Ed Sheeran’s Glossy Late-Night Pop, and 12 More New Songs

Ed Sheeran’s Glossy Late-Night Pop, and 12 More New Songs

In the video for his new single “Bad Habits,” Ed Sheeran boldly declares, “We live in a society.” Though I could have lived my life contentedly without ever seeing the British musician dressed as a glittery, high-flying hybrid of the Joker, Edward Cullen and Elton John, the track itself is a reminder of Sheeran’s knack for sleek songcraft. “My bad habits lead to late nights, sitting alone,” he sings over the kind of brooding chords and insistent, minimalist beat that suggests that pop music will continue to exist in the shadow of the Weeknd’s “After Hours” for at least another trip around the sun. “Bad Habits” doesn’t quite have the fangs that its video incongruously promises, but it’s a well-executed, safe-bet pop song squarely in Sheeran’s comfort zone, which is to say that it already sounds like a smash. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Willow Smith’s swerve into rock continues, abetted by the drums of Travis Barker from Blink-182. Their first collaboration, “Transparent Soul,” was straightforwardly vengeful pop-punk that proved she could belt. “Lipstick” is more idiosyncratic, with angular vocal lines overlapping stop-start guitar blasts of thick, jazzy chords. The sentiments are more complicated, too, juggling confusion, pain and euphoria; it’s cranked up loud, but it’s full of second thoughts. JON PARELES

The Los Angeles indie musician Colleen Green has a history of playfully talking back to her punk elders: The title of her first album riffed on that of an iconic Descendents record and featured a song called “I Wanna Be Degraded”; in 2019, she released a gloriously lo-fi cover album of Blink-182’s “Dude Ranch.” So judging by its name, the first single from her forthcoming album “Cool” would seem to be a provocative sneer in the direction of a certain Stooges classic. Except it’s not, really: “I Wanna Be a Dog” is instead a catchy, funny and straightforwardly earnest song about … how nice it would be to be a dog. In a voice that balances self-deprecation with wry humor, Green figures she’s already halfway there: “Each year aging more quickly, but I always still feel so naïve/And I get so bored when no one’s playing with me.” ZOLADZ

Jenn Wasner has released an extraordinary album this year, “Head of Roses,” in her solo guise as Flock of Dimes. Back in Wye Oak, her longtime duo with Andy Stack, she continues to merge intricate music with openhearted emotion. In the gorgeous “Its Way With Me,” a rippling seven-beat guitar line circles throughout the song, as horns and strings waft in and out and Wasner sings, with aching determination, about accepting what life might bring yet staying true to herself. PARELES

“Chaise Longue” is the semi-absurdist and deliriously catchy debut single from Wet Leg, an intriguing new duo from the Isle of Wight. In their sound and in the self-directed video for this song, Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers are agents of controlled, charismatic chaos. “Chaise Longue” struts a fine line between deadpan restraint and zany freakout, faux-naivety and winking knowingness (“I went to school and I got the big D … I got the big D”). They’re one of those new bands whose sound and aesthetic seem to have arrived fully formed, promising exciting if totally unpredictable things to come. ZOLADZ

The music of Helado Negro (Roberto Carlos Lange) has always had a bit of an interstellar quality to it: soft, sci-fi hymns that harness the medicinal possibilities of sound and melody. For “Gemini and Leo,” the new single from his forthcoming album “Far In,” the Brooklyn artist fully ascends into a world of galactic disco. Glossy synths and a syncopated bass line shimmer into a prismatic dance-floor strut. “We can move in slow motion. We can take our time in cosmic balance,” Lange hums. It’s a reminder to embrace tenderness and affection — in love, but also in our relationship to a world still coming to terms with a year of grief. ISABELIA HERRERA

Hyzah, a 19-year-old Nigerian rapper and singer, has followed through on a 49-second street-side freestyle that got hundreds of thousands of views after a signal boost from Drake, who must have appreciated both its melodic hook and its sprint into double-time rapping. “Dan Mi” turns the freestyle into a full-length song. As Hyzah sings about trouble, flirtation and ganja, he fills out the song’s modal melody above a peppery Afrobeats track, produced by Ogk n’ Steaks, that sends percussion, voices and synthesized horns ricocheting across the beat in a rush of cross-rhythms. PARELES

The new Low song is almost unbearably stirring, a meditation on hope and decay that sounds like a pop-gospel track run through William Basinski’s “Disintegration Loops.” If “Double Negative” from 2018 proved that these indie lifers were still finding uncharted frontiers in their spacious sound nearly three decades into their band’s existence, this first taste of their forthcoming album “Hey What” shows once again that they’re not finished discovering exhilaratingly new ways to sound exactly like themselves. ZOLADZ

“Tragic” picks up the thread Jazmine Sullivan started on her excellent 2021 album “Heaux Tales,” a record as multi-vocal and casually chatty as a particularly active group chat. “Why do you be looking for me to do all the work?” Sullivan sings here in a weary voice, addressing the less-giving half of a lopsided relationship. But the chorus finds her asserting her own solution, in the form of a tuneful and infectious mantra: “Reclaim, reclaim, reclaiming my time.” ZOLADZ

A final collaboration between Robert Hunter, the Grateful Dead’s lyricist who died in 2019, and Jim Lauderdale, who also wrote many songs with him, is, fittingly, an Americana elegy: “You’re with me wherever I go, deep down inside my soul.” The music is twangy and somber, a march floated by pedal steel guitar, and many lines begin with a grainy, fervent hope: “Long live …” PARELES

Mabe Fratti is a composer, cellist and singer from Guatemala who now lives in Mexico, and “Nadie Sabe” (“Nobody Knows”) is from her new album “Será que Ahora Podremos Entendernos?”: “Will we be able to understand each other now?” Fratti works with layers of repeating cello motifs, plucked and bowed; with layers of guileless vocals, verbal and wordless; and with keyboards that spotlight or float against her Minimalist structures. There are echoes of songwriters like Arthur Russell and Juana Molina. In “Nadie Sabe,” she sings about the moon, about presence and disorientation, about dark dreams and shifting realities; the pulse of the music carries her through them all. PARELES

On parts of “Hope,” the guitarist Marc Ribot’s new album with his trio Ceramic Dog, the band works like a hyperactive jukebox, stuffing its original tunes with rock ’n’ roll references, reggae guitar, half-rapped lyrics that hark back to the Beats and occasional jam-band grooves. The second half of the album is quieter and less peripatetic. The band might be at its most concise on the album’s longest track, “Maple Leaf Rage,” a Ribot tune that has been in its book for years. For the first half of these 13 minutes and 30 seconds, the trio plays as if at a secret meeting, the drummer Ches Smith using brushes and the bassist Shahzad Ismaily playing in unforced, staccato chords. Then a beat kicks in, Ribot trades in his reverb for a heavy dose of distortion and the band starts marching. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Eli Kezler, who has provided ultraprecise percussion for Oneohtrix Point Never, is also a composer on his own. His new solo album, “Icons,” is filled with instrumental pieces that are suspended between nervous energy and what might be post-apocalyptic calm. “The Accident” wraps brisk quasi-breakbeats in thoroughly ambiguous electric-piano chords and slow-motion whooshes, hurtling ahead toward unknown consequences. PARELES

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