Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new songs and videos — and anything else that strikes them as intriguing. Just want the music? Listen to the Playlist on Spotify here (or find our profile: nytimes). Like what you hear? Let us know at [email protected] and sign up for our Louder newsletter, a once-a-week blast of our pop music coverage.

Vampire Weekend, ‘Harmony Hall’

After a six-year gap, Vampire Weekend has re-emerged with a song that wraps misgivings in three-chord elation: first with folksy acoustic-guitar picking, then with gospel-rock piano and congas, later with jammy hints of the Grateful Dead. It all feels jovial until Ezra Koenig’s words register a not-so-oblique dread: “Anybody with a worried mind could never forgive the sight/Of wicked snakes inside a place you thought was dignified/I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die.” Meanwhile, anyone seeking meditative sanctuary can click on “120 Minutes of Harmony Hall Guitar” — the opening acoustic guitars simply looping away, adding a modest drone for the second hour. JON PARELES

Sam Fender, ‘Play God’

The lyrics are cryptic, and so is the video, with images of armed men, surveillance screens, captive women and lessons in violence. But there’s no mistaking the urgency of Sam Fender’s desperate vocal, the rising refrain “He will play God” and the syncopated, reverberating guitar note that persists throughout the song, keeping things tense. PARELES

Better Oblivion Community Center, ‘Dylan Thomas’

Fresh from boygenius, her collaboration with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers has teamed up with Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) as Better Oblivion Community Center, suddenly releasing a full album. It’s folk rock all the way, harking back to the Byrds, Bob Dylan and Ian and Sylvia, with shared lead vocals, intertwined acoustic and electric guitars and, often, a tambourine shaking along. Electric guitars surge and spill over in “Dylan Thomas,” as Bridgers and Oberst sing about power, entertainment and the elusiveness of truth. PARELES

Dua Lipa, ‘Swan Song’

For this movie theme, Dua Lipa honors the plot of “Alita: Battle Angel,” a film based on a post-apocalyptic manga about a human brain resurrected as a cyborg warrior: “This is not a swan song,” she sings, “It’s a new life.” But she also ties it in to the female self-assertion of the rest of her catalog: “I won’t stay quiet,” she sings, her voice swelling, “ ’Cause staying silent’s the same as dying.” Backup chants sound like remnants of past civilizations; the beat is mechanized, cybernetic. The song puts human aspiration in electronic armor. PARELES

Daddy Yankee featuring Snow, ‘Con Calma’

Yes, that Snow. “Con Calma” underscores the endless cycles of borrowing that nourish pop music, messy and unlikely as they may be. In 1992, “Informer,” by the white, Canadian dancehall performer Snow, spent seven weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. This was an outlier for many reasons, some less obvious than others — Snow had cut his musical teeth in Toronto’s Jamaican community. Over the years, “Informer” has remained, despite occasional mockery, the rare durable, credible example of a song by a white reggae performer. Now, in 2019, reggaeton titan Daddy Yankee, well into the neutralized-pop portion of his career, has built atop it a new song, which is enthusiastic and lighthearted, squeezing something just a little bit too tepid out of something which, in its day, had been the little-bit-too-tepid thing. JON CARAMANICA

Call Me Karizma, ‘Monster (Under My Bed)’

Agonized and serrated, the new song from Call Me Karizma revives mid-to-late-2000s Warped Tour electro-punk, blends it with emo instincts as refracted through SoundCloud rap, adds in heaping gobs of Marilyn Manson, and tops it off with, hiding in plain sight, a flicker of Yung Joc’s “It’s Goin’ Down.” CARAMANICA

Sneaks, ‘Ecstasy’

“Ecstasy” is an anti-manifesto from Sneaks, the singer, songwriter and producer Eva Moolchan. “I don’t wanna explain,” she whisper-sings, almost as if she’s humming to herself. But meanwhile she’s assembling blips, plinks, a buzzing bass riff, hovering electronic tones and casually intersecting vocal lines into a teasingly enticing track: she’s doing, not telling. PARELES

Florence and the Machine, ‘Moderation’ and ‘Haunted House’

Florence and the Machine almost — but not entirely — separate two threads of her music with a yin-yang pair of new songs. “Moderation” goes for a hand-clapping, room-shaking Motown-flavored rock-soul stomp — think Martha and the Vandellas — as Florence Welch scoffs at the whole notion of moderation in love. “Haunted House” turns inward instead. It starts and ends something like a parlor song, a piano waltz sung by Welch at her most decorous. But when the chorus arrives and she confesses “I’m not free yet,” she doesn’t hold back the buildup; moderation is, indeed, a struggle. PARELES

Julia Michaels, ‘Happy’

As a collaborator and on her own, Julia Michaels has typecast herself as the queen of neurosis, and she’s true to that brand throughout her latest EP, “Inner Monologue Part 1.” In “Happy,” she sings, “Sometimes I think I kill relationships for art,” and adds, “I pay my bills with it.” A reggae-ish beat heaves and slams below her and a backup chorus joins her in her misery, but at the end, as she quietly moans “I just want to be happy,” there are crickets in the mix. PARELES

J. Cole, ‘Middle Child’

A tsk-tsk masquerading as a chest puff, J. Cole’s “Middle Child” is the beginning of what he’s suggested is a coming onslaught of new music this year. The themes, however, are familiar: Cole’s love-em-but-needle-em relationship with younger rappers is present in full force. But unlike most elders, he’s also willing to paint himself as a student — hence, middle child. Which is why even though this song echoes mid-2010s Drake triumphalism (and also mentions Drake, for good measure), Cole cuts the arrogance with commitment to granular, almost mundane narrative. All tell, no show. CARAMANICA

Eric Dolphy, ‘Jitterbug Waltz (Alternate Take)’

The saxophonist, flutist and bass clarinetist Eric Dolphy led just five studio sessions in his brief lifetime, yet he’s seen as one of jazz history’s great possibility-expanders — an improviser who squirreled away his masterful abilities under layers of evocative idiosyncrasy, packing his notes with more breath than they could fit, letting them bloom and quiver well beyond their natural pitch. Dolphy’s second-to-last recording session took place in New York in July 1963, with a midsize band, across two days, less than a year before his death at 36. It resulted in a pair of well-reputed albums, “Conversations” and “Iron Man,” but many assumed the complete session recordings were lost. The flutist James Newton — who had held onto a trove of tapes and papers that Dolphy left behind — recently turned them over to Resonance Records, which released 18 of the finest tracks from those 1963 dates on “Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions.” Half were previously unissued, including this alternate take of “Jitterbug Waltz,” a Fats Waller classic with a frisky, twirling melody that’s oddly befitting of Dolphy. And mark the trumpeter: It’s the future jazz eminence Woody Shaw, age 18, sounding phenomenal in one of his first professional recording dates. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Wayne Shorter, ‘Prometheus Unbound’

Last year’s most awe-inspiring jazz release was “Emanon,” Wayne Shorter’s three-disc masterstroke, much of which he recorded live with his quartet joined by the London Chamber Orchestra. But unless you shelled out for the full boxed set, you probably haven’t heard it yet. Now the digital wait is over — on Friday, Blue Note released the album on streaming platforms. On “Prometheus Unbound,” we hear how skillfully Shorter marshals a string section; he uses the orchestra not only to add strength and harmonic layers, but also to give his wide, intervallic leaps a new dynamic momentum. RUSSONELLO

Joe Lovano, Marilyn Crispell and Carmen Castaldi, ‘Rare Beauty’

Hearing “Trio Tapestry,” the first album from this all-star group, it’s hard not to think back on Joe Lovano’s work in the Paul Motian Trio, another bass-free combo whose history was entwined with ECM Records. Like Motian’s, the new trio’s music drifts slowly into the space around it, gently filling a room with worried air. But the biggest difference between the bands is in the tumbling, unsettled piano of Marilyn Crispell and the warmer, more diatonic guitar of Bill Frisell (the third member of Motian’s trio). On “Rare Beauty,” Lovano’s trio treats his sharp modal melody with a sense of unfettered freedom, moving loosely in and out of step with each other. RUSSONELLO

Que Vola?, ‘Calle Luz’

Que Vola brings together three Afro-Cuban percussionists — all members of the Osain del Monte Orchestra — and seven French jazz musicians. The lead single from the group’s self-titled debut is “Calle Luz,” a quick, pattering original that reshapes a rumba rhythm around its jagged, four-horn arrangement. The West African roots of rumba come through in various ways here; amid all the rhythmic and harmonic complexity, you might even hear echoes of Fela Kuti’s Africa ’70 band in the sound of the Rhodes, bass and drums. RUSSONELLO

Dolphin Midwives, ‘Junglespell’

Sage Fisher, who records as Dolphin Midwives, uses loops of harp and electronic sounds, and sometimes (though not on this track) her voice, to construct tracks that evolve from ambient Minimalism to something considerably more volatile. “Junglespell” starts out pretty and vaguely Asian, with rippling, overlapping harp motifs. But halfway through, an electronic vortex takes shape, in rhythm-disrupting clusters and miniature alarm bells; a pretty coda can’t soothe everything. PARELES

Jon Pareles has been The Times’s chief pop music critic since 1988. A musician, he has played in rock bands, jazz groups and classical ensembles. He majored in music at Yale University. @JonPareles

Jon Caramanica is a pop music critic for The Times and the host of the Popcast. He also writes the men’s Critical Shopper column for Styles. He previously worked for Vibe magazine, and has written for the Village Voice, Spin, XXL and more. @joncaramanica

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