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Cozy and immaculate Laurel Canyon-style acoustic guitars accompany Billie Eilish as she whispers, “Try not to abuse your power.” Next, she sketches a frightening, controlling, exploitative, and possibly illegal relationship. Calmly damning accusations mount: “You said she thought she was your age / How dare you?” Meanwhile, in the video she made, an anaconda slowly tightens around her. JON PARELES

The Return of Willow – daughter of Will and Jada – is a lively and windy, thrilling pop-punk with a very particular kind of infamous scary child. She lashes out at old cheating friends (and maybe also some current ones) who “smile in my face and then put your cigarette on my back.” JON CARAMANICA

Either way, the girl in red – Norwegian composer Marie Ulven – can use it. In “Serotonin,” from her new album “If I Could Make It Go Quiet,” she sings about trying to stabilize her crazy, self-destructive emotions with therapy and medication: “I can’t hide from the corners of my spirit / I’m terrified of what’s inside, ”she announces. The music ranges from punk-pop guitars to EDM crescendos and basses, from distorted rap to thunderous choruses, only to crumble at the end. PARELES

It is perhaps the strongest testament to DJ Khaled’s A&R craftsmanship that on an album filled with brilliant cameos from Megan Thee Stallion and Lil Baby, and elder contemplative moments from Nas and Jay-Z, he chooses to ‘include the endlessly charismatic and hugely famous Cardi B on “Big Paper,” a song that sounds like she’s rapping to an old DITC beat. It’s relentless, with a sharp, smooth tongue: “House with palm trees for all the times I’ve been shaded.” CARAMANIC

The power of “If You Care” isn’t found in the conventional come-on of sayings like “If you care, you’ll come a little closer.” It’s in the persistent rhythmic shifting, top to bottom: the way the rhythm, bassline, vocals, and rhythm guitar each suggest a different strong beat, reinforcing the disorientation from bottom to top. They only line up when the vocals turn to rap at the end; he had to end up somewhere. PARELES

If you didn’t know better, you’d think young country singer Priscilla Block was eternally dark, the sum of one bad decision after the next. It’s the vibe of her impressive debut EP, robust, shameless with a pop spirit and full of songs about regret like “Sad Girls Do Sad Things”:

Don’t get me wrong, I love a beer on a Friday
But lately I’ve been at the bar more than at home
Another round of shutting it down
Two for one until too far

Block has a crisp, expressive voice, and she telegraphs angst well. But this EP ignores the rowdy cheers and exciting nods of his groundbreaking single, “Thick Thighs”. That is, there is more to Block’s story than heartbreak. CARAMANIC

Teenage singer-songwriter and pop producer Brye Sebring plays through the rubble of an over-long relationship in “I’d Rather be Alone.” Everything is clean: his diction, his rhymes and the tingling syncopations of an arrangement that ranges from unique keyboard sounds to percussion and handclaps to teasing back-and-forth harmonies. “I doubt you even bother to listen to this song,” she notes, another good reason to break free. PARELES

The drama never stops building in “Swimmer,” from Half Waif’s upcoming “Mythopoetics” album: electronic songwriter Nandi Rose Plunkett. It’s a song about eternal love – “they can’t take this away from me,” she swears – that evolves from an anxious rhythmic pulse to a chord hymn, all larger than life. PARELES

The eminent bassist Christian McBride has just released “The Q Sessions”, a collection of three songs that he recorded in high definition for Qobuz, an audiophile streaming platform. The EP features three high-level improvising musicians who, like McBride, already tend to play their instruments in high definition: saxophonist Marcus Strickland, guitarist Mike Stern and drummer Eric Harland. The band continues McBride’s syncopated bassline through the ever-changing funk of “Brouhaha,” which he clearly wrote with Stern – and his roots in the dashing 1980s fusion scene – in mind. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jen Shyu draws on jazz, Asian music and more. His new album, “Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses”, reflects on loss, memory and perseverance. It opens with “Living’s a Gift,” a series of songs using lyrics written by middle school students during the pandemic: “We’ve lost our minds, lost time to shine.” The music is ingenious and resistant; Leading his jazzy quintet, Jade Tongue, Shyu multitracks his voice in a dashing and complex chorus, mingling angular phrases as perfectly as origami. PARELES

Elusive English electronics producer Burial has reappeared once again, sharing a four-track EP, “Shock Power of Love,” with producer Blackdown. “Space Cadet” hints at post-pandemic optimism – lively club rhythm, arpeggiators pumping major chords, vocals urging to “take me higher” – but Burial envelops it all in static and echo, letting the rhythm collapse several times, until the track falls back into the void. PARELES

As she prepared to make her next album, “Umbral”, Sofía Rei embarked on a trek through Chile’s mountainous Elqui province. She brought a charango and two backpacks full of recording materials; during the trip, she recorded herself playing and singing, along with the babbling noises of the natural world around her. The album begins with “La Otra”, released on Friday as a single, to which Rei sets to music a poem by the Chilean Nobel Prize-winning poet Gabriela Mistral. Flutes float above ricocheting synth bass, stop-and-start rhythm and strummed charango, as Rei’s overdubed voice harmonizes with itself in fierce exclamations, licking the sky like a flame. RUSSONELLO



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