Music

First Aid Kit's stunning tribute to Leonard Cohen, and 4 more songs you need to hear this week

Fresh Canadian tracks to add to your playlist right now.

Fresh Canadian tracks to add to your playlist right now

In 2017, Swedish duo First Aid Kit organized a theatrical staging of Leonard Cohen's songs, poems and letters as a tribute to the Canadian musician. Five years later, they have released a recording of that night's performance. (Olof Ringmar)

Here at CBC Music, we're always on high alert for new songs by Canadian artists.

This week, we're listening to new tracks from:

  • Cupidon, Kallitechnis and Ric Wilson.
  • First Aid Kit.
  • Rochelle Jordan.
  • Justin Bieber with Beam.
  • Yu Su remixing Gong Gong Gong.

Scroll down to find out why you need to listen, too.

What new Canadian tunes are you currently obsessed with? Share them with us on Twitter @CBCMusic.

Hit play on our Songs You Need to Hear stream, filled with songs that CBC Music's producers have chosen for their playlists, and tune into CBC Music Mornings every Thursday to hear CBC Music's Jess Huddleston and Saroja Coelho reveal the standout new Canadian song.


'Wake up, get Down,' Cupidon, Kallitechnis, Ric Wilson

There's so much chemistry among the various parties converging on this smooth, joyful and generously proportioned new dance track, you'd never guess it was produced COVID-style, its components coming together virtually. But such is life in 2021 and these artists are making the most of it.

German duo Cupidon bring their chill-hop skills to the table, providing a throbbing beat and brilliant touches of vintage organ and punchy brass effects. After hilariously clearing his throat, Ric Wilson launches into a crisply delivered rap verse that touches on discrimination ("I was born in the '90s, but racist-ass views from the '60s try to bite me") before commenting on the danceable beat that enfolds him: "Are you stiff as a mannequin? You either join the wave or just damage it." And is there a voice that falls so easily on the ear as that of Montreal's Kallitechnis? Effortless, stylish and ready to crank up the intensity, as she does at the 3:50 mark to usher the song out. — Robert Rowat

'Suzanne' (Leonard Cohen cover), First Aid Kit

Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, a.k.a. folk duo First Aid Kit, have long been Leonard Cohen fans, having been introduced to his work by Conor Oberst as teenagers starting their career. When Cohen died in 2016, the sisters organized a theatrical staging of his songs, poems and letters as a tribute, performing Cohen's work at Stockholm's Royal Dramatic Theatre in March 2017 with guest artists, an eight-piece band, two actors and a 20-person choir. The two have recently released a recording of the night's performance, titled Who by Fire: Live Tribute to Leonard Cohen, and it is a gorgeous, 20-track tribute to the poet and songwriter. Lead single "Suzanne" is maybe an obvious place to start, but it's too stunning to overlook. Sung over delicate xylophone and acoustic guitar, Klara and Johanna's harmonies are exquisite, as the sisters lovingly give the lyrics new breath while leaving Cohen's original fingerprint intact. It's a must-listen for any Cohen — or First Aid Kit fan. — Holly Gordon

'Something,' Rochelle Jordan

It's been seven years since Rochelle Jordan's last album, and the array of tracks released so far from her upcoming Play With the Changes has hinted at an exciting broadening of sonic explorations. From the jack swing influence on "All Along" to the slick dance floor sheen of "Got Em," Jordan's singles have been a great source of energy, fuelling our playlists for months now. On her latest, "Something," Jordan says she's embracing a more nonchalant mindset. "I took a bit of time in 2016 to reflect back on my previous project and realized I had been sitting in the more emotional side of myself," she admits, in a press release, "and was speaking to being hurt a lot." "Something" finds Jordan not worrying about the details of a burgeoning romance, instead letting things fall into place naturally. "Am I falling in love? It feels so right," she ponders over a disjointed electronic beat courtesy of longtime collaborator Machinedrum. But ultimately, she leaves it be, concluding breezily, "It could be something/ or nothing, nothing." — Melody Lau 

'Freedom,' Justin Bieber with Beam

Justin Bieber regularly includes Christian lyrics in his music, but Freedom, the six-song EP he released on Easter weekend, is his first sacred music collection. Its title track is the most appealing, both musically and lyrically. "Freedom" has a dancehall beat that contains echoes of Pharrell Williams' song of the same name as well as Drake's "Passionfruit." In the chorus, Bieber's voice is a ray of light, repeating the phrase "Freedom, don't it feel good?" while a sample that sounds like a cuíca bubbles beneath the surface. Beam, the son of dancehall legend Papa San, fills his verse with references to Jamaican Easter traditions ("Easter Sunday, bun and cheese/ Good Friday fish and Barney") using a combination of Patois and English. The song's message is that of the Passion, and whether or not that holds meaning for you, there's no question that it's delivered here with genuine conviction and authenticity. — RR

'Some Kind of Demon 某一種惡魔 (Yu Su Midnight Express Dub),' Gong Gong Gong 

In 2019, CBC Music named Gong Gong Gong one of the most exciting Canadian breakouts of the year. Their combination of post-punk minimalism and songs sung in Cantonese felt like the creation of a new sound, one that didn't adhere to traditions in North America nor in China, where they are sometimes based. It has now been two years since their debut album, Phantom Rhythm, and they are following it up this year with a remix project, a perhaps unlikely but perfect next step for Gong Gong Gong. 

Featuring a group of curated China-connected producers, Phantom Rhythm Remixed further erases the borders of their sound, and given the spaciousness of the original tracks, these songs are ripe for remixers. Case in point: electronic musician Yu Su's take on "Some Kind of Demon 某一種惡魔." For an act that doesn't have a proper drummer, Yu Su's inclusion of a drum machine and synth flourishes is subtle but beautifully fills in the gaps that were already there. The result helps the track chug along at an even smoother pace, summoning a late-night vibe that is accompanied by a music video made up of old concert footage from the band's 2018 China tours. Phantom Rhythm Remixed drops on June 25. — ML 

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