Neil Young, Kathleen Edwards, Pat Lok and more: songs you need to hear this week
6 fresh Canadian tracks to add to your playlist right now
Here at CBC Music, we're always on high alert for new songs by Canadian artists, especially during this time of social isolation, when music continues to provide entertainment, comfort and distraction.
This week, we're listening to new tracks from the Jerry Cans, Kathleen Edwards, Cecile Believe, Pat Lok, Neil Young featuring Emmylou Harris and Levon Helm, and Lennon Stella featuring Charlie Puth. 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.
'Try,' Neil Young feat. Emmylou Harris and Levon Helm
Neil Young will finally release the 1975 studio album Homegrown this year, and the ever-endearing "Try" is the first recorded taste of it. The song, with backing vocals sung by Emmylou Harris and the late Levon Helm on drums, fits nicely into Neil Young's Harvest-era catalogue, and with Young singing, "I'd like to take a chance/ but shit, Mary, I can't dance," that gentle country sway is undeniable. Written during the time he separated from actor Carrie Snodgress, Young delivers a song that is tender and heartbreaking at once, especially considering the line "Shit, Mary, I can't dance" was her mother's favourite catchphrase, according to Rolling Stone. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the release of Homegrown, "Try" has a chorus lead that is weirdly, and perfectly, timed: "And I try to wash my hands." — Holly Gordon
'Swell (my Brother),' the Jerry Cans
"Before the current pandemic, Nunavut has been struggling with a pandemic of its own," the Jerry Cans wrote in the press release for their single "Swell (my Brother)," off their new album, Echoes. The pandemic they're referring to is their region's suicide rate, which is exponentially higher than that in any other province or territory in Canada. Over the course of recording Echoes, the band members lost two of their childhood friends to suicide. The themes of loss and grief can be heard throughout the album, but especially on "Swell (my Brother)," a heart-wrenching number that directly poses the question, "How long must we keep on dying?" But the music refuses to cave under the weight of its grief. Instead, horns burst through like slivers of sunlight, violins slip in like arms wrapped around a person, and its anthemic build near the end comes crashing together like a catharsis. It's emotional, it's beautiful but most importantly, it's galvanizing. — Melody Lau
'Summer Feelings,' Lennon Stella feat. Charlie Puth
Here's a fun, family-friendly disco tune from the soundtrack for the new Warner Bros. animated film Scoob! that seems poised for song-of-the-summer status, much as Justin Timberlake's ebullient "Can't Stop the Feeling," from Trolls, owned the summer of 2016. In "Summer Feelings," Lennon Stella and Charlie Puth have been perfectly cast — vocally, temperamentally — to celebrate summer romance with a funky bass line, finger snaps, and a chorus that boasts an arresting and instantly memorable octave leap in the melodic line. Grab your quarantine posse (even if it's just yourself) and get dancing to this one. — Robert Rowat
'Options Open,' Kathleen Edwards
"For 39 years/ I've been keeping my options open." That chorus is the sweet relief of Kathleen Edwards' return, six years after she announced she was quitting music. Thankfully, that quitting was just a hiatus, and Edwards will release a full-length album — her fifth — on Aug. 14, titled Total Freedom. "Options Open," the lead single on the upcoming album, is a meditation on where life has brought her. (Describing the subject of Total Freedom to Rolling Stone recently, Edwards said: "Life's imperfections and how they all add up to a pretty perfect picture.") A buoyant roots-rock number anchored by a steady drum line, "Options Open" started off as a love song to a former partner but turned into a love song to herself — and we can't wait to hear more. — HG
'Living my Life Over,' Cecile Believe
Musician Caila Thompson-Hannant was a staple on the Montreal music scene for many years, having performed in bands like Think About Life and Shapes and Sizes, as well as releasing albums under her own moniker, Mozart's Sister. But since Mozart's Sister's last album, 2017's Field of Love, Thompson-Hannant has made some drastic changes: a move to Los Angeles, sparking up a collaborative relationship with futurist pop artist Sophie and finally rebranding herself as Cecile Believe.
On Made in Heaven, her debut album as Cecile Believe, Thompson-Hannant pushes ahead with a new brand of "post-genre pop music." The result is a blender full of sounds and influences coming together, guided by Thompson-Hannant's saccharine but soulful voice as she works through transitions, musically and personally. Most of the album was written after she became sober, and songs like the highlight "Living my Life Over" is literally the sound of Thompson-Hannant shuffling forward and clearing the slate as she lays down a new path. "Ooh, living my life over again/ it's like I'm never getting older, yeah," she coos, disregarding the concept of time but instead trying to just live in the moment. — ML
'No one (no One),' Pat Lok
We're irresistibly drawn to the uplifting house music being crafted by producer Pat Lok on his new five-song EP, Gone is Yesterday, out May 15 via fashion/music label Kitsuné. The Vancouver-born, Los Angeles-based artist draws on vintage disco, contemporary neo-soul and a "pan-Asian sonic palette" (his term), the latter especially apparent in "Get Dawn," an instrumental track with pentatonic scales and colourful percussion.
"No one (no One)" was co-written by Chuala Hinricks (a.k.a. Chu), who also provides vocals. Lok says they were "very much inspired by the uplifting tone of classic house records," which you can hear in the stratospheric strings, optimistic lyrics ("Oh, what a day to be living!") and refreshing interludes during which the bass percussion drops out. — RR