Sure, Madame Eyelash: The last track on Billie Eilish’s latest, Happier Than Ever, is a nice, plinky bit of whisper-singing about love lost, using porn as a distraction (bad idea), and also, therapy. It’s a marked departure from her first album, which I think is part of her intention. As sad songs for crying go, it’s up there, man! In the right mood, with the sun either shining or not, depending on your preference, “Male Fantasy” is good for weeping in public or in private, and a nice way to close out an album that sounds not much like her first. —Megan Reynolds
Well, it ain’t “Insatiable,” but okay: Prince, “When She Comes” - If the previously shelved Welcome 2 America were released around the time it was recorded in 2010, it likely would have made the impact that other Prince albums that came out around that time did. Which is to say: none! (Anyone up for a Lotusflow3r revisiting? Didn’t think so.) But because he’s dead and this is the first proper fully realized album to be unearthed from his vault, there’s some critical fanfare accompanying its Friday drop. I don’t think people would be as enthusiastic if Prince weren’t dead, but I also don’t think we would have heard it if he weren’t dead, so maybe we’re breaking even to some extent? In any event, there’s a funk-swallowing brightness to many of the uptempo songs on America that’s reminiscent of bands I’ve heard playing on the decks of restaurants on the water in South Jersey. The hooks, likewise, are sanded down. About the best thing on the LP is “When She Comes,” a sex jam not about coming around the mountain. It sports more evocative lyrics, a jazzier feel, and more urgency than the shorter version that was on what ended up being the last album Prince released when he was alive, 2015's Hit n Run Phase Two. By the end, Prince had largely eradicated sexuality from his music, so this is a nice retrospective kick in the pants. —Rich Juzwiak
Well, you got me: Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak), “Skate”: Listen, Bruno Mars is corny as hell, and the best thing about his corniness is that he knows. That has to be the explanation for his recent work with Anderson .Paak, the latest of which is above. “Skate” works because it sounds like roughly 100 other songs of its ilk, from the same era that Paak and Mars are referencing quite literally. This is a lovely little pastiche of like, every song that could possibly score the credits sequence to a Netflix rom-com set in the ’70s. That is not a read! It’s what Bruno Mars does best—music for feeling nothing except “yes” and “ah, that’s nice.” Sometimes that is just enough. —MR
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TBH, yeah: Sleigh Bells, “Locust Laced” — It’s going to take a lot to recapture the excitement of Sleigh Bells’s Treats era, and maybe it’s unfair of me to approach all of the band’s new releases by such a standard. But I can say this with certainty: Any skepticism I had upon listening to their new “Locust Laced” was eliminated about a minute in, when I heard Alexis Krauss sing, “I FEEL LIKE DYNAMITE, I FEEL LIKE DYIN’ TONIGHT!” They got me, again. The music video is also a fun little ride, but that’s to be expected from this band by now. For the first time in a long time, I’m really interested in seeing what Sleigh Bells has to offer. —Ashley Reese
My crops are dying and only this song can revive them: Hawa, “Wake Up” - I have rinsed this song so much since it dropped four days ago that the man I live with is starting to become annoyed, but I think it’s worthy of obsessive repeat plays. Hawa, a 21-year-old Berlin-born musician who notoriously left the New York Philharmonic in pursuit of a career as a rapper, plays a bit more with form here than on her excellent debut EP, The One, released in 2020, but is continuing with previous themes such as fuckgals and the gals who want to fuck them. “Wake Up” is barely two minutes long, but Hawa’s vocal styles and clipped, rap-inspired cadences traverse a whole journey atop production that recalls the mid-2000s work of The Neptunes—I’m hearing Kelis’s Tasty, I’m hearing Aaliyah’s vocal runs, I’m hearing my absolute favorite new song, I’m dying to hear more. - Julianne Escobedo Shepherd
Y: Saint Etienne, “Pond House” - Less a song and more a vibe, this lead single from the British band’s forthcoming tenth studio album, I’ve Been Trying to Tell You, is based on a drum loop, knit piano and synths, and a hypnotic vocal from Sarah Cracknell. “Here it comes again,” she sings on repeat. If “it” is more of the same cool electronic pop that’s virtually indistinguishable from the band’s early ‘90s output, well, that’s enough for me. Bring it on! —RJ
Totally: Meet Me @ the Altar, “Brighter Days (Are Before Us)” - Yes, here I am again, pushing the pop-punk agenda. For those of you who aren’t complete snobs and want to see some black kids absolutely dominate the best this genre has to offer, do yourselves a favor and check out Meet Me @ The Alter. Their new song and video “Brighter Days (Are Before Us)” is just such a delight; airy and hopeful, with great guitar riffs. Also, can we talk about lead singer Edith’s hair and fit in this video? This is everything my preteen self could have ever wanted to see and more, and 20 years later... well, it’s worth the wait. —AR