Gwen Stefani’s Ska-Pop Flashback, and 10 More New Songs


When the brash, sneering No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani emerged in the mid-90s to break up the boys-club monopoly of alternative rock, it would have been hard to predict where she’d be now, at 51. She is arguably even more of a household name than in the “Tragic Kingdom” days, but occupies a space at the deadest center of centrist pop — a fixture on a broadcast TV singing competition that is (somehow) in its 20th season, and an occasional (if sonically ill-suited) duet partner with her country-star fiancé. Her new single, the not-so-subtly-titled “Let Me Reintroduce Myself,” gestures back to Stefani’s middle period of, roughly, “Rock Steady” through “Hollaback Girl,” assuring the skeptical listener that she’s still “the original, original old” Gwen. A few clunky verse lyrics protest a bit too much (“It’s not a comeback, I’m recycling me”), but when her brassy voice rises to match the ska instrumentation of the chorus, there’s a fleeting rush of that old No Doubt magic. LINDSAY ZOLADZ

The director John Carpenter is a full-fledged musician who has also composed the scores for many of his films. “The Dead Walk” is from an album due in 2021, “Lost Themes III,” of music without movies. It’s a martial, suspenseful, pumping, minor-key synthesizer melody, with a guitar overlay, that has its beat drop out midway through, for blurred piano arpeggios, only to resume with even more ominous intent. JON PARELES

Benny the Butcher raps “3:30 in Houston” from a wheelchair — the result of getting shot last month in an attempted robbery. At first, he’s laughing a little — after all, he notes, he’s been on the other side of a robbery in his day. But midsong, as he relives the moment of the attack, the mood sours:

Rolls-Royce truck basically stood out
Only one mistake, I ain’t have a lookout
Quarter in jewels, shopping at Walmart
Take me out the hood but can’t take the hood out

Soon, it’s a deadpan revenge tale, including the suggestion that someone’s “pinkie finger’s getting sent to me.” CARAMANICA

Bitterness seethes and crests as the string section swells in Elle King’s “Another You,” a knife-twisting response to a message from a despised ex. In the verses she details his failings, almost singing through clenched teeth; in the chorus, she belts with vindictive joy about a new romance, proclaiming, “It wasn’t hard to fill your shoes.” PARELES

“I’m going through changes,” El Perro del Mar — the Swedish composer and singer Sarah Assbring — sings and speaks, again and again, in “Alone in Halls,” over two organlike chords that feel like inhales and exhales. She’s joined, now and then, by the voice of Blood Orange (Dev Hynes). Aren’t we all going through changes? PARELES

“I wanna take the ferry to Michigan,” Margaret McCarthy sings, buoyed by oceanic guitar distortion on the chorus of “Ferry,” the first single from the Chicago indie-rock trio Moontype’s upcoming debut album. “Ferry” marries the woozy swoon of Beach House with the rising sweep of a Galaxie 500 song, though McCarthy’s voice cuts through the haze with direct emotional lucidity. ZOLADZ



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