Cécile McLorin Salvant Branches Out, and 7 More New Songs

The headline here isn’t that the cream-of-the-crop jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant has serious creative appetites that run beyond the American-songbook-and-curios repertory, which she has so famously explored. That was becoming clear, slowly but surely, over the past few years. It’s that when she focuses instead on her own writing, and shifts away some from straight-on modern jazz, she also softens the archness and the neatness of her delivery. There’s a new, expanded range in both the music and the expression. “Thunderclouds” will help you clock the shift: an up-tempo lullaby of wistful, wounded hopefulness, its shapely chord changes carried loosely by the band and its bouncy rhythm nodding to Caribbean-infused jazz. “Sometimes you have to gaze into a well to see the sky,” Salvant sings, repeating the phrase as if to convince herself. The song comes from a forthcoming album, “Ghost Song,” due in March; it’ll be her first for Nonesuch Records and her first to feature primarily originals. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO
In a Texas alliance, the soul singer Leon Bridges is backed by Khruangbin, a trio from Houston that has soaked up global rhythms. “B-Side” is from a collaborative EP due in February. Khruangbin supplies mid-tempo, two-chord Afrobeat funk, with terse bits of rhythm guitar answered by tootling organ chords, as Bridges croons in falsetto about much he misses a distant lover. It sounds like a slice of a jam that went on much longer. JON PARELES
Plinking, cascading xylophone and marimba sounds and the nasal, pumping string tones of a hurdy-gurdy circle through “Walker,” a meditation on getting through grief that’s named after the songwriter Scott Walker. It’s less dizzying and more patient than much of Animal Collective’s catalog, and for its final minute, only plinks and stray words remain, like shards of mourning. PARELES
The high-concept miniaturist Tierra Whack has been releasing a series of three-song genre-testing EPs: “Pop?,” “Rap?” and now “R&B?,” which relies on slow-ticking drum machines and electronic tones. “Sorry” is cast as a phone message, “one last conversation” with someone who won’t answer. The synthesizer chords are frayed and quivery as her apologies tumble out — heartfelt but apparently too late. PARELES
Miserablism and sensualism pair elegantly in this collaboration between FKA twigs and the Weeknd. For twigs, an impressionistic singer, this marks her most pointed and theatrical vocals, and the Weeknd, who has long embraced deviant sadness on a grand scale, dials it back ever so slightly to match the beatifically aghast mood. JON CARAMANICA
On “M&M,” the Jamaican producer Rvssian serves up an ominous synth that sounds like a video game console on its last legs, tinny and fading. Lil Baby matches it with a needling singsong verse, and Future approaches it with an indignant wheeze. CARAMANICA
Tyondai Braxton’s new electronic track, “Dia,” emerges after a long silence. It has an insistent but implied beat, many layers of overt and implied syncopation, and a determination to keep changing.

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