#NewMusicFriday Nov. 25, 2016: The Weeknd, Rumer, Garth Brooks

The Weeknd returns with his third release and world domination on his mind, while songbird Rumer pays homage to Burt Bacharach and Hal David, claiming our top two slots for this week’s #NewMusicFriday.

The Weeknd – Starboy

Maybe it’s inevitable: success leads nearly every artist to sand the edges off their sound. True, there are exceptions, but not so with Abél Makkonen Tesfaye aka The Weeknd. The darkwave R&B of his original rash of EPs (collected as Trilogy in 2012) is gone. Yet though it will be missed, it’s not the end of the world. Tesfaye as pop star is as exciting as The Weeknd as mysterious underground artist. His breakthrough hit, “Can’t Feel My Face,” was about drugs as much as love, and his Academy Award nomination for “Earned It” was for a movie about S&M (at least, that’s what all those housewives thought). The title portends too many lyrics about fame – yet another inevitably of success – though he tempers it by crafting some of the catchiest tunes of his still young career. And his singing – that sweet tenor that swoops when excited into falsetto – grows stronger by the year. (“False Alarm,” “Starboy feat. Daft Punk”)

Rumer – This Girl’s in Love (A Bacharach & David Songbook)

File under: obvious. Yet now that that’s out of the way, let’s also admit the love this English-Pakistani singer-songwriter showers on these songbook classics. Her debt to Burt Bacharach was evident with 2010 debut Seasons of My Soul, so why shouldn’t RumerSarah Joyce simply drink from the well? She does the work of her spiritual benefactor proud. Yet we should also ask another question here, which is: why should anyone prefer her versions of these chestnuts to those of Dionne Warwick or even The Carpenters? That’s a harder one to reconcile, but listen for yourself and decide. (“What the World Needs Now Is Love,” “(They Long To Be) Close To You”)

Garth Brooks – Gunslinger

The country superstar’s tenth studio release has less corn than usual. The opening riff to “Sugarcane” appropriates Led Zep’s “Custard Pie,” there are synths and pseudo-reggae riddims scattered throughout the hodgepodge “Weekend,” and his general nice guy-ness shines throughout. (“Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance”)

Jamie-Lee Dimes – Liminality

This Australian transplant to New York is full of promise on her debut EP. It’ll be fascinating to hear what she does with her sound – a mesh of Velvet Underground drone with the placid assurance of Lana Del Rey. (“Trouble”)

Sex Swing – Sex Swing

UK underground noisemakers indebted to 1980’s New York no wave noisemakers, P.I.L., and lysergic acid. (“Night Time Worker”)

Young Legionnaire – Zero Worship

Former members of Bloc Party and The Automatic keep alt-rock alive for the youth of the U.K. on superior sophomore release. (“Heart Attack”)

Zayde Wølf – Golden Age

Mainstream radio rock from Dustin Burnett aka Zayde Wølf on an engaging debut record that has breakout potential written all over it. (“Hustler”)

Landing – Complekt

Connecticut Krautrock. Or something like that. (“Complekt”)

Carson Schmidt – Identity

The Facebook page of this young Washington singer-songwriter lists James Blake as an artist he likes and good for him in acknowledging the uncanny similarity. Yet Carson Schmidt’s style is smoother, his voice more angelic. Once the pop music machinery gets hold of him, they can turn him into a salable practitioner of white electro-soul. This debut may be the purest distillation of his formidable talents we will ever have. (“Let Me Down”)

Møme – Panorama

Yet another French DJ – Jérémy Souillart – and another debut. Pretty, tropical, listenable. (“Alive [Møme Vs. Midnight To Monaco]”)

Bears from Labrador – Redoubt

London trio’s latest full of jangly orchestral indie. (“Funeral Train”)

Funeral Suits – Islands Apart

Second – and last, it seems – release by this Irish quartet whose name was inspired by Arcade Fire’s debut Funeral. Too bad, because their gentle electro-indie is more compelling than most of what passes these days. Who knows? If they get some success, maybe they’ll reconsider their decision to disband. (“Tree of Life,” “The Way Back”)