t leave them in peace are sad/They’re living through terrible times and believe the last judgment is nigh.” PARELES

Mahalia featuring Ella Mai, ‘What You Did’

Vengeance is served chilled in “What You Did” from the new album “Love and Compromise” by the English R&B songwriter Mahalia Burkmar. The tempo is patient, with ticking, twitching drum-machine sounds and samples from Rose Royce’s tearful song about loneliness, “I’m Going Down.” Mahalia and her grainier-voiced colleague Ella Mai shed no tears. “I know what you did,” Mahalia warns, and goes on to calmly inquire, “Tell me is she nice? Does she know I know?” Ella Mai adds details to the indictment with jazzy flourishes. Together, they refuse to forgive. PARELES

Greta Van Fleet, ‘Always There’

On a slow week, why not Greta Van Fleet? This strikingly overlong number is from the soundtrack to “A Million Little Pieces,” a film based on the memoir-turned-novel by the fabulist James Frey. Like that author, Greta Van Fleet fudges the details — a little Zeppelin in the guitar, a little Marc Bolan in the vocals. A hodgepodge of touchstone years: 1974, 1975, 1976, even 1977. But also like that author, this band has a kind of primal instinct, activating long-suppressed pleasure centers that are easy to scoff at, and yet … CARAMANICA

John Mayer, ‘Carry Me Away’

Beautiful cover art. CARAMANICA

Hardy featuring Morgan Wallen, ‘He Went to Jared’

Another month in Nashville, another contribution to the ocean full of white-collar/blue-collar romantic square-off songs. “He Went to Jared” is among the funnier of the recent contributions. Hardy and Morgan Wallen are rapscallion-like, and shaggy at the edges — their singing is lighthearted and unsentimental: “He went to Ole Miss, I went to work/He pushes paper, I push the dirt.” CARAMANICA

Stolen Jars, ‘Ghost Towns’

In “Ghost Towns,” Stolen Jars set up a quick, precise, transparent tangle of counterpoint, with more than a hint of Dirty Projectors. There are stop-start drums, tendrils of guitar, the plink of what might be a marimba and vocal lines that hop around, converge, diverge and eventually reunite, singing about escaping the strictures of the past: “Found my way out, I won’t go back to ghost towns.” Based in New Jersey and Brooklyn, Stolen Jars is led by the songwriter Cody Fitzgerald, who shares lead vocals with Sarah Coffey; the band’s third album is due Oct. 11. PARELES

The Messthetics, ‘Touch Earth Touch Sky’

The Messthetics’ rhythm section — the drummer Brendan Canty and the bassist Joe Lally, both of Fugazi renown — is capable of some serious post-hardcore thrash. And the guitar-and-pedals whiz Anthony Pirog has it in him to spin acid arabesques around your head till you can’t see straight. But on “Touch Earth Touch Sky,” the closer from their second album, the trio isn’t trying to outdo or outrun anything. Slow tides of distortion rise and then fade; Canty uses his bass drum to patiently reinforce Pirog’s slow, single-note lines. The sonic squall grows melancholy and implacable, like a memory that won’t fade away. RUSSONELLO


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