Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran Up the Ante, and 13 More New Songs

Ed Sheeran resorted to well-used card-deck analogies in “The Joker and the Queen” on his 2021 album, “=,” for one of his many endearing confessions of humility: “I know you could fall for a thousand kings,” he sang as piano and strings cushioned his ballad phrases. Now the song has been updated as a superstar alliance, bringing on Taylor Swift to trade verses and share harmonies. It has some fan service; years later, the video brings back the actors who were in the video for Sheeran’s previous duet with Swift, “Everything Has Changed.” Still, Swift’s new verses raise the ante, as well as the tension: “I’ve been played before if you hadn’t guessed.” There’s still a happy ending — no damage to the copyright value as a wedding song — but Swift adds the tiniest bit of skepticism. JON PARELES

Jazmine Sullivan has added 10 tracks to her 2021 album “Heaux Tales” to make “Heaux Tales, Mo’ Tales: The Deluxe.” She has kept the previous album’s schematic: songs alternating with spoken-word anecdotes about transactional romance. “Roster” is a breezy, flirtatious, bare-bones rejection of monogamy. Syncopated guitar chords and flamenco handclaps accompany Sullivan as she tells someone good news — “There’s one more spot left in my roster” — but sets clear conditions: “I’ve got room to love ’em all/’cause they always answer when I call.” PARELES

Let Ibeyi welcome you to its rebirth. The French-Cuban twins have been performing as Ibeyi since 2014, but on “Sister 2 Sister,” the new single from their upcoming third album “Spell 31,” they sound more assured than ever, arriving with an unequivocal message for those who see their name as an exotic disruption: “Here’s how you say it: Ibeyi.” The production is sparse but robust, a harmonious, chanted chorus driving a reaffirmation of sisterhood. “Slow down, now we’ve grown, let’s start new,” they sing, over the kind of austere percussive atmosphere that made their music so arresting in the first place. ISABELIA HERRERA

Caroline Polachek sails through majestic conundrums on “Billions,” her latest collaboration with her co-producer Danny L. Harle. Hovering electronic chords and an electroacoustic mesh of percussion — tablas, synthesizer blips, string-like plinks, notes running backward, quietly thumped downbeats — accompany a serenely airborne melody with a distant hint of Celtic ballad. The lyrics are fragmentary — “psycho, priceless, good in a crisis” — while the arrangement broadens with voices and orchestration. By the end, a children’s choir has taken over, singing in counterpoint to proclaim, “I never felt so close to you,” but leaving all mysteries wide open. PARELES

[Transgressive but relatable pop star] covers the well-known [song about falsity of fame] by [renegade rock band] in honor of [blatant commercial opportunity] — a smash! JON CARAMANICA

There was plenty of drama in Bettye LaVette’s 1965 single “Let Me Down Easy,” and in her multiple re-recordings the song, which was written by Dee Dee Ford a.k.a. Wrecia Holloway. LaVette sang about the connection that remains with an ex-lover, no matter how much the singer wants to move on: “I know it’s not over from the last goodbye.” Odesza, which brings some Slavic melancholy to four-on-the-floor dance music, samples the most heart-rending phrases of LaVette’s vocals and stretches out the anguish, proving again how classic the song remains. PARELES

In his timeless collaborations with the griot-poet-commentator Gil Scott-Heron, Brian Jackson didn’t just play dazzling jazz piano parts and lithe flute solos: He wrote or co-wrote many of the duo’s finest songs, and sometimes even took over lead vocal duties. “All Talk” is the lead single from “This Is Brian Jackson,” his first true solo album in over 20 years, and it’s a reminder of Jackson’s many talents. A peppery funk anthem, the track is shaded with the same Caribbean inflections that colored the music he made with Scott-Heron and the Midnight Band and returns to their inspirational, consciousness-raising mode with a cleaner, condensed, 21st-century studio sound: “Our world is what we make it,” Jackson sings. “So all we gotta do is make up our minds.” GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Congotronics International is an Internet-era phenomenon: a global alliance of tradition-rooted but plugged-in bands from Kinshasa with their fans from across the indie-rock spectrum and the hemispheres, including Deerhoof, from California, and Juana Molina, from Argentina. The Belgian label Crammed Disc actually arranged a European tour for the Congolese groups Konono No. 1 and Kasai Allstars and an equal number of rockers back in 2011. Live recordings from those shows and subsequent studio collaborations — in person and remote — have finally yielded a double album due April 29, “Where’s the One?,” named after the cross-cultural confusion over rhythm. “Banza Banza” exemplifies the album title; it starts with an electronic roar, brutal bass and scrabbling guitars, and for a full minute of ricocheting beats, guitars, noise and vocals it’s not clear where the downbeat is. Even when a solid four-on-the-floor unmistakably kicks in behind the lead vocals of Kabongo Tshisense from Kasai Allstars, the track is explosively overstuffed. PARELES

Anyone concerned that there are no new ways to say old things should consult Pusha T, who dutifully wakes up every day and refines refreshing approaches to rapping about the spoils of the drug trade. “Everybody get it off the boat, right?/But only I can really have a snow fight,” he says on “Diet Coke,” lyrics delivered with a snarl and an implicit little curlicue flourish at the end. For Pusha T, these boasts are as snugly and familiar as a cashmere blanket:

They mad at us, who wouldn’t be?
We became everything you couldn’t be
Everything your mama said you shouldn’t be
The Porsche’s horses revving like “Look at me!”


For the last couple of years, Central Cee has been exploring the lighter side of U.K. drill, but “Khabib” tilts in the other direction — an ominous production, a title referencing one of the most feared MMA fighters and some cleareyed revelations: “Always trying to get the party turnt, that’s how I got nicked at Wireless/I told little bro when I stepped out of cells, ‘It’s calm, one day I’ll headline it.’” CARAMANICA

It’s ever rarer to find artists who use their words selectively, or not at all — who don’t over-explain themselves, but imbue their work with a feeling that’s fuller than language can convey. Sontag talked about it when she described art becoming “an instrument of ritual,” setting itself loose from meaning. It’s no easy times for that kind of thing. But on “Unrest,” a new two-track single from the harpist Brandee Younger, the title is the only apparent reference to the social upheavals and deeper histories that inspired the music, recorded amid the pandemic at Rudy Van Gelder Studio: The instruments say the rest. Younger uses repetition and depth to create a tide-like pull on her instrument, whether playing solo — as on “Unrest I” — or in a group. On the single’s second track, she rides alongside the propulsive bass playing of Rashaan Carter and the drumming of Allan Mednard, letting them do the racing, and maintaining her poise amid the anxious fray. RUSSONELLO

“Feel It Still,” the 2017 smash by the Alaska-rooted band Portugal. The Man, harked back to a Motown beat and casually proclaimed “I’m a rebel just for kicks.” Five years later, the situation sounds far more dire. The beat is still peppy, and reverbed guitars keep up the retro tinge, but the attempts to shrug things off are far more clearly acts of denial, and utterly futile: “House is burning down, whoa/don’t disturb me.” PARELES

Personal loss and worries about global warming merge in “Swimmer.” Helena Deland sings in a hushed, humble voice over acoustic guitar picking and rumbling noise undercurrents. She’s singing to someone who won’t be around long, who flinches at a cold ocean swim but who also realizes that “The warmer waters get, the more the oceans expand.” The song contrasts brief human lifetimes to the inexorable forces of nature; the noise is the eternal sound of crashing waves. PARELES

If you still associate the pianist, composer and critic Ethan Iverson with the Bad Plus, the famed anti-jazz trio that he left in 2017, you won’t be totally thrown off by “Every Note Is True,” his newly released Blue Note Records debut. A number of the album’s nine Iverson originals have the same droll, diatonic structuring that defined his writing for the old band: It’s Bacharach meets Brahms meets John Lewis. On “The Eternal Verities,” Iverson is joined by two stalwarts of the jazz lineage, each with deep experience in piano trios: the bassist Larry Grenadier and the drummer Jack DeJohnette. RUSSONELLO

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