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Alicia Keys’s Hypnotic Love Jam, and 12 More New Songs


The steady, diligent beat is from Sade’s “Cherish the Day” by way of Raphael Saadiq; the promises of loyalty, honesty and absolute devotion are from Alicia Keys as she channels Sade’s utterly self-sacrificing love. “We could build a castle from tears,” Keys vows. The track is hypnotic and open-ended, fading rather than resolving, as if it could go on and on. It’s from a double album coming Dec. 10 featuring two versions of the songs: “Originals,” produced by Keys, and “Unlocked,” produced by Keys and Mike Will Made-It. JON PARELES

The first single from Hurray for the Riff Raff’s forthcoming album “Life on Earth” is frisky and poetic, contrasting the wisdom of the natural world with the chaos of humanity. The New Orleans singer-songwriter Alynda Segarra (who uses they/she pronouns) is so enthralled with the wonders of plant life that they are able to extract lyricism from simply listing off some famous flora (“night blooming jasmine, deadly nightshade”) in a wonderfully Dylan-esque growl. The chorus, though, comes as a warning in the face of ecological destruction: “Don’t turn your back on the mainland.” LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Following her excellent 2020 disco-revival record “What’s Your Pleasure?” (and this year’s Platinum Pleasure Edition, which contained enough top-tier bonus material to make an equally excellent EP) Jessie Ware gets the ultimate co-sign from the dancing queen herself, Kylie Minogue, on this playful duet. Their breathy vocals echo throughout the lush arrangement, as they trade whispered innuendo (“Cherry syrup on my tongue/how about a little fun?”) and eventually join together in sumptuous harmony. ZOLADZ

Baba Harare, from Zimbabwe, is a master of the genre called jiti: a speedy four-against-six beat that carries stuttering, syncopated guitars and deep gospel-tinged harmony vocals. In “Vaccine,” he’s joined by fellow Zimbabweans Kae Chaps and Joseph Tivafire, and between the hurtling beat and the call-and-response vocals, the song is pure joy. PARELES

The latest project from the freewheeling ambient drone group Bitchin Bajas is boldly conceptual: a homage to one of the Chicago trio’s formative heroes, Sun Ra. As daunting as it may sound to reinterpret some of the cosmic jazz god’s most innovative compositions, Bitchin Bajas approach the challenge with a playful ingenuity. Take their cover of “Outer Spaceways Incorporated,” which in its original form is a loose, interstellar groove. Bitchin Bajas refract it instead through the lens of one of their other major influences, Wendy Carlos (hence the title “Switched on Ra”) and turn it into a kind of retro-futuristic waltz. The guest vocalist Jayve Montgomery uses an Electronic Wind Instrument to great effect, enlivening the song with an energy that’s both eerie and moving. ZOLADZ

ASAP Rocky has been featured on plenty of other artists’ tracks over the past few years, but “Sandman” — released to commemorate his breakthrough 2011 mixtape “Live.Love.ASAP” finally coming to streaming services — is his first new solo song since 2018. Produced by Kelvin Krash and ASAP fave Clams Casino, “Sandman” toggles between hazy atmospherics and sudden gearshifts into the more exacting side of Rocky’s flow. Plus, it gives him an opportunity to practice his French: “Merci beaucoup, just like Moulin Rouge/And I know I can, can.” Quelle surprise! ZOLADZ

The project Collectif Mali Kura gathered 20 singers and rappers to share a call for hard work, civic responsibility (including paying taxes) and national unity in Mali. Sung in many languages, with bits of melody and instrumental flourishes that hint at multiple traditions, the song starts as a plaint and turns into an affirmation of possibility. PARELES

“Tocarte” (“To Touch You”) is the second deceptively skeletal collaboration released by Jorge Drexler, from Uruguay, and C. Tangana, from Spain; the first, a tale of a showbiz has-been titled “Nominao,” has been nominated for a Latin Grammy as best alternative song. “Tocarte” is a pandemic-era track about longing for physical contact: It constructs a taut, ingenious phantom gallop of a beat out of plucked acoustic guitar notes, hand percussion and sampled voices, and neither Drexler nor Tangana raises his voice as they envision long-awaited embraces. PARELES

In the twangy, foot-stomping, gravel-voiced, fiddle-topped country-rocker “Nice Things,” which opens his new album, “You Get It All,” the Texan songwriter Hayes Carll imagines a visit from God. She (yes, she) runs into pollution, over-policing and close-minded religion. “This is why I blessed you with compassion/This is why I said to love your neighbor,” she notes, before realizing, “This is why y’all can’t have nice things.” PARELES

Before she wrote the beloved Tony-winning musical “Hadestown,” Anaïs Mitchell was best known as a gifted if perpetually underrated folk singer-songwriter with a knack for traditional storytelling. The stage success of “Hadestown” (which itself began life as a 2010 Mitchell album) forced her to put her career as a solo artist on hold, but early next year she’ll return with a self-titled album, her first solo release in a decade. Its leadoff single “Bright Star” is a worthy reintroduction to the openhearted luminosity of Mitchell’s voice and lyricism: “I have sailed in all directions, have followed your reflection to the farthest foreign shore,” she sings atop gently strummed acoustic chords, with all the contented warmth of someone who, after a long time away, has at last returned home. ZOLADZ

Aoife O’Donovan sings delicately about a reunion that could hardly be more fraught; after seven years, a daughter returns to her mother with a new baby, needing a home and knowing full well that “forgiveness won’t come easy.” O’Donovan reverses what would be a singer’s typical reflexes; as drama and tension rise, her voice grows quieter and clearer, while Allison Russell joins her with ghostly harmonies. As a tiptoeing string band backs O’Donovan’s pleas, Tim O’Brien plays echoes of Irish folk tunes on mandola, a musical hint at multigenerational bonds. PARELES

How about a chillingly beautiful modern murder ballad to cap off spooky season? The folk singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler’s new album “The Path of the Clouds,” (out Friday on, appropriately enough, Sacred Bones) was partially inspired by her quarantine binge-watch of choice: “Unsolved Mysteries.” The opening track “Bessie, Did You Make It?” creates a misty atmosphere of reverb-heavy piano and arpeggiated guitar, as Nadler tells a tale of a nearly century-old boat accident that was never quite explained. “Did you make it?” she asks her elusive subject, who seems to have perished that day along with her husband. Or: “Did you fake it, leave someone else’s bones?” ZOLADZ

Artifacts features three of the leading creative improvisers on the Chicago scene: the flutist Nicole Mitchell, the cellist Tomeka Reid and the drummer Mike Reed. All are deeply entwined in the lineage of their home city, and on “Song for Joseph Jarman” — from Artifacts’ sophomore release, “ … and Then There’s This” — the trio pays homage to an influential ancestor with this slow, hushed, deeply attentive group improvisation. It’s not unlike something Jarman himself might have played. Reid…


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