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music: essential tracks

The Weeknd

The Weeknd; streaming here

A new tune from the rhythm-and-brood cult hero The Weeknd finds our loverman crooning soft, tremulous and with a finger to lips – "Girl I'm just trying to make you numb without a word." The darkly lit song, which lyrically confiscates from the Smiths' Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, is decorated with distant, plinky piano notes. The track precedes the early November release of Trilogy, a remastered package of the Toronto singer's three mixtapes from 2011. Weeknd, for the uninitiated, is Abel Berihun Tesfaye, the Drake-approved artist and deep tweetist who issues enigmatic dispatches: "I don't want to be easy to digest." On Enemy he'd rather be a lady's foe than the friend she imagines he would be. Easy to digest? There are some who just eat this stuff up.

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)
Paul McCartney, from the forthcoming compilation Holidays Rule (Hear Music); streaming here

Do you wonder what goes on behind the doors of the members-only airport lounges? Elite drawing-room crooning from a former Beatle perhaps. A jazzy rendition of a yuletide classic about the torture of edible nuts is done elegantly, with piano, brushed drums and suavely strummed acoustic guitar.

I Don't Believe a Word You Say
Ben Harper (with Charlie Musselwhite), from the forthcoming Get Up! (Stax/Concord); streaming here

The California soul-rocker appropriates the riff from Mountain's Mississippi Queen and commandeers harmonica legend Musselwhite for a barn-burner about mendacity.

Keep Moving Forward
Stevie Wonder; streaming here

The Motown legend endorses momentum, health care for the middle class, Balkan mouth harps and the incumbent President. Our vote? We're charmed but undecided about Wonder's weird and hustling Arabian boogaloo.

The Diplomat
Pig Destroyer, directed by Phil Mucci; see video here

We might call it: Grindcore: A Space Oddity. A stylish video has Kubrickian apes treated to automatic weapons by a disturbing dude in a big, black, time-traveling car. Possibly a comment on Afghanistan and agitators, it's a harrowing view.