Feist’s Electrifying Return, and 9 More New Songs

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

Feist, ‘In Lightning’

Leslie Feist’s first album since 2017, “Multitudes,” is due April 14, and “In Lightning” is the noisiest and most changeable of the three songs she has released in advance. She sings about lightning as illumination, as power and as revelation; is it “in lightning” or “enlightening”? The track begins with clattering drums and banshee vocal harmonies, then veers between hushed contemplation and a brawny, Celtic-flavored stomp. At the end, the vocal harmonies that were so cutting when the song began return as tentative queries. JON PARELES

Lana Del Rey, ‘A&W’

Lana Del Rey works in liminal spaces: between breath and melody, between confession and persona, between image and experience, between commerce and art. The pretty but utterly bleak “A&W” has nothing to do with root beer or fast food; the initials echo “American whore,” something she calls herself in the song. She sings as a woman without illusions or hopes, a celebrity who’s always under scrutiny: “Do you really think I give a damn what I do/After years of just hearing them talking?” In this long, subdued, radio-defying track, she sings about a loveless hotel hookup that may have turned into a rape; “Do you really think anyone would think that I didn’t ask for it?” she wonders. Halfway through, the track turns to synthetic sounds and the lyrics drift into a different obsession: “Jimmy only love me when he want to get high.” In this song, everyone is a user. PARELES

Janelle Monáe, ‘Float’

Since “Dirty Computer” in 2018, Janelle Monáe has focused more on acting than on music; the few songs the 37-year-old has released in the past five years have been one-off soundtrack recordings. The buoyant “Float,” though, certainly sounds like a harbinger of Monáe’s next era as a recording artist: It’s looser and more conversant with contemporary hip-hop than the musician’s work in the past. The Afrobeat heir Seun Kuti leads his late father’s ensemble Egypt 80 to provide some brassy fanfare while Monáe raps, “I had to protect all my energy, I’m feeling much lighter” in a carefree cadence that backs that assertion up. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Desire Marea, ‘Be Free’

The South African songwriter Desire Marea stirs up a maelstrom in “Be Free.” With lyrics in English and Zulu, it’s an exhortation and a reproach to someone who won’t accept his sexuality: “Maybe another day you will find courage to love me freely,” he sings, sympathetic but judgmental. Recorded with a 13-member live studio band, the song barrels ahead from the start: first with an insistent bass riff, accelerating with voices, brasses and four-on-the-floor drums, then rumbling and roiling under a solemn, string-laden plaint: “I just want to be free,” Marea insists. PARELES

Anna B Savage, ‘Pavlov’s Dog’

“Pavlov’s Dog,” from the London-based singer-songwriter Anna B Savage’s new album “In/Flux,” is a wonderfully tactile depiction of lust: panting backing vocals, escalating tension and Savage’s visceral, quivering voice. “Just call me Pavlov’s dog,” she sings against the atmospheric soundscape. “I’m here, I’m waiting, I’m salivating.” ZOLADZ

Kelsea Ballerini, ‘Mountain With a View’

With her strikingly candid new EP “Rolling Up the Welcome Mat,” the country star Kelsea Ballerini joins the recent ranks of peers like Kacey Musgraves and Adele in chronicling a young woman’s experience of divorce. “I’m wearing the ring still, but I think I’m lying,” Ballerini sings wrenchingly. “Sometimes you forget yours, I think we’re not trying.” The boldness of her confessionalism is paired with a sparse, airy new sound, full of echoing synthesizer chords, naturalistic sounds and plenty of empty space, evoking the home that Ballerini is suddenly learning to fill on her own. ZOLADZ

Naima Bock, ‘Lines’

Following her lovely and eclectic debut album from last year, “Giant Palm,” the London musician Naima Bock’s new single, “Lines,” is dynamic and unpredictable, a folky rocker that rises and ebbs like the sea. Violin, saxophone and an unruly electric guitar all emerge at points to wrestle with Bock’s bracing vocal, but each one ultimately cedes the spotlight to her flinty presence. ZOLADZ

Nickel Creek, ‘Holding Pattern’

“Holding Pattern” is from “Celebrants,” the first album in nine years from the reconvened string trio Nickel Creek, due March 24. It’s a song that evokes the first months of the pandemic — “Washing my hands/Through the night can’t sleep for the sirens,” Chris Thile sings — and tries to draw comfort from companionship, urging, “Don’t forget we’re/Alone in this together.” The siblings Sara and Sean Watkins pick circular guitar patterns and add vocal harmonies, while Thile plays a counterpoint on mandola that rises like mist off a pond. PARELES

Pink, ‘When I Get There’

At first, “When I Get There” sounds like a love song. It has basic piano chords and Pink singing, “When I think of you, I think about forever.” But soon it’s clear that she’s singing about someone who has died, maybe a songwriter: “Is there a song you just can’t wait to share?” It’s a careful crescendo that contemplates eternity. PARELES

Oval, ‘Touha’

Plinking, glimmering, stuttering keyboard tones, somewhere between a piano and a music box, ripple across “Touha,” a track that previews “Romantiq,” the next album by Oval. Markus Popp, who has been recording computerized music since the 1990s as Oval, has long worked with loops, phantom spaces and electronic glitches. “Touha” proceeds in irregular flurries of keyboard activity and overlapping shards of melody, gradually interwoven with distant drones and glissandos and sporadic patterings of percussion. Aiming for neither dance nor meditation, it’s music for nervous introspection. PARELES

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