The Playlist: Prince’s Unheard Acoustic Gem, 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.

Prince, ‘I Feel for You (Acoustic Demo)’

It’s perfectly obvious that Prince’s 1979 acoustic demo for “I Feel for You” — which originally appeared on his self-titled debut album, and went to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 when Chaka Khan recorded it in 1984 — would be stunning. Here is Prince singing sweetly but softly, and playing a more intricate rhythmic line on guitar than the eventual popularized version had room for. And yet after those first two minutes comes two and a half minutes of something else: pure vamping, light scat singing, an easy lesson in getting lost in the rhythm. The first part of this recording has the affirming feel of the familiar; this second part is full of hope for things not yet — and maybe never to be — heard. JON CARAMANICA

Matt Berninger featuring Phoebe Bridgers, ‘Walking on a String’

Tiptoeing, then marching, then swelling, then pounding in double time through two chords, “Walking on a String” is, as Matt Berninger of the National notes at the end of the video clip, a “spider metaphor”: romance as a foredoomed meeting of predator and prey. But with Berninger’s low purr and Phoebe Bridgers’s knowing whisper, they do sound fond of each other, fatal or not. JON PARELES

Vegyn, ‘It’s Nice to Be Alive’

A tender, almost whimsy-filled read on the electro of early-to-mid 1980s Los Angeles by the producer Vegyn. A Frank Ocean collaborator on “Blonde” and “Endless,” earlier this year he released “Text While Driving if You Want to Meet God!,” a cluster of synth-pop vignettes that show curiosity about what happens when the tones of dance music are reconfigured and put in service of emotional sketches. On this new song, he extracts the sentimentality of quiet-storm R&B and sets it to an uplifting bop, like being swaddled by a firm gust of wind. CARAMANICA

The Midnight Hour, ‘Harmony’

The Midnight Hour unites two producers, Ali Shaheed Muhammad (from A Tribe Called Quest) and Adrian Younge. “Harmony” is a brisk, jazzy track with Loren Oden singing in a tentative falsetto about a one-night stand that surprisingly might lead somewhere: “It was only for a night/now we’re in harmony.” Orchestrated with strings, horns and even a harp, it’s hip-hop that embraces harmonic and rhythmic mobility along with romance. PARELES

Matana Roberts, ‘As Far as the Eye Can See’

“Memory is a most unusual thing,” the alto saxophonist Matana Roberts muses on “As Far as the Eye Can See” as the scrape of violin strings and what sounds like a mouth-harp create a drone beneath her. Yet despite all its mystery, memory also feels palpably alive in Roberts’s music: Stories from the distant past are vested with a kind of heady impatience usually reserved for the present. Roberts has just released the fourth volume in her “Coin Coin” suite, a planned 12-album exploration of the story of her family (and, by extension, her country) through a mix of singing, spoken words, group improvising and electronics that she calls “panoramic sound quilting.” GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Moor Mother, ‘The Myth Hold Weight’

As Moor Mother angrily declaims poetry about African-American historical trauma and the economic impact of slave labor — “The myth hold weight like/All the money from cotton, right?” — she needs a thumping beat to underline her message. Instead, there’s a viscous low pulse that both creeps downward and ripples upward with increasingly insistent electronic arpeggios, allowing no exit from centuries-old tensions. PARELES

Katy Perry, ‘Harleys in Hawaii’

Katy Perry’s search for a sound that’s both au courant and also not ill fitting continues with “Harleys in Hawaii,” a convincing enough quasi-SoundCloud R&B number with light reggae swing. Her singing is breathy and casual, and in moments, sweet. But her presence is vague, melting into the groove. It’s what happens when you primarily inhabit other people’s ideas — not in and of itself a meritless thing, but dangerous territory for a top-shelf pop star losing her grip. It doesn’t help that the video is vividly derailed by what appears to be very prominent product placement by Cheetos. CARAMANICA

Kllo, ‘Back to You’

A looped vocal sample shuttles back and forth in stereo, chirping and trilling. It interrupts and defamiliarizes the sustained melody that Chloe Kaul coos over a few piano notes and a chattering beat. It also acts out the way that the lyrics have her shuttling between separation — “I never want to be the stop in your life plans” — and reunion — “never say never.” The song’s last dissonant notes don’t guarantee any outcome. PARELES

Kenny Barron and Mulgrew Miller, ‘Joy Spring’

Two jazz piano masters whose studious, tradition-grounded styles have always made them a little too easy to take for granted, Kenny Barron and Mulgrew Miller gave a smattering of rare duet performances in Europe in the years before Miller’s untimely death in 2013. Recordings from those concerts have just been released as “The Art of Piano Duo: Live,” a three-CD set full of lively, tussling renditions of jazz standards. Barron and Miller are two nonpareil accompanists, but they’re also freewheeling improvisers who relish a good disruption: They can give each other breathing room, and then cut in swiftly to fill it all up again. The collection ends with a fleet take on “Joy Spring,” by Freddie Hubbard, the trumpet luminary who employed both Miller and Barron early in their careers. RUSSONELLO

Hiro Kone, ‘A Fossil Begins to Bray’

“A Fossil Begins to Bray” materializes like a force of nature: a tsunami or a monsoon arising deep underwater. It’s the title track of a Nov. 8 album by Nicky Mao, who records her electronic instrumentals as Hiro Kune. At first there are slow, subsurface currents — two minutes of a deep bass undertow — that gradually induce cello-like melodies splashed by white noise. Eventually, tremoloes and distortion heave into the atmosphere — and the track suddenly ends, opening the question of what cataclysm may impend. PARELES

Jon Pareles has been The Times’s chief pop music critic since 1988. A musician, he has played in rock bands, jazz groups and classical ensembles. He majored in music at Yale University. @JonPareles

Jon Caramanica is a pop music critic for The Times and the host of the Popcast. He also writes the men’s Critical Shopper column for Styles. He previously worked for Vibe magazine, and has written for the Village Voice, Spin, XXL and more. @joncaramanica

Source: Read Full Article