HomeMusicA Thrilling, Rediscovered Nina Simone Set, and 9 More New Songs

A Thrilling, Rediscovered Nina Simone Set, and 9 More New Songs


Just a week after performing at the historically Black Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss., supporting James Meredith’s March Against Fear, Nina Simone was on fire as she strode onstage to play for a very different audience at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 2, 1966. Her interactions with the bourgeois New Englanders at Newport were hardly warm: In the middle of an acid-rinsed version of “Blues for Mama,” she dismisses them — “I guess you ain’t ready for that” — and later she hushes them: “Shut up, shut up.” But she pours every ounce of vitriol she’s got into the performance, especially on “Mississippi Goddam.” She’d first released the song in 1964, and two years later it felt as topical as ever. Meredith had just been shot while marching across Mississippi, and unrest was overtaking redlined Black neighborhoods across the country. At Newport, she amends one of the verses to address the oppression of Los Angeles’s Black community: “Alabama’s got me so upset/And Watts has made me lose my rest/Everybody knows about Mississippi, goddamn!” The entire Newport performance is now available for the first time as an album titled “You’ve Got to Learn.” It’s spellbinding, heartbreaking stuff, reminding us just how much Simone would still be lamenting today. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Snoh Aalegra sings about not being able to let go in the forlorn, slowly undulating “Be My Summer.” She confesses, “I can’t change how I feel/Tried moving on but I’m right here where we left off.” The song arrives with a tangle of voices — some harmonizing, a few straying — and they return in choruses that are never quite unanimous, hinting at misgivings behind her pleas to “protect me from the rain.” JON PARELES

“Bring me silence till you start hearing sounds,” the English R&B songwriter Ama Lou instructs in a song that veers between sorrow and spite. The production isn’t silent but it feels sparse and hollow. Her vocals pour out over two chords implied by sustained bass notes and a hollow, stop-start drumbeat. With bursts of vocal melody that hint at prime Janet Jackson, Ama Lou mixes accusations and regrets, making it’s clear that she wasn’t the betrayer. “I believe I was convinced that you were actually all right,” she sings, quivering with disbelief. PARELES

“I just looked into my life and all I saw was that you’re not coming back,” an exquisitely mopey Damon Albarn sings at the beginning of “The Ballad,” a clear highlight from Blur’s new album, “The Ballad of Darren.” Lush backing vocals from the guitarist Graham Coxon and punchy percussion from the drummer Dave Rowntree provide a buoyancy, and layers of sonic details give “The Ballad” a kind of dreamy, weightless atmosphere. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

The Filipino-English songwriter beabadoobee keeps a light touch as she whisper-sings about crumbling relationships like the one in “The Way Things Go.” Bouncy, folky guitar picking accompanies her as she claims the romance is only “a distant memory I used to know.” But later she gets down to accusations — “Didn’t think you’d ever stoop so low” — while a faraway orchestra with scurrying flutes floats in around her, a fantasy backdrop for her pointed nonchalance. PARELES

Before Bon Iver, Justin Vernon was a member of DeYarmond Edison, which also included Brad Cook, Phil Cook and Joe Westerlund, who would form the band Megafaun. “Epoch,” recorded in 2005 and 2006, is the title track of a boxed set due in August and a harbinger of Bon Iver. It’s a resigned, measured ballad, with cryptic lyrics contemplating mortality and technology: “Out with the new in with the old/The wavelength rests at its node.” And behind the stately melody, the folky acoustic instruments that open the song — a banjo, a tambourine — face surreal echoes and incursions of noise. PARELES

In 2002, the Mountain Goats — then the solo project of John Darnielle — released one of the most beloved albums in its vast catalog, “All Hail West Texas,” a collection of wrenching character studies bleated into a boombox accompanied by just an urgently played acoustic guitar. More than two decades later, and now with a full band behind him, Darnielle will revisit those same characters on the forthcoming album “Jenny from Thebes.” The first single, the lively “Clean Slate,” suggests that he won’t be returning to the previous album’s lo-fi sound; the new track has a rock operatic grandeur and a ’70s AM radio brightness. The lyrics are full of closely observed desperation and stubborn glimmers of hope — which is to say they’re classic Darnielle. “It’s never light outside yet when they climb into the van,” he sings. “Remember at your peril, forget the ones you can.” ZOLADZ

There are worse misfortunes than having no space left on a cellphone because it’s filled with photos of an ex. But that’s the situation in “Ojitos Rojos” (“Little Red Eyes”), the latest collaboration by the well-connected Mexican American band Grupo Frontera, from Texas — this time with another cumbia band, Ke Personajes from Argentina. Over hooting accordion and a clip-clop cumbia beat, the singers trade plaints about maxed-out memory capacity and lingering, near-stalker-ish devotion: “Although you tell me no and deceive yourself with another baby/I know I’m the love of your life,” sings Emanuel Noir of Ke Personajes. Is it heartache, or would cloud storage help? PARELES

One beat, three big names and an SEO-optimized title are the makings of “K-Pop,” a calculated round of boasting and come-ons from Travis Scott, Bad Bunny and the Weeknd. The track, produced by behind-the-scenes hitmakers — Bynx, Boi-1da, Illangelo and Jahaan Sweet — hints at crisp Nigerian Afrobeats, and it spurs three distinct top-line strategies. Travis Scott is quick, percussive and melodically narrow; Big Bunny leaps and groans; the Weeknd is sustained, moody and on brand, crooning “Mix the drugs with the pain” and promising vigorous, alienated sex. As in K-pop, hooks are flaunted, then tossed aside when a new one arrives. PARELES

The Texas band Explosions in the Sky has been playing instrumental rock — “post-rock” — since the late 1990s, relying on patterns, textures and dynamics to make up for the absence of lyrics. “Ten Billion People” is one of its perfectly paced wordless narratives: clockwork and skeletal to start, swelling with keyboards and guitars, seesawing with stereo dueling drum kits, pausing the beat and then rebuilding toward something more majestic and reassuring. It’s both minimalist and dramatic. PARELES

Content Source: www.nytimes.com


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