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Beyoncé Rolls Into Her Country Era, and 10 More New Songs

In a flex of genre-spanning musicianship that’s also a workaholic’s lament, Beyoncé announces her next realm to conquer — country, one of her birthrights as a Texan — while she recalls her past and doubles down on her ambition, singing, “Ain’t got time to waste, I got art to make.” The music is an arena-country crescendo, from acoustic-guitar strum to full-band impact topped by pedal-steel guitar, along with gospel-organ underpinnings and country quavers in Beyoncé’s vocal lines. At a moment when country music is being pushed to acknowledge Black roots and current Black musicians, Beyoncé is not only claiming an expanded demographic base. She’s also using her celebrity clout to force some doors open. JON PARELES

Vampire Weekend channels a generation’s exhaustion, disillusionment and overload in “Capricorn,” a stubbornly slow ballad about being “too old for dying young” and “sifting through centuries for moments of your own” from “Only God Was Above Us,” a new album due April 5. The music layers stately chamber-pop with heaving, squealing noise, then eases toward folky resignation. PARELES

“Right Back to It,” the first single from Waxahatchee’s upcoming album, “Tiger’s Blood,” was a laid-back, mid-tempo tune that showed Katie Crutchfield’s casual mastery of a certain kind of twangy folk. The second single, “Bored,” is something else entirely: a fiery and biting country-rock foot-stomper that allows Crutchfield to channel some serious had-it-up-to-here attitude. “My benevolence just hits the floor,” she sings with a sneer. “I get bored.” LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Pearl Jam blasts back into action with “Dark Matter,” the title track from a coming album that kicks off a tour. Drums slam, guitars align in bruising riffs; Eddie Vedder howls about demagogues who pit “Your word against the law” and rails about how “Everybody else pays for someone else’s mistakes.” The dark matter is disinformation and amorality: ethics, not astrophysics. PARELES

In the best song named after punctuation since Vampire Weekend’s “Oxford Comma,” serpentwithfeet — the songwriter Josiah Wise — and Orion Sun (Tiffany Majette) sing about moving past the inadequacy of words to the purity of kisses: “When words fail, ellipsis, baby come kiss me,” they each sing. It’s a bossa nova with a hip-hop undertow, making vulnerability seductive. PARELES

On Valentine’s Day, exactly a year after releasing her alt-pop opus “Desire, I Want to Turn Into You,” Caroline Polachek put out an expanded “Everasking Edition” of the album with seven additional tracks. Along with a version of the album’s “Butterfly Net” that now features Weyes Blood, a highlight of this deluxe edition is the luminous “Spring Is Coming With a Strawberry in Its Mouth,” a reverent cover of a relatively obscure song by Roger Doyle’s Irish synth-pop band Operating Theatre. Polachek recites the song’s spoken-word sections with requisite angst, but the chorus becomes a showcase for her otherworldly falsetto. ZOLADZ

The Canadian songwriter and producer Saya Gray counts the days since someone left her in “AA Bouquet for Your 180 Face.” Her voice is wry and a little sleepy as she reconsiders the relationship, singing, “I bent over backwards so many times/I turned into a golden arch for you to walk through.” But her production is alert, hyper-detailed and surreally unpredictable, segueing among ticking electronics, syncopated indie-rock, spacey vocal chorales, distorted guitars and what might be a koto. She may be lonely, but she’s resourceful. PARELES

Written after she suffered through one too many bad dates (yes, even Dua Lipa goes on bad dates), the spiky, precision-cut “Training Season” seethes with romantic frustration even as it dreams of something better: “Need someone to hold me close, deeper than I’ve ever known.” Presumably the second single from an as-yet-unannounced album, “Training Season” re-teams Lipa with Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, who also produced her previous teaser, “Houdini.” On both tracks, Parker proves to be an expert architect of intriguingly textured surfaces, but amid such careful design, Lipa’s icy vocals become just another element in the structure, rather than an elevator to the song’s emotional depths. ZOLADZ

The South African producer and songwriter DBN Gogo enlisted four additional producers — Atmos Blaq — and two singers, Leandra.Vert and Mashudu, for this song from “Click Bait,” her new album. “Uthando “ (“Love”) is an upbeat amampiano track that places a dialogue by the husky-voiced Mashudu and the breathy Leandra.Vert over a richly layered, subtly mutating beat. Amapiano’s sparse bass, electric-piano chords and deep log drums mesh with an ever-changing assortment of percussion and a subtle but insistent synthesizer pulse that hints at hidden tensions. PARELES

Leave it to Lana del Rey and the producer Jack Antonoff to turn Irving Berlin’s proclamation of pure optimism — “nothing but blue skies from now on” — into something nervously foreboding. Switching it into a minor key is just the beginning. The tempo is perky, but Del Rey sings as if she’s glancing over her shoulder at something she wishes she could ward off. Soon Antonoff dissolves her voice into echoes and fragmentary, wordless phrases. The mix at the end is literally whistling in the dark. PARELES

Very quietly and plainly, Sasha Alex Sloan — whose first EP, in 2018, was titled “Sad Girl” — indicts a neglected, possibly abusive upbringing in “Highlights.” Over austere guitar picking, she sings, “I’m not angry any more for what you did/But who does that to a kid?” and adds, “You love me when it’s easy/You love me when it looks good to your friends.” There’s a survivor’s determination behind her composure. PARELES


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