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Top picks from a bountiful week of new music

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

Each Friday brings lots of new music, but this past week brought what may be the biggest crop of the year so far. We've got new albums from Metallica, The Tallest Man On Earth, Chief Keef, Feist and more. So to help us wade through all of it, we asked NPR Music's Stephen Thompson to bring a couple of his favorites. Stephen, welcome.

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Hey, Elissa.

NADWORNY: So we just mentioned Feist. She's got a new album out called "Multitudes," and I know you're a big fan. Let's hear a little bit of the song "Of Womankind."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OF WOMANKIND")

FEIST: (Singing) Of womankind. I knew it, but it took a while. I tried to try and fix the past, a task you cannot hope to do. And I commiserate with you who made the parallel mistakes that add up to our graying braids. Climb above the mountainside. Protest songs are in our eyes. We'll lift up like a flock of birds.

NADWORNY: Tell me what you're hearing there.

THOMPSON: Well, what I'm hearing is an artist who is so confident in what she's doing that she's able to build all of this air and all of this space into her arrangements. And so, you know, she's always been very, very good at kind of layering her own voice on top of itself in intriguing ways. But this record - the first time I heard it, I just let it wash over me. I just let the sound of this record wash over me because it is so soothing and so beautiful and so carefully arranged that I just kind of swam around in it and didn't really even, like, listen very closely to some of the stuff that she's saying in it.

And then you start to kind of pick apart her songcraft and her lyrics and then kind of read about where she's coming from with this record. Like, a few years ago, she adopted a child, and then immediately, the pandemic happened, which - parenting is hard enough as it is. And shortly thereafter, her father died. And so she's standing at this crossroads of birth and death, in a way. And she's looking at life in these really thoughtful and interesting ways. And then she wrote a record about it. Feist is known for, you know, songs like "1234" and "I Feel It All," these kind of light, lilting, buoyant songs. And there's a little bit of that on this record, too. Let's hear a little bit of the song "Borrow Trouble."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BORROW TROUBLE")

FEIST: (Singing) Even before your eyes are open, the plot has thickened 'round your fear. We borrow trouble. Seems we all know how. It's an expression from the old days.

NADWORNY: I got the foot tapping. I'm here.

THOMPSON: Yeah, there's still a certain kind of buoyancy to her sound. If you got into her with kind of those early singles, she's still making music that has a certain sway to it, but everything just feels deeper and richer throughout this record. This is going to be one of my favorite albums of 2023, and I'm so excited.

NADWORNY: It's only April.

THOMPSON: It's only April. Man, you know, you got to think about this stuff 12 months a year. You can't just...

NADWORNY: (Laughter)

THOMPSON: You can't just line up at the end of the year and be like, what did I listen to?

NADWORNY: That's true. That's true. So should we stay with Feist, or you want to go elsewhere?

THOMPSON: Let's go to Black Thought.

NADWORNY: Ooh, OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLACK THOUGHT SONG, "PROTOCOL")

NADWORNY: This is the new album, called "Glorious Game," right? It's the rapper Black Thought from The Roots, called El Michels Affair.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PROTOCOL")

BLACK THOUGHT: (Rapping) Where every time I lift my ship up off the ground, it's landed to my disadvantage, though maybe I am but a gambit and held to another standard.

NADWORNY: All right. What are you thinking?

THOMPSON: OK. So Black Thought has been one of the absolute best rappers in the business for 30 years, right? Like, the first Roots record came out in 1993, 30 years ago. And he's been making amazing music ever since, rapping over a live band. And that's - you know, that's his specialty. This time, he's working with a soul band called the El Michels Affair. And it's, like, you know, this big band. They call their sound cinematic soul, which I think describes it perfectly. It's, like, really great movie scores.

So they're providing this dense, rich, soulful sound that give Black Thought space to lay down - no pun intended - thought after thought after thought, you know, just ideas upon ideas, upon ideas. And if you've ever watched, like, the viral video of Black Thought rapping on Hot 97, Funkmaster Flex asks him to freestyle, and Black Thought goes for 10 minutes, just, like, off the top of his head. And it's not just rhyming. It's like, it's got rhymes within rhymes. And the rhythms and cadences are exactly right. And you're just like, how does this guy's brain work this way? And listening to the album, you even heard it just in that little sample. You're just immediately in the pocket with him.

NADWORNY: OK. Let's listen to some more of that, then - a song called "Grateful."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRATEFUL")

BLACK THOUGHT: (Rapping) Three for the money, two for the hustle and one for the night time spread over the city like a comforter, prime time for the predators who come to hunt for the chumps.

NADWORNY: OK. Well, you've certainly, like, given me so much to listen to for, like, the next, I don't know, weeks and weeks and weeks. I love this.

THOMPSON: Yeah. I'm going to be listening to both these albums over and over again in the coming weeks. But, you know, there'll be a whole new wave of music the next Friday.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRATEFUL")

BLACK THOUGHT: (Rapping) Out of respect for the dead, the names is changed. When whoopie pie lit in his wig, his aim was flames.

NADWORNY: Stephen Thompson, you are the guest host of this week's episode of New Music Friday from All Songs Considered. If you want to hear more of his picks, you can go to nprmusic.org. Stephen, thank you so much for being here.

THOMPSON: Any time, Elissa. Thanks so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRATEFUL")

BLACK THOUGHT: (Vocalizing). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)