The Weeknd: “Starboy”
For those jonesing for new music from The Weeknd, the fix came this week with the surprise release of “Starboy.” The title track to his upcoming album that is due in November, the single features French electronic duo Daft Punk and (not unexpectedly) follows along the mainstream direction The Weeknd has taken since he started bumping up at the top of the charts in 2014. Referencing his rise to fame (he’s had two No. 1s, nabbed a Grammy, got a nod for an Academy Award and collaborated with Beyonce and Kanye West, after all), “Starboy” acknowledges some of the bad-boy behavior that first got him noticed, while Daft Punk’s light touch doesn’t careen as wildly as his past. “Starboy” may not be completely indicative of what to expect from the forthcoming full-length Starboy, but it does give a glimpse into what’s been on The Weeknd’s mind since Beauty Behind the Madness. –Vickie Gilmer
Ty Dolla $ign: Campaign
It’s hard not to love Ty Dolla $ign because his mix of hip-hop and R&B sounds not only unique, but effortless. And Campaign is exactly what you would expect. Similar to his Beach House mixtapes, his raunchy lyrics, melodies and orchestral arrangements make it difficult not to vibe out and sing along. The project features Migos, Travis Scott, Trey Songz, as well as others and makes Campaign one of the best mixtapes of 2016.
It’s clear the election season inspired Ty while he was making Campaign. The intro begins with a distorted voice saying, “I’m done with Trump and Hillary Clinton. Or is that one in the same?” as he goes on to advocate for equality and calls for people to head to the polls, insisting it’s necessary if we want change.
Last year, Ty Dolla $ign dropped Airplane Mode three months before releasing his debut album, Free TC. With so many guests and the excitement swirling around this audio campaign, it’s only right he releases another studio album and he’s hinted that his sophomore album, Beach House 3, is in the works and we can expect it in 2017. –Jazmyn Pratt
Bruce Springsteen, Chapter and Verse
Chapter and Verse is the companion piece to Bruce Springsteen’s 2016 autobiography, Born to Run. The 18-track anthology offers a compact overview of The Boss’ evolution from teenage garage-rocker in the ’60s to global icon still churning out powerful music well into the 21st century. Listeners will encounter a fat stack of classics, including “Badlands” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” though the most illuminating stuff dates back to his pre-E Street Band youth. “He’s Guilty (The Judge Song),” from one of his earliest bands, Steel Mill, is a searing chunk of funky hard rock that manages to recall The Bob Seger System. Just as potent is “Henry Boy.” Recorded in 1972, the solo acoustic number features a Springsteen who even at the tender age of 22 is in command of dazzling and incredibly heartfelt world play. — Justin Farrar
Jeezy: “Let Em Know”
“Let Em Know” spans Jeezy’s past and future. It’s the first cut from Trap or Die 3, a years-in-the-making follow-up to the classic 2005 mixtape that made him a Dirty South superstar. It also finds him revisiting his territory of shipping bricks and selling out shows. Meanwhile, producer Pay Cash’s beat has a blurry, synth-based sound that nicely mirrors the ’80s sci-fi horror trend in current trap music. “If nothing else,” he brags, “I can write a hit, dawg.” –Mosi Reeves
Brian McKnight: An Evening With Brian McKnight
Brian McKnight’s first concert album finds the cream-voiced balladeer holding court at L.A.’s Saban Theatre in January. The recording is filled with ecstatic crowd noise, and the ladies seem eager to show their appreciation of the handsome crooner who has spent his multi-platinum career singing about the joys and heartaches of love. Essential hits like “Anytime,” “Back at One” and his Van Morrison cover “Crazy Love” get a proper airing. However, it’s recent singles such as “Find Myself in You” and “The Only One for Me,” where he performs dynamically with a crackling jazz and soul band, that make An Evening with Brian McKnight come alive. –Mosi Reeves
Devendra Banhart, Ape in Pink Marble
Devendra Banhart continues to drift further into his own peculiar universe with his ninth studio album, “Ape in Pink Marble.” It follows a period of contemplation where the Los Angeles-based songwriter lost several close friends and mentors. With the theme of mortality hanging heavy over the songs, the music burrows deeper into the mellow vein of 2013’s “Mala.” There are splashes of bossa nova and Eastern rhythms in lo-fi highlights such as “Linda” and “Saturday Night,” but the most distinctive touches are those that have always been part of Banhart’s repertoire — off-key melodies, gentle crooning and an overwhelming sense of transcendence. —Aidin Vaziri
Leonard Cohen: “You Want It Darker”
Given his age, it might be tempting to think “You Want It Darker” is Leonard Cohen’s final dispatch from his own secret subterranean world of sex, spirituality and self-recrimination. But you’d be wrong. The 82-year-old immortal has been issuing harrowing and haunted tales of love, human frailty and uncertain belief for the past 49 years with death, always a silent passenger, since the first. Instead the title (and title track of the forthcoming album) seems to be a meditation on survival and the strength of the great man’s psyche despite a lifetime of disappointments: Bowed but never broken, wounded, but always upright. Sure there are hints of frailty and abdication, such as the lyrics of “I’m Leaving the Table,” (“I’m leaving the table/I’m out of the game”), but it seems more like the end of a sad romance than a final epistle. —Jaan Uhelszki