Gerard Way Sneers at the Apocalypse, and 12 More New Songs


“We’ll all get through this,” insists Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance, in a song that directly connects surging punk guitars to the Rolling Stones’s “Gimme Shelter,” complete with Judith Hill’s soul-charged backing vocals — “Can you feel it?” she wails. Much of what he sings, over handclaps and a two-chord stomp, isn’t so optimistic. JON PARELES

It’s obvious why “Criss Cross” didn’t make the original cut for the Rolling Stones’ 1973 album, “Goats Head Soup,” which will be reissued as a vastly expanded set. It’s not much of a song, and what there is sounds a lot like a reshuffled “Brown Sugar.” But it’s utterly enjoyable for the sheer cluttered enthusiasm of the performance — the studio pileup of cowbell, clavinet, saxophone and the core band behind a multitracked Mick Jagger, who’s leering with all his might. PARELES

Someone had to equate the pandemic’s stay-home guidelines with house arrest, then link the phrase to a house beat. That would be Sofi Tukker, a New York duo that has been doing daily D.J. livestreams, abetted on this track by the English production duo Gorgon City. “This won’t last forever/Treat your sadness with a smile,” Sophie Hawley-Weld sings as the beat thumps, the keyboards bounce and the drumbeats ratchet up. “We can’t have what’s next till we hang inside for a while.” The new video, released as cases surge in the United States, compiles fans dancing as they isolate at home. PARELES

In the 10 (!) years since her era-defining “Teenage Dream,” fortuitous timing has not exactly been one of Katy Perry’s superpowers. Her 2017 album “Witness” became a pop punchline not so much because it was a sonic disaster (there are some good songs buried in there; I will die on this hill if I have to!) but because its too-earnest promise of “purposeful pop” felt like a tone-deaf offering in the chaos of the Trump era. Some crises are just too big to be solved with a three-minute pop song — a fact that’s only more apparent in 2020, a year into which Perry has chosen to release an album called, of all things, “Smile.” Those who rolled their eyes at the bombastic agenda of “Witness” will find plenty to say about the image of Katy Perry donning a literal clown suit in the midst of a global catastrophe. But anyone willing to take the title track on the surface level will find its brassy grooves and uplifting chorus to be something of a return to form for Perry, if yet another instance of unfortunate timing. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Ever since the cherub-faced, Florida-based artist Dominic Fike signed a deal with Columbia on the strength of a few demos he recorded while on house arrest in late 2017, his rise to superstardom has felt like an inevitability. It was an open question what his debut album might sound like, though, since the 24-year-old Fike can toggle nimbly between laid-back, barefoot-singer-songwriter jams and the sort of verbose, cartoonish hip-hop that’s led to collaborations with the alt-rap collective Brockhampton. “Politics & Violence” — the second single from his forthcoming full-length debut, “What Could Possibly Go Wrong,” out July 31 — splits the difference between those two modes, fusing a lackadaisically catchy, radio-ready hook and an extended outro of Fike’s chatty, charismatic bars. ZOLADZ

“I usually don’t show my emotions,” Usher sings, not entirely factually. Through his extensive career, he has lavished emotions on romance: prospective, blissful, lost. “I Cry,” and its literally tearful video clip, is directed beyond himself, reflecting nationwide protests over systemic racism: “I’ve seen struggle, I’ve seen pain, I’ve seen beyond the mess we’ve made,” he sings, soon adding, “I’ll fight for the future we’re making.” With gospelly piano, cascading guitar lines and Usher’s determined, long-breathed croon, the song carries Marvin Gaye’s legacy into the era of Black Lives Matter. PARELES

Already a sensation at TikTok length, Avenue Beat’s full-length “F2020” (the F stands for what you’d expect) slyly mingles personal frustrations and societal calamity: “My cat died/and a global pandemic took over my life/And I put out some music that nobody liked.” Everything is deadpan: the skimpy mechanical beat, the hesitant guitar, the unassuming lead vocal. Avenue Beat, from Nashville, eventually shows off some three-part harmonies, but it’s the Everywoman shrug — “Can we just get to 2021? Please.” — that seals the deal. PARELES

The New Zealand quartet the Beths just released their second album, the lush, melodic “Jump Rope Gazers.” The group’s dreamy, multipart harmonies and fuzzy guitars hark back to the influential indie-pop sounds of labels like Flying Nun and Slumberland, while Elizabeth Stokes’ introspective lyrics bespeak a steady diet of female-driven, turn-of-the-millennium emo (she’s cited Rilo Kiley and Tegan and Sara as formative influences.) “I think that I loved you this whole time,” she sings on the title track’s swelling chorus before adding, with charming incredulity, “How did this happen?” ZOLADZ

So morose is James Blake that not even an apparently psychedelic experience — a “lucid dream” with a “trip down the hills, strawberry fields” — can break through his slow-piano-chorded alienation. Yet “Are You Even Real?” brings a lush surrealism to his gloom, as echoes come and go and strings materialize, rise and vanish. There’s someone else too — “She runs her hands through my imagination” — or is she a hallucination? PARELES

Kehlani has been releasing a series of “quarantine style” music videos in support of her second album, “It Was Good Until It Wasn’t,” which came out in May. She directed the fifth one, for the standout “Bad News,” herself — under the well-chosen name Hyphy Williams. The song is an impassioned plea for her man to turn his back on street life and make a happy home with her: “Don’t wanna get no call with no bad news, I know all the stories from your tattoos.” That the video finds Kehlani as a bride without a groom, though — praying, smoking, sipping from a flask — lends the tale an ominous air. ZOLADZ

The emerging Charlottesville, Va. singer-songwriter Kate Bollinger is an architect of chill vibes. Her soulful whisper recalls Feist, Maggie Rogers or maybe just a lo-fi Norah Jones. “Grey Skies,” from her forthcoming EP “A Word Becomes a Sound,” bobs along on a gentle beat and a subtly jazzy bass line, its soothing atmosphere ever-so-slightly perturbed by the melancholy of Bollinger’s lyrics: “Why do I long for springtime only when the winters come?” ZOLADZ

Gerald Clayton has almost total command at the piano, but he doesn’t bear down on it. His playing tends to swirl, almost mistlike, with sprinkled melodic phrases, flickering harmonies and rolling arpeggios implying a groove rather than stating it. On his new album, “Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard,” the elusive elegance of Clayton’s piano sits at the center of a quintet with its own hard momentum. You can virtually hear the crowd’s attention as the group twists and surges through an 11-minute rendition of Clayton’s “Patience Patients,” the sweeping beauty of the saxophone harmonies set off by the restless charge of Marcus Gilmore’s drums and Joe Sanders’s bass. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO

Asher Gamedze is a young drummer quickly rising on the Cape Town scene, but he’s more than that too: a poet, bandleader, composer, visual artist. Listeners in the United States might have been introduced to him last year, when he featured on Angel Bat Dawid’s acclaimed debut album, but the release of his own first LP, “Dialectic Soul,” takes a measure of the startling depth and range of his evolving concept — not unlike that of Bat Dawid. Hear it on “Interregnum,” with Nono Nkoane reading a Gamedze poem that’s as surreal as it is starkly evocative while his drums tangle with Thembinkosi Mavimbela’s bass and a babble of trumpet and saxophone, making a collective utterance that’s both hypnotizing and foreboding. RUSSONELLO

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