Harry Styles Tries On Synth-Pop, and 13 More New Songs

In “As It Was,” Harry Styles latches on to the kind of peppy electro-pop that the Weeknd updated from groups like a-ha. The song is from Styles’s third album, “Harry’s House,” due May 20, and its insistently upbeat production stokes the ambiguity of the lyrics. When he sings, “In this world, it’s just us/You know it’s not the same as it was,” it’s impossible to tell whether he’s pulling away or longing to reunite. JON PARELES

The Brooklyn musician and producer Barrie Lindsay makes music that sounds like the work of an introvert with a kaleidoscopically vivid inner world. Throughout her tuneful, gently melancholy new album “Barbara,” there’s a muttered, endearingly modest quality to her vocal delivery that’s contrasted with her colorful, adventurous production choices. That signature push and pull can be heard on the album’s lush opening song “Jersey,” where, atop an intricately layered track, Lindsay shrugs sweetly, “You didn’t dream so long, I’m just the girl that you got.” LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Angel Olsen’s forthcoming album “Big Time,” out June 3, was written during an emotionally tumultuous moment in her life: At age 34, she came out as queer to her family, only to lose both of her parents, in quick succession, to illness shortly afterward. Olsen certainly knows how to capture and exorcise melodramatic feelings in her music — see: “Lark,” the bombastic leadoff track from her great 2019 album “All Mirrors” — but the first single from “Big Time” is more of a slow burn, smoldering and occasionally sparking with sudden, cathartic surges. Pivoting from the luscious synth-scapes of “All Mirrors,” “All the Good Times” harkens back to Olsen’s twangy roots, and its melody has a laid-back confidence that occasionally brings Willie Nelson to mind. “I’ll be long gone, thanks for the songs, guess it’s time to wake up from the trip we’ve been on,” Olsen sings, as the instrumentation swells to meet her suddenly impassioned croon. ZOLADZ

“I don’t wanna talk about it any more,” the Los Angeles songwriter Jensen McRae announces as she begins “Take It Easy,” from her debut album, “Are You Happy Now?” But of course she does. The tone is serene, two chords riding a gentle Caribbean lilt, even as she sings about grappling with burdens that seem to be both physical and emotional. She wonders, “Atlas, did your back get sore?,” but she finds a graceful equilibrium. PARELES

What is country music right now? It’s a far cry from great pickers and singers collaborating in real time, as it was in honky-tonk history. Like the rest of pop, it’s a construction. Thomas Rhett, a country superstar, sings about a romance with a waitress who’s hoping for a musical career, played by Katy Perry, in “Where We Started,” the last song but the title track of his new album. “I’d be playing my guitar singing those covers in an empty room,” she faux-recalls. The beats are programmed drum-machine tones, like trap, with guitars that sound like loops, and the collaboration with Perry may well have been remote. It’s an artificial path toward a real feeling. PARELES

Hand drums and echoey, hovering voices give “Lavender and Red Roses” the atmosphere of a ritual procession, as Ibeyi — the French, Afro-Cuban twins Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz — and the English singer Jorja Smith bemoan a self-destructive partner: “I’ve welcomed you with open arms baby/But you still walk towards the dark lately,” they sing, as hope fades. PARELES

The Grammy-winning Michael Leonhart Orchestra converts itself into a crack studio band on “Shut Him Down,” the guest star-fueled opener to its newest album, playing a groove infused with the bubbling patter of Nigerian juju music. Elvis Costello takes center stage, rattling off a few shifty-eyed verses from the point of view of a man fighting a charge. Then the rapper JSWISS drops his own bars, toying with wordplay and internal rhyme, before the tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman carries things to a close. Always an effusive improviser, he threatens to blow the lid off this medium-boiling track, but ultimately plays along with the chill, jammy vibe. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Over the interplay of two crinkly, echo-laden guitars, the Congolese-born vocalist Juanita Euka sings with an easy confidence on “Motema,” which means “heart” in Lingala. The track comes from “Mabanzo,” the debut album from this young heir apparent (her uncle, Franco Luambo Makiadi, was a rumba star in Congo), who grew up in Buenos Aires and has lately become a promising voice on the London music scene. RUSSONELLO

The Grammy-winning Jamaican singer Koffee (Mikayla Simpson) widely stretches the reggae idiom on her debut album, “Gifted,” pulling in dembow, Afrobeats and more. In “Where I’m From,” she sing-raps about tough beginnings and current success, with a scrubbing funk guitar that echoes “Shaft,” a heaving bass line, ominous piano interjections and wordless choir harmonies that are at once mournful and lofty. PARELES

“I don’t sing no love songs, ain’t never sang no love songs,” Vince Staples proclaims at the top of “Rose Street,” and the title of the upcoming album it’ll appear on is possibly an explanation: “Ramona Park Broke My Heart.” As he raps nimbly atop a bass-heavy, vaguely ghostly beat, though, he gradually lets his guard down and confesses the reasons he’s reluctant to commit to the girl who wants him to stick around. “I promise you, you don’t gotta stress, it’s gon’ be OK,” he assures her before admitting, “OK, I’m lying, living day by day.” ZOLADZ

The Toronto band Pup has long made frenetic punk-pop with neat verse-chorus-bridge structures underlying Stefan Babcock’s raucously overwrought and fully self-aware lead vocals. “Totally Fine,” from the band’s fourth album, “The Unraveling of Puptheband,” cranks everything up: feedback, drums, high and low guitars, Babcock’s blurted admission that “I just couldn’t decide/Whether I’m at my worst or I’m totally fine.” And then it cranks up further, with a big, stadium-ready singalong. The video, a fine sendup of tech-bro vanity, is a bonus. PARELES

Anna Schwab, the Brooklyn songwriter and producer who records as sadie, uses the twitchy double time, the computer-warped vocals and the cheap-sounding presets of hyperpop as a digital native. Yet in “Nowhere,” she also conveys something more than games-playing: a sense of how hard it is to cope with the pressures of 21st-century romance. “Think I’ll get it all right/Then it’s over,” she sings with knowing resignation. PARELES

In her purest soprano, Caroline Polachek sings her most benevolent aspirations, written during a pandemic peak: “If I could I’d raise my arm/And wave a wand to end all harm.” The Australian electronic musician Flume and his co-producer, Danny L. Harle, give her ethereal support at first — tremulous string tones and echoey arpeggios — but then throw up all sorts of sonic obstacles: clattering, thudding, lurching, scraping, distorting, and even bringing back the sirens she wishes she never had to hear again. PARELES

The coolly warbling saxophone sound of Charles Lloyd, 84, is unmistakable on “Peace Invocation,” a duet with the pianist Gerald Clayton that appears on the younger musician’s newest album, “Bells on Sand.” The influence of a couple of other legendary saxophonist-composers hangs over this track, too: There’s the open-ended, shadow-casting style of Wayne Shorter, and hints of John Coltrane’s classic “Naima” in the irresolution of Clayton’s bittersweet melody. RUSSONELLO

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