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The Playlist: Harry Styles’s Lite Rock Return, and 10 More New Songs


“Lights Up” — Harry Styles’s first new song in two years — is a soft-touch re-entry into the pop slipstream. Somewhere between ’70s soft rock, lite disco and indie pop, it doesn’t ask much more of Styles’s voice than a gentle coo, and surrounds it with a plangent sparkle. JON CARAMANICA

A motoric pulsing drone, sometimes boosted by a tambourine, propels Michael Stipe’s first solo song since the disbandment of R.E.M. It’s a collaboration with Andy LeMaster, the lesser-known member (with Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers) of the folk-rock project Better Oblivion Community Center. But keyboards, not guitars, are upfront in “Your Capricious Soul,” Stipe’s telegraphic portrait of a social-media manipulator/celebrity, for whom “the paper’s calling and the photos flashing.” It’s a benefit single for the civil-disobedience environmental group Extinction Rebellion, perhaps for one line: “The birds are dying or they might as well be.” JON PARELES

With bluesy distorted guitar chords, a hint of Latin rhythm and perhaps a distant echo of the Zombies’ “Time of the Season,” Son Little offers a genial come-on in “Hey Rose” from his new EP, “Invisible.” He explains that “Your soul is the picture/But your body is the frame/But the frame is exquisite,” and he makes escalating promises to win her companionship — anything, he notes, to “hold you till these dark dreams fade.” PARELES

Liz Phair marches toward an amicable breakup, strategizing all the way, in “Good Side.” “When you think back on us I don’t want you to feel bad,” she decides; she’ll be missed, she expects, “in due time.” Around her deadpan voice, instruments gather — martial drums, electric guitars, a brass section, sampled voices — that show her decision to separate is already ironclad. PARELES

For almost all of the ascent of the Miami rap duo City Girls, one of its members, JT, has been serving a two-year prison sentence for fraud. She was released to a halfway house this week, and almost immediately put out her first new song. “JT First Day Out” is casually triumphant — she is the better rapper in the crew, and she’s been saving up quick darts that show that she’s been hungry: “Pulled in and out of prison like a drive-through/Audemars waiting on me ‘cause the time flew.” CARAMANICA

It’s just about impossible to untangle loops and riffs from unfolding melodies, or to distinguish synthetic tones from physical percussion, in “Visit From Tokay,” a perky, pointillistic track by Asa Tone: the trio of Melati Malay, Tristan Arp and Kaazi. The modal tuning of the rindik, an Indonesian bamboo xylophone, evokes tradition; the briskly metronomic tempo and a mix full of pop-up sounds come from right now. PARELES

The trumpeter Roy Hargrove’s voice, excerpted from an interview, haunts the first track of Marquis Hill’s short and affecting new album, “Love Tape.” “I’m in service,” says Hargrove, who died last year. “What I am here to do is to touch people and make them feel better through music.” The intro fits. Across these nine tracks, Hill plays the fluegelhorn in smoky, braided, beat-dragging phrases, overdubbed in harmony with himself. The beat underneath him falls in a weightless, unclaimed zone between neo-soul, jazz and hip-hop. Hargrove’s influence is everywhere. And the album — which features clips from interviews with black women on most tracks, discussing self-love and romance — indeed wears its palliative intent on its sleeve. On the album’s closer, “Wednesday Love,” Hill’s quartet is joined by the talented young vocalist Christie Dashiell, who sings of falling in love with a smile inside every note. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

It doesn’t take much time — or much volume — for things to grow rich and suspenseful on “J Bhai.” The tabla player Zakir Hussain, a master of Hindustani classical music who hails from Mumbai, composed this coolly capering melody, and the saxophonist Chris Potter carries it with reverent precision. On bass, Dave Holland (a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master) offers a wisely understated foundation, moving from simple notes of even length into a twisting dance with his two all-star bandmates. RUSSONELLO

Rachael Price is the lead singer and a songwriter in Lake Street Dive; Vilray, who was Price’s classmate at the New England Conservatory of Music, is a songwriter, guitarist and singer. Both are fond of the witty pop standards of the 1930s and 1940s, and Vilray can write fluently and cleverly in that vintage style. “Alone at Last,” an wryly antisocial love song — “With you I feel alone at last” — has a leaping, acrobatic melody and manages to fit vocabulary like “agoraphobic” into its lyrics, along with a name-check to Jean-Paul Sartre, but its easy-swinging mini-big-band arrangement is as cozy as it is sophisticated. PARELES

There is no set role for Bill MacKay’s electric guitar or Katinka Kleijn’s cello on “Stir,” a new album of sensitively improvised duets. On its final track, MacKay (who’s primarily known as an experimental-folk guitarist, if you’re looking or a label) toys around with a few broken chords in a curious, wandering descent before settling down into a placid repartee with Klein (a Chicago-based cellist, who’s becoming well known in the Western-classical world). Later on, as she bows the instrument luxuriously in its middle range, typically alternating between two notes at a time, MacKay dances around the fretboard, sometimes using single plucks and sometimes playing with a slide. The two instrumentalists are in a constant state of change but remain deeply connected, and seemingly at peace. RUSSONELLO

How awful is this? Sure, J Balvin wants to latch onto the Anglo popularity of the Black Eyed Peas, but between Will.i.am’s lame Spanglish — “Baby tonight’s like fuego/We about to spend the dinero” — and the common-denominator dembow beat, not to mention the gratuitous quote of Public Enemy’s “the rhythm, the rebel,” everyone involved should apologize. Even the “Tron”-style video graphics feel dated. PARELES


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