Kira Isabella, Patrick Watson, Safia Nolin and more: songs you need to hear this week

Here are five new Canadian tracks that grabbed our attention.
Kira Isabella released a 5-song EP titled Side A in November 2018. (Supplied by the artist)

Each week, CBC Music producers come together to highlight Canada's best new tracks.

Fortunately, not all music coming out these days is Christmas-related. This week, new songs from Kira Isabella, Falana, Ria Mae, Her Songs and Patrick Watson featuring Safia Nolin stood out from the crowd of holiday fare. Scroll down to find out why you need to hear them.

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'Mélancolie,' Patrick Watson feat. Safia Nolin

That "Mélancolie" is Patrick Watson and Safia Nolin's first official collaboration feels fitting: the two Montreal-based singer-songwriters are authorities on writing about the sadness of things, while their combined vocals intertwine for a gentle hug to soften the blow. Listing a day of tasks and thoughts — waking up, coffee in hand, reading the news, hoping you don't have a parking ticket, being annoyed by neighbours who have sex too loudly — Watson and Nolin sing almost dreamily of getting away from it all by hiding under your melancholy during these greyest of days. Watson's familiar piano work is understated for the most part, building under the duo's harmonies for an ending that feels like a steel-yourself sigh before winter officially kicks in.

— Holly Gordon

'Just a Phase,' Her Songs

Songwriting by committee is sometimes a risky endeavour, but Her Songs, a collective of female songwriters from around the world, have made it work. The quintet, which includes Canadian bassist/producer Maddie Jay, set itself the challenge of writing and recording an EP in one week, which its members did in August in Los Angeles. "Just a Phase" is the second track to drop in advance of the EP's projected December release, and it's a warm R&B song with an excellent message: "It's just a phase, it's just a minute of your life," goes the chorus. "It's just one day, I'll let my worries fade away." This, too, shall pass, they seem to be saying, while a nice guitar solo plays the song out. (Watch the making-of video here.)

— Robert Rowat

'Ride or Die,' Falana

This time of year is often reserved for reflection and year-end lists, but here's something we can look forward to in 2019: Toronto artist Falana. Back in 2014, Falana, who is now based in Lagos, Nigeria, released an EP of guitar-driven jazz and soul-infused songs. Now, as she gears up for a new EP coming out early next year, Falana returns with "Ride or Die," a track that's brighter and more polished, but still finds her playing with a melting pot of genres and sounds. With elements of Afrobeat, soul, R&B and pop, "Ride or Die" distills everything to a simple framework shaped by a guitar, bass and ticking hi-hat rhythm, as she sings about the desire for intimacy: "It's a cold, cold world/ baby I have told you/ let's keep each other warm, love." Just the sentiment we need for these increasingly cold months.

— Melody Lau

'Stupid Heart,' Kira Isabella

Side A is Kira Isabella's first new collection of music since 2014's award-winning Caffeine & Big Dreams, with three singles we've already heard and two brand new songs. "Stupid Heart" is one of the new tracks, a stripped-down detailing of where a heart can lead you — even if you know it's not worth your time. The (mostly) guitar-and-voice track also best showcases Isabella's standout vocals, which shine brightly on a pop-country banger but in turn are able to really dig in on a gentler song like this one. It's also an interesting progression on an EP that begins with a song about empowerment ("Little Girl") and ends with a troubling concession of what the worst of love might make you do when you're in the thick of it ("I Don't Wanna Know"). We're curious to see what Side B brings in 2019. — HG

'Not at Peace,' Ria Mae

Of course November is the month for remorse and rumination, and what better way to kick yourself when you're down than biding your time in the bittersweet longing for a breakup that probably needed to happen? But with SADs, the upcoming holiday season and the endlessly bone-cold-damp of constantly wet feet, you're just a mess of feelings tucked inside a numb lump, dry-crying into your cereal bowl while you try to figure out what went wrong. Ria Mae knows your pain. "I'm not at peace with this piece of me gone," she sings in the shimmery, keyboard chorus of her excellent new track, "Not at Peace," the third single from her forthcoming EP due out in Spring 2019. Then the beat shifts and it's verse after verse of wistful, low-key pop that's somehow perfect for dancing alone with your regrets, but not alone in life because Ria Mae has been there, too.

— Andrea Warner


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