Paul McCartney’s Smooth Tunes, and 13 More New Songs

Posted June 24, 2018 6:14 p.m. EDT

Pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on notable new songs and videos.

Paul McCartney, ‘Come on to Me’

Paul McCartney, ‘I Don’t Know’

Paul McCartney still makes everything sound easy on the two-sided single that previews “Egypt Station,” his album due in September. “Come on to Me” is a jovial four-chord ditty about a flirtatious glance, promising, “If you come on to me/ Well I’ll come on to you.” It starts out with a basic guitar-and-drum stomp recalling the home-recorded charms of his 1970 solo debut, “McCartney,” but by the time it’s done the track has piled on horns, two-fisted piano, an electric sitar and a bunch of gleefully whooping McCartneys. “I Don’t Know” flips to melancholy and reassurance. Over stately piano chords hinting at both “Hey Jude” and “A Day in the Life,” McCartney contemplates mortality and pain while still trying to offer love and strength. Its refrain is “What am I doing wrong?/ I don’t know”; at “wrong,” it skips a beat.


Nine Inch Nails, ‘God Break Down the Door’

Electronics and noise all but swallow Trent Reznor’s bitter, desperate voice throughout “Bad Witch,” the new Nine Inch Nails EP. He sings the first part of “God Break Down the Door” in a sustained croon, but he barrages himself with a jittery breakbeat and instruments that grow nearly unrecognizable in their distortion: “Everything all at once/ There aren’t any answers here,” he sings, and there’s no relief until the track collapses into its own feedback.


Juice WRLD, ‘Legends’

It’s been barely 18 months since the SoundCloud rap generation got its first taste of widespread attention, and it’s already deep in self-reckoning. “Legends” was recorded quickly last week in the wake of the murder of XXXTentacion. “What’s the 27 club?/ We ain’t making it past 21,” Juice WRLD sings in his now-signature thin wail, typically put in service of far lighter subject matter. Usually, it signals exuberance, but here it codes worry: “They tell me I’ma be a legend/ I don’t want that title now/ 'Cause all the legends seem to die out.”


Charles Lloyd & the Marvels and Lucinda Williams, ‘Dust’

A country waltz about death — “Even your thoughts are dust” — expands along jazzy, exploratory paths in this collaboration between Lucinda Williams and saxophonist Charles Lloyd with his group the Marvels, which includes Bill Frisell on guitar and Greg Leisz on pedal steel guitar; their album together is due this week. Lloyd, 80, plays vigorous, streaking solos before steering the group toward a meditative coda. Maybe the music should be called Jazzicana.


Tomberlin, ‘Seventeen’

The great second single from the forthcoming Tomberlin debut album, “At Weddings,” is lonely, sorrowful and moves with the resignation of a shrug. Tomberlin — her given name is Sarah Beth Tomberlin — sings cutting words in a sweet tone and with a pensive remove that recalls early Bon Iver: “Only love the people/ Who don’t love you back/ What is up with that?”


Taylor Janzen, ‘Stations’

The powerful simplicity of a voice, a guitar, a restrained melody and a raw emotion has been rediscovered by songwriters like Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and now Taylor Janzen. Over a patient guitar-picking pattern in “Stations,” she summons the strength to push back against a habit of acquiescence to someone’s power; as she sings, “You’re not all right and you never were,” her own backup vocals arrive to help her break free.


Lera Lynn featuring Andrew Combs, ‘Breakdown’

Lera Lynn was writing haunted, noir-ish roots-rock songs before her stint on HBO’s “True Detective” brought her wide attention, and her sensibility persists on “Plays Well With Others,” her new album of duets she wrote and performed with her guests. “Breakdown,” a collaboration with Nashville-based songwriter Andrew Combs, is minor-key folk-rock with lyrics that coolly taunt, “Go ahead and cry, my love/ Breakdown, I love to watch you come undone.” It’s brisk, up-tempo and ruthless.


Cyrille Aimée, ‘Three Little Words’

Cyrille Aimée has a high, taut voice that travels light: It’s dexterous, flexible, not especially thick. It seems made for songs like this one, a fast-footed classic first popularized by Ella Fitzgerald. For the past few years, that voice has been ably supported by Aimée’s working band, featuring two guitarists (a la the Gypsy jazz tradition of her native France), a bassist and a drummer. That group recently dispersed, but not before recording its final show, at Le Poisson Rouge in New York; that performance has become an album, “Live,” out Friday.


Prophet, ‘Wanna Be Your Man’

In 1984, the songwriter and one-man studio band Prophet (aka Anthony Butler, a Louisianian who moved to the San Francisco Bay Area) put out a barely noticed funk album, “Right on Time,” that eventually became a collectors’ item. Decades later, one of the collectors, Peanut Butter Wolf of Stones Throw Records, got Prophet back into a studio with the producer Mndsgn. “Wanna Be Your Man” is the title track of Prophet’s new album. Then and now, Prophet sings in an imploring falsetto and creates sparse, slinky tracks that twinkle with electronic keyboards. “Wanna Be Your Man” is a woozily ethereal slow grind with a tricky undertow (two bars of 4/4 work as 3/4 plus 5/4). The video clip shows he hasn’t abandoned his 1980s funk fashion sense, either.


A Boogie Wit da Hoodie featuring J Alvarez, ‘Deja Vu’

This week, A Boogie released “International Artist,” an EP with a savvy concept, pairing him with artists of various musical and ethnic backgrounds for collaborations. It is perhaps not as risky as it imagines itself, but “Deja Vu,” with the Puerto Rican reggaeton star J Alvarez, is the collection at its best — each artist is nudged ever so slightly out of his comfort zone and into a calypso-inflected space that is neither’s original home, but could be a future one.


Georgia Anne Muldrow, ‘Overload’

What could have been a straightforward ballad, with lyrics promising trust and friendship, lives up to the “Overload” of its title with a swirling, multilayered track that sends voices, percussion and keyboards swirling around its slow trap beat; in all the burble, there’s a calliope-like cheerfulness.


Victoria La Mala, ‘Merezco Mucho Más’

One part regret, three parts contempt, “Merezco Mucho Más” (“I Deserve Much More”) is a canny kiss-off song that’s popular in Mexico — an advance taste of the long-in-the-making debut album by Victoria La Mala (whose last name is Ortiz). She has sobs and growls in her voice as she makes sure that her ex understands just how lucky he was and how small his behavior had been. “You have to accept that you fell short,” she sneers. Written and produced by Luciano Luza, the track is a waltz that unites two genres of what’s classified as “regional Mexican” music by distilling them down to just three instruments: a tuba from banda (brass band music) and a guitar and 12-stringed bajo sexto from mariachi. Her unforgiving voice does the rest.


Alan Braufman, ‘Destiny’

“Valley of Search,” from 1975, was the only album that the little-known alto saxophonist Alan Braufman recorded under his name. It’s at least as notable for being the recorded debut of Cooper-Moore (then known as Gene Ashton), who would go on to become a respected pianist and instrument maker, with a special synthesis of restraint and loose power. “Valley of Search” will be released as a remastered LP this month, but some things can’t be fixed retroactively: Cooper-Moore’s piano remains distant in the mix. Still, with headphones, you’ll hear him rolling across the keyboard: He begins “Density” playing in a generous wash, but finishes it in a rumble of acute, biting chords.


Michael Leonhart Orchestra, ‘The Painted Lady Suite: Transformation in the Deserts of Mexico’

Michael Leonhart is a trumpeter with a high-powered resume — Steely Dan, Yoko Ono, Mark Ronson — and a heretofore-little-known knack for big-band composition. On Friday he releases the debut album of his orchestra, a seductive record that finds a balance between magnificence and melancholy. It’s dominated by the seven-part “Painted Lady Suite,” inspired by the long migrations of butterflies. He’s enlisted some jazz star power (on “Transformation in the Deserts of Mexico,” tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin takes a solo of studded, full-bore attestation), but the sticky tension of his arrangements ensure that the orchestra itself remains the star.