Arcade Fire Ignites a Fresh Era, and 11 More New Songs

Rarely does critical consensus pivot as quickly and sharply as it did for Arcade Fire, a band that began the 2010s snagging a surprise album of the year Grammy for its beloved, towering double album “The Suburbs,” and ended the decade caricatured as out- of-touch scolds when its 2017 technology critique “Everything Now” left just about everybody cold. The overwhelming return-to-form narrative that has greeted its first new music in five years, from an album due May 6, though, suggests that many were simply waiting for the group to once again make songs that sound like “The Lightning I” and “II.” “I won’t quit on you, don’t quit on me,” Win Butler sings through gritted teeth on the first part of the song, which moves at the tempo of someone running against the wind. Then, all at once, the track kicks into a rapturous gallop and becomes the kind of urgent, clenched-fist anthem the band was once known for: “Waiting on the lightning, waiting on the lightning, what will the light bring?” Butler sings, burning once again with an earnest, fiery hope. Somebody kept the car running after all. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Oumou Sangaré has carried a women’s song tradition from Mali’s Wassoulou region to a worldwide audience. Her first new song since 2017, from an album due in April, is the Malian fusion of “Wassulu Don”: the quavering vocal lines and call-and-response of Wassoulou songs propelled by the modal, six-beat electric guitar picking — echoing Ali Farka Toure — that has been called “desert blues,” topped by an openly bluesy slide guitar. The song, it turns out in translation, praises regional economic development “thanks to colossal investments”: a prosaic text for a euphoric piece of music. JON PARELES

Her debut full-length is so long awaited, to some people the phrase “new Normani album” has come to mean roughly what “Chinese Democracy” used to, or — heaven help us —”#R9″ still does. But the arrival of Normani’s new single “Fair” is promising on two counts: It indicates that 2022 really could be the year she puts out that mythical album; And it’s much better than “Wild Side,” the sultry but ultimately snoozy Cardi B duet from 2021. Mining the liquefied sounds of Y2K-era TLC or Aaliyah, “Fair” is an anguished ballad with a deep, menacing undertow. “Is it fair that you moved on?” Normani asks, “’cause I swear that I haven’t.” All the while, the moody tracks throbs with a sputtering but persistent heartbeat. ZOLADZ

Setting aside his intramural reggaeton beef with J Balvin, the Puerto Rican rapper Residente returns to major sociopolitical statements with the furious “This Is Not America,” which is rapped in Spanish but fully purposed in English. It’s a darker sequel to the hemisphere-spanning “Latinoamérica” ​​by Residente’s former group, Calle 13: a far-reaching indictment of repression, corruption and abuse across North, Central and South America. Driven by deep Afro-Caribbean drumming and choir harmonies, it insists abuses, “America is not just the USA,” with a video that recapitulates brutal human-rights in nation after nation. PARELES

A three-part suite, “Cogs in Cogs” sits at the center of Brad Mehldau’s new album, “Jacob’s Ladder,” which collects 12 complex, hard-toggling tracks: an attempt to use the tools of prog-rock — his first musical love — to explore how a worldly life might have both shaken and strengthened his Christian faith. Mehldau, who continues to build out from his fixed identity as one of the country’s top jazz pianists, plays almost every instrument on Part 1 of “Cogs in Cogs”: piano, Rhodes, harmonium, mixed percussion and more. He sings some, too. Underpinned by the syncopated rhythm and woven harmonic progression that he outlines at the start, the track works as a patient immersion, providing some balance to the heady overload of so much of this album. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Everyone in this dystopian moment wants something better. Here’s a song for whenever, eventually, the situation might feel right: a stripped-down bit of electronic funk topped by gritty human voices, placed in a digital grid but hoping there’s a warm, real, space beyond it. PARELES

On the brink of a new romance, Syd — Sydney Loren Bennett, the songwriter and producer who emerged from Odd Future — airs her misgivings in “Cybah,” whispering a question to a prospective partner: “Could you break a heart?” Lucky Daye responds with conditions of his own: “Promise me you’ll always keep my heart in a safe place.” The hesitancy is built directly into the track, three slowly descending chords atop a bass line that sometimes falls away into complete silence, keeping the next step uncertain. PARELES

Valerie June’s “Use Me” isn’t the 1972 Bill Withers song. It offers a more kindly, less exploited version of the same generously loving sentiment: “I’ll let you use me when the world is doing you wrong,” she promises. It’s a soul waltz that gathers a circusy momentum from an oom-pah-pah beat, slightly delayed snare-drum rolls and jovial horns that sound like they wandered into a bar and decided to stick around. PARELES

A delicate, demure piano arrangement serves as a sonic red herring for the raunchiest song Rosalía has released to date. On the surface, “Hentai” is achingly gorgeous, as sparse and intimate as anything the pop-flamenco queen has ever done. “So, so, so good,” she croons ecstatically on the chorus, starry-eyed and accompanied by nothing more than a few plinking notes — the sound of a multifaceted artist revealing yet another side of herself. ZOLADZ

Two meticulously disorienting songwriters and producers — Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Ethan Gruska (Phoebe Bridgers’ producer) — collaborated remotely on “So Unimportant.” It’s a waltz that mingles an argument and an apology, with Gruska eventually deciding, “It’s so unimportant what started the fight.” What could have been a folksy, homey waltz is layered with hazy sonic phantoms — echoes, altered voices, electronic tones, a hovering string arrangement — that hint at the emotional complexities of everyday frictions. PARELES

As the founder of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute in Boston, the celebrated Panamanian pianist Danilo Pérez has a utopian goal, framed by his own experience of jazz: he sees the music as a tool for international solidarity, and a pathway toward some kind of global sonic language. Pérez’s Global Messengers are a transnational band that has grown out of his work at Berklee, and that seeks to put some evidence behind the ideas. “Al-Musafir Blues” comes as part of the “Fronteras (Borders) Suite,” which contemplates the pain of forced migration. “Al-Musafir Blues” is an 11-minute epic unto itself, starting with a plodding, a lovely pattern from the Palestinian cellist Naseem Alatrash that slowly melts into a full-band arrangement; by the end, Pérez’s scampering piano is guiding the conversation. RUSSONELLO

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