Post Malone Goes Country With Morgan Wallen, and 8 More New Songs


The ever-adaptable Post Malone moves into country with this duet with Morgan Wallen. It’s jovial on the surface, with cheerful steel-guitar hooks. But it’s deeply surly at heart, as Malone and Wallen take turns lashing out at an ex who blames them after a relationship crumbles. “It ain’t like I can make this kind of mess all by myself,” they insist. “Don’t act like you ain’t helped me pull that bottle off the shelf.” Personal responsibility? Nah.

Willow embraces her outsize emotions in the full-tilt finale of her new album, “Empathogen,” which veers from her old pop-punk into jazz and prog-rock. Her voice sails over choppy piano chords as she announces her “big feelings,” and when she sings, “Yes, I have problems, problems,” she turns “problems” into a six-syllable arpeggio. In the bridge she tells herself, “Acceptance is the key,” and eventually it sounds like she’ll make peace with those problems, or even flaunt them.

The Indian American pop songwriter Raveena bounces her voice against a springy bass line, turntable scratches, electric sitar and harp in “Pluto.” Her lyrics juxtapose the bliss of a new love and the exhilaration of “pushing 80 in a blue Camaro” with the memory of someone she’s lost, to distance or possibly death. But she chooses to stay upbeat, even as she concludes, “I pray this good thing don’t run away from me.”

Still raucous at 82, John Cale summons the guitar drone and hypnotic stomp of his long-ago band, the Velvet Underground, in “Shark-Shark.” His lead vocals are all but buried as distorted guitars, stray voices and assorted noises come charging in from all sides. The refrain — “Shark, shark, take me down” — could be a kiddie song or a death-defying taunt.

The masked country singer Orville Peck shares his twangy, reverb-y, retro-country realm with assorted duet partners on his new album, “Stampede: Vol. 1.” Allison Russell steers him toward old-time piano blues in “Chemical Sunset,” as cryptic lyrics invoke romance and apocalypse. “I do a pirouette in the chemical sunset/Come and see me baby, it’s the end of days,” they sing. Is that a come-on or an alarm?

Depression collides with mortality — and doesn’t seem so bad by comparison — in “Ur Heart Stops.” “You’re starting to think, Was it worth it at all?/Until your heart stops beating,” Al Nardo (who’s also in Water From Your Eyes) sings with Bailley Wollowitz (from Sloppy Jane). It’s an ironically upbeat track that splits the difference between psychedelia and prog-rock, with a 7/4 meter and a xylophone-topped bridge that hints at Frank Zappa; ultimately, it’s life-affirming.

“Fault Line” harks back to vintage honky-tonk, from its terse everyday lyrics — “You get drunk, I do too/We got bills overdue” — to the fiddle and slide guitar that top the band. Carly Pearce sings about a couple that’s bitterly at odds, and while the song ends tidily, their troubles don’t.

In “Nowhere to Run” from “Can We Please Have Fun,” the new album by Kings of Leon, Caleb Followill sounds even glummer than usual as he sings about seeing futility everywhere: “Somebody somewhere is doing their best/And we all don’t know what to make of this mess.” Guitars wrangle around him as he tries to find diversion or escape, but things look bleak. — PARELES

Luke Stewart, the bassist in the jazz group Irreversible Entanglements, leads his own Silt Trio — with Brian Settles on tenor saxophone and Trae Crudup on drums — in “Seek Whence” from their new album “Unknown Rivers.” It’s a slinky, stop-start tune that has the three musicians tossing around epigrammatic phrases like in-jokes before the full melody is revealed at the end.



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