Basia Bulat, Lennon Stella feat. JP Saxe, and more: songs you need to hear this week
5 fresh Canadian tracks to add to your playlist right now
Each week, CBC Music producers come together to highlight Canada's best new tracks.
This week, while Justin Bieber's new album held us in its thrall, we also got hooked on new songs from Basia Bulat, Whoop-Szo, Tami Neilson, Kallitechnis and Lennon Stella featuring JP Saxe. Scroll down to find out why you need to hear them, too.
What new Canadian tunes are you currently obsessed with? Share them with us on Twitter @CBCMusic.
'Already Forgiven,' Basia Bulat
Something that singer-songwriter Basia Bulat says she has struggled with for most of her life is the idea of forgiveness, to wholly process your feelings and then let go. But "Already Forgiven," the latest single from Bulat's upcoming release, Are You in Love?, doesn't display any of that struggle at all. In fact, it seems to achieve a sense of clarity and transcendence that Bulat may have been searching for all along. When the track starts, Bulat is still holding on to some of that resentment as she admits that it "will take me years to say it," to verbalize her forgiveness. But as the winds move her forward, she eventually finds herself on the other side, singing, "It took me years to say it/ Already forgiven." It's a small gesture cushioned inside a rather quiet song, but the result feels monumental.
— Melody Lau
London, Ontario-based Whoop-Szo released its powerful new album, Warrior Down, at the end of 2019, giving us an impossible-to-categorize, rock-psych-sometimes-folk set of 10 songs that draw on vocalist and lyricist Adam Sturgeon's experience as an Anishinaabe-Canadian, writing about the intergenerational trauma within his family and his Anishinaabe community. "It was really, I think, me battling my own sense of identity, like where I fit in," Sturgeon told q's Tom Power earlier this year. "You know, I'm super passing. I grew up in an urban environment. My family was removed from our culture ... what is my Indigenous identity?"
Today the band's releasing a new video for lead single "Amaruq" (the Inuktitut word for "wolf"), coupling it with a mesmerizing collection of miniature, detailed shots that Sturgeon says are a visual summation of the themes conveyed on the album. "It presents a vision of an Indigenous future, one that defies being molded into the usual narrative of Indigenous identity," Sturgeon wrote via email. "The 'Noble Indian' looks into the mirror of his past and/or present." The song's rolling drums give the track its mid-tempo energy, the guitars and harmonies playing around that unwavering heartbeat until they fuzz out at the short-but-sweet three-minute mark. While there are few lyrics in this album cut, coupled with the video, there's a lot to dig into.
— Holly Gordon
'Golf on TV,' Lennon Stella feat. JP Saxe
We're getting swept up in this emotional duet from Lennon Stella and JP Saxe, which is about being completely content in a stable, drama-free relationship. "I'm done with romanticizing, dysfunction and compromising," sings Saxe, with Stella joining on the lines, "You treat me so well. It's weird, but I love how much I like it." Aversion to monogamy, like watching golf on TV, makes no sense, they assert in the chorus. We'll have to agree to disagree on the golf part, since everyone knows that golf telecasts provide the ideal background for those indispensable weekend afternoon naps. But that minor quibble aside, the song features some striking chord progressions, over which Saxe and Stella's voices harmonize beautifully.
— Robert Rowat
'Queenie, Queenie,' Tami Neilson
"What's a stay-at-home mama do with all that time?" many clueless people have wondered. But on Tami Neilson's latest, "Queenie, Queenie," the Canadian-born, New Zealand-based singer almost laughs off that question with her lengthy list of to-dos. Over spare instrumentation, driven by rhythmic drumming, Neilson repeats the refrain, "Queenie, Queenie, don't drop the ball/ Down come baby, cradle and all," acknowledging the balancing act of taking care of babies, bills, dishes and needy partners. Neilson even throws in an extra hurdle for the women in her field of work: "Mama gotta hustle, do another show/ Because they won't play another lady-o on the radio." As the main chant builds over the two-minute track, it's hard not to feel both the stress and frustration grow, not in Neilson's calm and measured tone but within your own body, ready to smash patriarchal expectations square in the face. — ML
'Untouchable,' Kallitechnis, Carneyval
"I used to care about fitting into a single genre/style, because it's 'easier to market,'" posted Kallitechnis on Facebook recently. "Now, I find power in my versatility." That versatility has found expression in "Untouchable," her first single of 2020 that sees her boldly strutting in a funky new direction with producer Carneyval (a.k.a. William Carney). His pared-down production proves that less can be more, with the addition of each instrument striking the listener as a real moment in the song. It also reinforces the song's message, persuasively sung, that insecurities can stunt your growth, and that to be untouchable, you need to block out all that extraneous noise. — RR