Christine and the Queens’ Clever Pop, and 8 More New Songs

Posted July 8, 2018 7:17 p.m. EDT

Christine and the Queens, ‘Doesn’t Matter’

Héloïse Letissier, the French songwriter who releases her electronic pop as Christine and the Queens, often makes simultaneous statements via songs and choreographed video clips. “Doesn’t Matter” arrives in two audio versions, with vocals in French and (slightly fractured) English. The two-chord track sets up a push-and-pull between low, viscous sustained tones and a crisply artificial beat; she sings, “It doesn’t matter, does it/ If I know any exit” and about believing in God. The video is less cloudy. It’s a guy-gal dance in a parking lot that starts out playful and ends up bitterly combative. In that relationship, something has gone irrevocably wrong.


Future, ‘Hate the Real Me’

The final song on Future’s new mixtape “Beastmode 2” has the pulse of a valedictory and the mood of a confession. He still swallows his syllables when the sentiments get rough, and at plenty of moments on this hypnotic moan — “My mama stressing out, she say these drugs got me”; “Said it was cheaper not to keep her and it’s killing me” — he badly needs a hug, but is too proud to do anything but hurt himself.


Ella Mai featuring Nicki Minaj and Quavo, ‘Boo’d Up (Remix)’

What’s so great about Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” — one of this year’s most effective R&B singles — is how it floats and radiates warm light. Mai is a controlled, soft singer, and she uses the beat as a beacon, following it faithfully and never stomping on it. A less-gentle remix does this song no good, though — especially one featuring a tepid Quavo verse. Nicki Minaj gets a needless charge from tossing off a line about the sexuality of the female rapper Dej Loaf. Let Mai radiate unimpeded.


Holland, ‘I’m Not Afraid’

Here is an extremely effervescent modern new-wave thumper from Holland, who has been championed as K-pop’s first openly gay performer. Unlike his debut single, “Neverland,” which felt modest and constrained, “I’m Not Afraid” has 1983 attitude with a contemporary splash of dance-floor dynamism.


Gaby Moreno and Van Dyke Parks, ‘The Immigrants’

The calypso master David Rudder wrote “The Immigrants” in 1998; it’s perfectly topical 20 years later. “So much trouble in the home of the brave and the land of the free/ Am I an immigrant or am I a new slave/ Made for all brutality?” Gaby Moreno — a legal immigrant from Guatemala in 2000 — sings in a teeming orchestral arrangement by Van Dyke Parks, who answers her voice with huffing strings, sassy horns and burbling woodwinds. Released to mark the Fourth of July, it’s a benefit single for the Central American Resource Center of California.


Rayland Baxter, ’79 Shiny Revolvers’

Rayland Baxter, a songwriter based in Nashville, Tennessee, has an oblique take on the pervasiveness of guns in America: a Paul McCartney-style ballad with a plush, full-scale orchestral buildup as he sings about fear, violence, media posturing and the allure of gun ownership: “Maybe you need one/ One in your left hand and one in your right.” By the end, a chorus joins him to croon, “Bang, bang, bang.”


The Ophelias, ‘Lunar Rover’

The voices are gentle, sharing unisons and then harmonizing with wistful, enigmatic tidings: “I miss you already/ You were too gone too soon/ I can’t understand you/ The phone is gone.” The beat is steady and usually unemphatic; the song circles through three chords again and again. But there’s a mesmerizing intricacy to the indie-rock understatement of “Lunar Rover.” Those three chords thicken with ambiguous layers of polytonality, the beat mutates with ever-shifting details (note the cymbals) and multitudes of violin parts entwine everything else. Given a chance, it’s immersive.


Harold O’Neal, ‘Paintings in D’

If you had to, you could say that the sound of Harold O’Neal’s small groups files neatly enough under contemporary jazz. But his solo piano recordings merit a special identity. They’ve got the quiver and shading of great Romantic piano, with Duke Ellington’s panoramic blues folded in. On “Piano Cinema,” his newest album, a subtle animator is O’Neal’s use of rubato, his careful and affecting interruptions of his own flow, up-from-underneath jolts against the glide. He begins “Paintings in D” with a chiming oscillation between chords then drifts into a passage that almost swings, the energy rising and the harmony falling. By the time he returns to the original movement, things are less fluid, but quicker flowing.


Pontiac Streator and Ulla Strauss, ‘Chat 2’

There’s complex math behind the meditation of “Chat 2,” a collaboration from an EP by the electronic musicians Pontiac Streator and Ulla Strauss. Only a few elements are involved: something that sounds like a plunking mixture of hand drum and thumb piano, something that sounds like sampled and sustained electric guitar chords and something generating a sustained, single-note blip. But the plunk keeps shifting its meter; the electric guitar hovers and vanishes; the blip comes and goes. Maybe the musicians were counting; maybe it was as murky and intuitive as it sounds.