Dolly Parton Goes Arena Rock, and 9 more new songs

Written by user

Dolly Parton has announced an album due out on November 17, “Rockstar,” which will be full of hit remakes, often accompanied by the original artists. But she also brought in some songs of her own, including this one, her concerned, indignant assessment of a “World on Fire” full of lies and conflict. It’s Dolly gone arena rock goth, with power chord explosions and martial drums. A gospel-esque bridge asks, “Can’t we come up/Can’t we show some love?”, but then it’s back to minor chords as Parton says her best intentions – “Let’s heal the pain / Let kindness work” – to a stark , stomping, “We Will Rock You”-esque chant: “Whatcha gonna do when it all burndown?” Parton concludes with the same question. JON PARELES

Joni Mitchell’s surprise performance at the 2022 Newport Folk Festival, supported and surrounded by devoted admirers such as Brandi Carlile, was a demonstration not only of guts, support and resilience, but also of sustainable musicianship and control. “Both Sides Now” is a preview of an official live album, “At Newport,” due out July 28. As a piano ripples and strings swell behind her, with Carlile and Lucius adding vocal harmonies, Mitchell makes each phrase purposeful, reflective, and improvising, and her lowered, rough-but-precise voice turns every word into a life lesson. PEARLES

Just after winning the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her opera, “Omar,” Rhiannon Giddens releases “You’re the One,” the title track to her first full-length album of her own songs (although she has written extensively, adapted and collaborated). As she sings about finding a love that turns “grays” into “a new Technicolor world,” the song explodes from its base of strings—banjo and fiddle—into full-tilt rock choruses bursting with euphoria. PEARLES

A jazzy piano lick and frantic beat drive English R&B artist Jorja Smith’s new single ‘Little Things’, which captures the vibe of a vibrant, intimate house party with a crowded dance floor. “Just a little something for you and me,” Smith says before shrugging with a cool nonchalance. “And if it has to be, then that’s all right.” LINDSAY ZOLADZ

Fatoumata Diawara, from Mali, rides a galloping six-beat modal groove headlined by Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca in “Blues,” by far the rawest track on her new album of international fusions, “London Ko.” She produced it with Damon Albarn from Gorillaz. The lyrics, in Bambara and English, are about gratitude to her family; the mind is centered and ferocious. PEARLES

Acróstico means acrostic, and the first letters of the five-line verses of Shakira’s new song spell out the names of her sons, Milan and Sasha. It’s the last message after her split from soccer player Gerard Piqué, and it’s a statement of unwavering motherly devotion through her own pain. “Even if life treats me this way / I’ll be strong only for you,” she sings over steadfast piano chords. “All I want is your happiness / and to be with you.” There’s a hint of U2’s “Every Breaking Wave” in the chorus as it climbs to a trembling peak: wounded but resolutely compassionate. PEARLES

Hélöise Letissier, aka Chris, the songwriter and voice of Christine and the Queens, plunges into separation and comfort in “Tears Can Be So Soft.” It’s built on a sample of the string arrangement of Marvin Gaye’s “Feel All My Love Inside”: an octave-jumping, quivering swoop that changes from major to minor. Chris sings about missing family, friends and a lover and crying while driving on the highway, with only the warmth and the shedding of tears for comfort; a string section testifies. PEARLES

Rob Moose’s violin mirrors Phoebe Bridgers’ night terror on “Wasted,” a track from Moose’s upcoming EP, “Inflorescence.” Plucked notes echo her tense nerves, while a groaning string bed adds an extra pathos to the lyrics, which were written by Bridgers’ collaborator Marshall Vore. “I always had the energy to get angry, always knew how to say sorry,” Bridgers sings with wry self-judgment and escalating intensity. “But now I’m back with none of that.” ZOLADZ

A keyboard loop referencing harpsichord or koto, pitch-shifted vocals, sporadic drum booms, bits of hiss, and the sound of a sword being unsheathed run through “Sword,” a stubbornly fragile track by singer Ana Roxanne and producer DJ Python . They have teamed up as Natural Wonder Beauty Concept for an album due out July 14th. “Sword” is at once transparent and elusive, with barely intelligible lyrics – “Everyone will get through it”, Roxanne Kirt – and a willingness to adapt everything; the final section lowers and slows down each element, but remains puzzling. PEARLES

Ben Chasny records as Six Organs of Admittance; Rick Tomlinson records as Voice of the Seven Woods, among others. Both like minimalistic repetition and gradual unfolding, and in 2017 they made an album of duets. “Waking of Insects” was recorded live, just two acoustic guitars. They share interlocking fingerpicked patterns and, with moments of dissonance, push each other into new ones, very gradually making their way from fast, fluttering interplay to spinning tranquility. PEARLES

About the author