Summer 2023 album guide: 16 new releases you need to hear
Featuring new music from Colter Wall, Elisapie, Charlotte Cardin, Kimmortal, Beverly Glenn-Copeland and more
Summer is officially here, and with the new season comes a bevy of new releases from Canadian icons, emerging future icons and everyone in between. The CBC Music producers selected a number of standouts that we expect will be on heavy rotation over the next few months of sun, warmth and enjoyment.
Read on for our guide to the Canadian albums and EPs we think you need to hear for summer 2023.
Album: Lost in Translation
Release date: June 23
Toronto band Valley has had a busy few years following the release of its debut album, 2019's Maybe. Now, after some smaller releases and successful tours (including a stop in Seoul that produced a 2022 live EP), the indie-pop act is finally gearing up for its sophomore album, Lost in Translation. While the band describes its debut as "our teenage diary, our coming-of-age story," this new album represents growth and maturity even if it offers more questions than answers.
Many of the advanced singles explore breakups, such as the bombastic, '80s-tinged "Have a Good Summer (Without Me)" and the delicate "Good, but not Together," two tracks about learning to treasure the good memories and let go gracefully. "Break for You," on the other hand, is an infectious ode to strengthening relationships by opening up to one another instead of holding struggles in for fear of being a burden to others. Valley has always had a keen ear for hooks while delivering lyrics that are heartfelt and honest without veering into Hallmark territory; on Lost in Translation, we're witnessing a band continue to strengthen its sound and identity without ever sacrificing an exuberant chorus. — Melody Lau
Artist: The Nimmons Tribute
Album: Generational, Vol. 2
Release date: June 30
The Nimmons Tribute is a group of colleagues, former students, friends and family of Canadian jazz pioneer Phil Nimmons, who celebrated his 100th birthday on June 3. Clarinetist, composer and leader of Nimmons 'n' Nine (a band that performed weekly on CBC's airwaves back in the day), he won the very first Juno Award for jazz and was involved in building the jazz performance program at the University of Toronto. For those reasons and countless others, the Nimmons Tribute will release Generational, a second album honouring his legacy, following up on 2020's To the Nth.
The album surveys some classic Nimmons tunes, arranged by his grandson, pianist Sean Nimmons, who adds two new compositions of his own to the project. And you just know it'll be first-rate with a roster comprising a who's who of Toronto jazz talent: Kevin Turcotte (trumpet, flugelhorn), Tara Davidson (alto and soprano saxophones, clarinet), Mike Murley (tenor saxophone), William Carn (trombone), Alex Dean (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet), Sean Nimmons (piano, Fender Rhodes piano), Jon Maharaj (bass), Ethan Ardelli (drums) and Heather Bambrick (vocals). — Robert Rowat
Album: Shoebox EP
Release date: July 7
The eclectic single "I Like What I Like" was the first from Vancouver rapper Kimmortal's upcoming Shoebox EP, and the uplifting track is about loving being "queer, brown and non-binary." The message of staying true to oneself has always persisted throughout Kimmortal's music, and the new song hints that the EP likely continues that track record. With personal lyrics that celebrate the 2SLGBTQ+ community and give the middle finger to societal injustice, Kimmortal's clever wordplay has only gotten sharper over the years, and Shoebox will be a measure of just how much they've evolved as an artist. Last year, when speaking about new music, they told Northern News Service Limited what to expect: "This next album is different, because I'm sitting more with my feelings, and not doubting that my feelings — and where I'm at — are important. And so this album feels more personal, and it feels more interpersonal." On "I Like What I Like" they rap that they're "done with trying to people-please," making it clear that being authentically themselves is a driver for the new EP. — Natalie Harmsen
Artist: Colter Wall
Album: Little Songs
Release date: July 14
We've been following Colter Wall since his 2017 self-titled debut album, lured by that smooth baritone and wise-beyond-his-years lyricism. Now, six years later and nearing 30 years old, the Saskatchewan country singer is releasing his fourth studio album called Little Songs — a humble misdirection of a title. It's made up of eight original songs and two covers, one a song from fellow Canadian Ian Tyson, whom Wall described as the "greatest western country singer of all time," and the other from American folk singer Hoyt Axton. "These songs were written over the last three years," Wall described of his original material, via press release. "I penned most of them from home and I think the songs reflect that."
The singer, whose non-musical time is spent working as a cowboy in his home of Battle Creek, is an expert hand at making everyday, rural life accessible to a wider audience, whether the plains feel like home or you've barely stepped outside the city. "If I keep my hands workin'/ it holds off the hurtin'/ for the work is all but true./ But when the day's at a close/ and I'm all alone/ you can guess where my mind wanders to," he laments on the introspective and frank "Corralling the Blues," conversationally singing over an acoustic guitar and punctuating harmonica. A country singer who appeals to non-country folk, Wall connects multiple worlds with a genuineness that is hard won — and often hard to find. — Holly Gordon
Artist: Beverly Glenn-Copeland
Album: The Ones Ahead
Release date: July 28
Beverly Glenn-Copeland has been making music that defies easy definition since the '70s, and although it's difficult to classify what the artist's sound is, there is always an essence to the music that feels rooted in what it means to be human, to ask existential questions and ponder about the impact we leave behind. The Ones Ahead is Glenn-Copeland's first new release in 19 years, and along with merging sonics as disparate as American jazz, Irish fiddle music and West African percussion, it poses big questions about how we as a society can move beyond fraught division and interminable conflict. He is optimistic about that future, saying via press release that, "as the old world crumbles, a new world is waiting to be born. All of our various strengths are needed. The generations of those yet to come are calling us forward."
The nine-track album was recorded in Nova Scotia in 2021, the same year that Glenn-Copeland's seminal 1986 album Keyboard Fantasies was reimagined by the likes of Bon Iver, Jeremy Dutcher and Blood Orange. The Ones Ahead incorporates the same ambient, new age and downtempo sounds existent in Glenn-Copeland's previous offerings while following exciting new paths. On "Africa Calling," the experimentation with West African drums and chanting illustrates an innate desire to connect to his ancestral roots, to address a feeling of displacement caused by the transatlantic slave trade: "In a world still caught in the ties of colonialism, I know I am not alone in needing to heed the call of this generations-old longing." — Kelsey Adams
Artist: Shane Ghostkeeper
Album: Songs for My People
Release date: July 28
For 15 years, Shane Ghostkeeper has led the indie-rock band Ghostkeeper, so it came as a bit of a surprise when he announced that his solo record, Songs for My People, would be a tried-and-true country western album. "The concept of this record is to present, as a gift to my people, an exploration of the country and western and roots records they surrounded me with since childhood," Ghostkeeper said via press release. Songs for My People delivers just that.
It's a deeply heartfelt, twang-filled, narrative-rich ode to Ghostkeeper's familial and musical roots. This is evident from the album's first single, "Hunger Strike," a foot-stomper of a song about heartbreak, grief and the power of love. "If a human being can be gauged by the weight of their love, then my Grandpa was a gravitational anomaly on the verge of supernova," Ghostkeeper said. "A few years after my Grandma passed away, he surrendered to his inconsolable heartbreak and loneliness and declared a hunger strike. With his family by his side and his immense romance, he took his last breath, in peace, on their 68th wedding anniversary." Ghostkeeper balances the devastation with a raucous arrangement, emphasizing the powerful force of his grandparents' love. Songs for My People is a gift to Ghostkeeper's family and community but sharing it with the world is a gift to the rest of us. — Andrea Warner
Artist: Joni Mitchell
Album: Joni Mitchell at Newport
Release date: July 28
Joni Mitchell made headlines last summer with her surprise appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, giving her first full-length performance since 2002. Surrounded by friends onstage, including Brandi Carlile, Allison Russell, Wynonna Judd and Marcus Mumford, Mitchell sang hits like "Big Yellow Taxi," "Both Sides Now" and "A Case of You" seated centre stage in a beret and sunglasses. While video footage can be found online of this magical moment (including Judd notably "ugly crying" during "Both Sides Now"), Rhino Records will soon be releasing an 11-track live album of this show titled Joni Mitchell at Newport featuring liner notes by writer Cameron Crowe. For those who missed out on the Newport set or her latest show at the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington, At Newport is a must-have for any diehard Mitchell fan. — ML
Artist: Nate Husser
Album: Dark Songs to Drive To
Release date: July 2023
Montreal rapper Nate Husser has been revving up his musical output — his upcoming record, Dark Songs to Drive To, will be his third album in three years. Despite a steady stream of releases, Husser has been fervently experimental: his latest track, "Itchy Palms," is both quirky and catchy, while April's "Lemons" is a twisty, exhilarating listen bursting with drill-inspired beats. There's a myriad of sounds on the album, including some arcade-inspired instrumentation and trap beats, and it's Husser's commanding flow that knits it all together. Familiar topics such as growing up in the neighbourhood of Little Burgundy and plotting his ascension crop up throughout, and illustrate Husser's ability to get unabashedly personal. Whether he's ruminating on talking to God or counting cash, Husser gives us storytelling in action on Dark Songs to Drive To with clever lyrics, some seamless collaborations and a gritty energy that immerses listeners in the rapper's world.— NH
Artist: Charlotte Cardin
Album: 99 Nights
Release date: Aug. 25
Charlotte Cardin's 2021 debut album, Phoenix, was a pop gem that won four Junos, a Félix Award, and set the bar very high for future releases. Two years later, her highly anticipated followup, 99 Nights, keeps the momentum going and then pushes a step further, exploding with catchy pop hooks, stunning vocals and infectious melodies. With an anti-party anthem like "Confetti" (a glittering candidate for song of the summer) and earworms like "99 Nights," Cardin cycles through downcast piano ballads and glossy, upbeat love songs. The songwriting is tight and the production is polished — it's truly an album with no skips, every song feeling rock-solid and deserving of a spot on the tracklist. Fans of the Montreal singer will take comfort in Cardin's expertly crafted personal lyricism that's as intimate and relatable as ever, with several tracks shining bright as cry-your-mascara-off-on-the-dance-floor contenders. — NH
Artist: Myst Milano
Album: Beyond the Uncanny Valley
Release date: Aug. 25
Myst Milano's chameleonic ability to master any sound is always thrilling to behold. The Toronto-based MC's followup to 2021's Shapeshyfter dives even deeper into the Black histories of dance music to excavate what they call a "working anthology of Black electronic music across generational, geographical and genre lines." Beyond the Uncanny Valley creates a throughline that connects the African diaspora, from Detroit electro to Chicago footwork, U.K. jungle to Southern hip-hop. The undeniable groove at the heart of the record stems from all those sonic histories coalescing into an innovative, creative explosion. Whether they're rhyming over a slick, bubbling house beat on "Thirteen" or the tinny, space-age production of "Ring Ring," Milano's lyricism is sometimes braggadocious, other times coy, and always disarmingly incisive. — KA
- 'No genre, no gender, no rules': watch Myst Milano bring a larger-than-life performance to The Intro
Artist: Alice Ping Yee Ho
Album: Chinatown (Original Cast Recording)
Release date: Sept. 8
Complete recordings of Canadian operas are a rarity, so we're especially excited for this Leaf Music release of the original cast recording of Chinatown, an opera by composer Alice Ping Yee Ho and librettist Madeleine Thien, produced in collaboration with City Opera Vancouver in 2022. In her notes, Ho points out that it's the first opera in Hoisanese and English, and the first to fuse authentic Chinese folk dialects and cultures into the world of English opera. The story focuses on the pressures put on families by the Federal Exclusion Act in Chinatowns across Canada. The cast of six singers is accompanied by a 10-piece ensemble of mixed Chinese and Western instruments. "It's my goal to capture the magic, heartbreak and emotional stretching of the story in a genuine, moving and communicative music language," says Ho. — RR
Artist: Allison Russell
Album: The Returner
Release date: Sept. 8
I'm a summer dream, I'm a real light beam, I'm worthy,
Of all the goodness and the love that the world's gonna give to me.
Imma give it back 10 times, people, are you ready?
If you think you're alone, hold on, I'm coming.
With the release of "The Returner" this June, Allison Russell announced her second solo album, only two years after her deeply personal debut, Outside Child, blew everyone away and garnered the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist three Grammy nominations and a Juno Award. With that debut, Russell stepped into the spotlight after decades of collaborative projects — she plays in Americana duo Birds of Chicago with husband JT Nero, co-founded Po'Girl alongside the Be Good Tanyas' Trish Klein, and most recently played with banjo quartet Our Native Daughters alongside Rhiannon Giddens — and The Returner is a promise that Russell is giving back more than she's received, which has always felt like her ethos.
"My goal with The Returner – sonically, poetically, and spiritually — is a radical reclamation of the present tense, a real time union of body, mind, and soul," she said via press release. Russell's voice is a force for change, and a welcoming, resoundingly joyful presence. The way the Montreal-raised singer lifts others up — fellow artists and fans alike — is a spiritual experience, no matter your convictions. And as she sings, "Don't you know, don't you know, don't you know, you are never alone," to close off "The Returner," there's no room for doubt. — HG
Artist: Super Duty Tough Work
Album: Paradigm Shift
Release date: Sept. 8
On "Mission Statement," the opening track of Super Duty Tough Work's new album, Paradigm Shift, frontman Brendan Grey warns listeners: "Try to deny us, you gon' feel our wrath like climate change." That's just a taste of the heat that's to come on the Winnipeg hip-hop act's followup to its 2019 Polaris Music Prize longlisted record, Studies in Grey. A group that has become well regarded for its lyrical prowess and politics, Paradigm Shift promises to continue shedding light on our collective problems and downfalls, taking aim at capitalism, billionaire greed and the settler-colonial project known as Canada. But the album's 10 tracks balance revolution with partying, never forgetting to celebrate wins and let moments of joy pick us up from the otherwise crushing weight of reality.
"Our goal is to get folks to realize their shared struggles," Grey said in a statement, "in hopes that that will foster a shared commitment to change and unified movements." Sonically, Super Duty Tough Work also expands its live approach, much of which is inspired and drawn from golden-era hip-hop, to include contemporary sounds like trap hi-hats, house synths and 808 bass pads — all ushered in by Toronto producer Junia-T. With Paradigm Shift, there's no denying Super Duty Tough Work's rightful place in this country's canon of hip-hop greatness. — ML
Release date: Sept. 15
Elisapie's work has always been steeped in connection to her community and hometown of Salluit, Nunavik, but her fourth studio album is a whole new realm of cultural reappropriation and tribute. Technically an album of covers, Inuktitut consists of songs that are deeply attached to the singer-songwriter's formative memories and people from her past. Putting together a tracklist of hits released between the 1960s and the early '90s from artists including Fleetwood Mac ("Sinnatuumait (Dreams)"), Blondie ("Uummati Attanarsimat (Heart of Glass)"), Leonard Cohen ("Taimaa Qimatsiniungimat (Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye)") and the Rolling Stones ("Qimmijuat (Wild Horses)"), Elisapie has given each song a bold new life by translating and adapting each one into Inuktitut.
"Since the end of the late 1980s, suicide has been the biggest epidemic in the Arctic," Elisapie wrote in the press materials for the album, which explain in loving detail how she is attached to each cover. "Everyone in the North is affected by the loss of beautiful souls who cannot adapt to the new 'modern' world. My community lost three boys in a single winter, and among many relatives and friends were my cousins Maakusi, Naujaq, and Tayara. ["Qaisimalaurittuq (Wish You Were Here)" by Pink Floyd] accompanied me through the loss of my cousins and friends. The lyrics take on a heavy, deep meaning when sung in Inuktitut. Yet, revisiting this song in my way gave me a new perspective. The Westerlies [a New York-based brass quartet], offering their arrangements, finally allowed old wounds to heal, and the weight was lifted. And I feel like I can finally let go."
Inuktitut is an incredibly moving project, one that will open your ears to a new interpretation of these classic songs. — HG
A section to highlight some buzzy rumoured releases and shorter projects.
Artist: General Khan
Album: On God
Release date: June 30
A little taste of new music from General Khan, On God, is a three-song EP that was teased on May 26 with the release of the title track, which the Halifax rapper recently told CBC is "about anger and channelling it in a good way." With music that fuses her boom-bap sound and powerful activism, we're hoping that General Khan soon delivers that full-length she hinted at earlier this year. — HG
Release date: July/August
Toronto-based rapper Charmaine released her debut EP, Hood Avant Garde, back in 2021 and it was immediately clear she was a bold and charismatic force to be reckoned with — especially if her episode of The Intro is anything to go by. She has released a slew of singles in the interim, including a remix of her song "Jeez" featuring fellow Toronto rapper Paris Richards. We're always itching for new music from this hip-hop renaissance woman, and luckily her next project is slated for this summer.