August Music Preview: 11 albums you need to hear this month

New albums from Arkells, Céline Dion, SonReal and more.
Celine Dion performs onstage during the 2016 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Kevin Winter)

Every month, we look ahead at the albums coming out from across the country that we think you should hear. This month we have new albums by the Pack A.D., Arkells, Charlotte Day Wilson, Céline Dion, SonReal and more. Read on for the details and tracks from each upcoming release.

Who: St-Eugene
What: St-Eugene
When: Aug. 3

Why you need to listen: The debut record from the six-piece folk-rock band hailing from Montreal's South Shore, St-Eugene came to fruition when a group of longtime high school friends rented an abandoned studio and set out to create songs and record for the first time. The result is an incredible, eight-song collection that is simply stunning, top to bottom. These kinds of records get me excited, as it's this level of musicianship that I spend hours seeking every day. As the vocalist sings on "Climbing Mountains," the first track,"Can anybody hear me?" The answer is yes, and hopefully we'll hear a lot more from these guys in the coming years. — Matt Fisher

Who: Arkells
What: Morning Report
When: Aug. 5

Why you need to listen: When Arkells set out to make a followup to their highly successful 2014 album, High Noon, they sought to go back to their roots, the hard-working rock band with working-class songs that could turn any sweaty old dive bar into a party. But in going back to those roots, they also embraced another side of their personality, the side of the band that still, although rarely, performs all Motown covers sets. On Morning Report, all their influences come together — rock, soul, gospel and pop — from the opening notes of the Memphis-tinged "Drake's Dad" to the somber closing piano ballad "Hangs the Moon." It's less a return to their Jackson Square days, and more of a look at how far they've come since. — Jesse Kinos-Goodin

Who: Haley Bonar
What: Impossible Dream
When: Aug. 5

Why you need to listen: Brandon, Manitoba-born, Minnesota-based Haley Bonar has been releasing albums since she was 18, and on Impossible Dream, her seventh, the singer's lyrics cast some sharp side eye on the myth that anyone ever finishes seeking their best selves. "Not my first rodeo now," Bonar sings on "Kismet Kill," the album's lead single, a song that has her looking back and admitting that what she thought was right years ago isn't necessarily right for her now. Impossible Dream moves from blistering alt-country ("Called You Queen," "Blue Diamonds Fall") to swaying, gritty folk ("Hometown," "I Can Change"), and it's an album you'll want to listen to for its sound as much as its life. — Holly Gordon

Who: the Pack. A.D.

What: Positive Thinking
When: Aug. 12

Why you need to listen: The mighty Vancouver duo gets back to its roots on this album, and it feels good. Positive Thinking contains pretty much everything we want to hear out of a Pack A.D. record, from pounding drums to driving guitars to growling vocals, all sprinkled with an unrelenting, take-no-prisoners attitude. Engineered by Jesse Ganders (White Lung, Bison and Japandroids), this is the rock album you need to get you through the summer of 2016, especially if it involves a little tailgating or some good old-fashioned hangouts at the beach. — Andrea Gin

Who: SonReal
What: The Name
When: Aug. 12

Why you need to listen: SonReal's latest five-song EP release is set to keep the momentum he's been generating over the past few years, driven by his assured rhyming, penchant for hooky choruses and relentlessly quirky music videos. On the evidence of the viral spread of lead single "Can I Get a Witness," the Vernon, B.C., artist is clearly on the right path to making sure you don't forget the name SonReal. — Del Cowie

Who: Brendan Canning
What: Home Wrecking Years
When: Aug. 12

Why you need to listen: While news broke recently that Toronto collective Broken Social Scene is back in the studio to record a followup to its 2010 album, Forgiveness Rock Record, cofounder Brendan Canning has his own solo record to put out in the meantime. Home Wrecking Years is Canning's third solo album, coming three years after the release of You Gots 2 Chill, and fans can check out single "Book it to Fresno" now, a raucously layered number that finds Canning's echoing voice soaring above a charging bass rhythm, horns and ticking hi-hats. — Melody Lau

Who: Tory Lanez
What: I Told You
When: Aug. 19

Why you should listen: Tory Lanez is finally having his moment. He's released 15 mixtapes since 2009, including two last year, but the Toronto singer/rapper/producer will finally release his debut studio album, Told You, this month. Its lead single, "Say It," was his first song to crack the top 100 charts. If the followup single, "Luv," is any indication — it was produced by Cashmere Cat (Kanye West, Miguel) and Benny Blanco (Rihanna, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber) — then Lanez is definitely headed for bigger things. Tapping into the current wave of Caribbean-influenced hits by artists like Drake and Rihanna, "Luv" flips a dancehall crossover hit from from 1997 and is as catchy as anything currently in the top 10. As Lanez has said over and again, he's gunning for the crown — "hip-hop is a contact sport, I'm here to compete," he told Ebro in the Morning — so don't be surprised if I Told You is the final stroke to make him the next Canadian artist to blow up worldwide. — Jesse Kinos-Goodin

Who: Old Cabin
What: Saturn Return
When: Aug. 26

Why you need to listen: This deceivingly soothing folk record is pitch-perfect for those hazy August days. Whitehorse-based Old Cabin, a.k.a. Jona Barr, recorded his new EP, the followup to his 2013 self-titled full-length, in both Whitehorse and Riverport, N.S., and the six songs feel travelled, though not weary, weaving together guitars, strings and horns in a way that softens the blow of some heavy lyrical material. Barr also gifts us with a jolt of energy on his track "I Got You," which feels Plaskett-inspired and show-ready, so there's a bit of party under the swirling calm. — HG

Who: Twist
What: Spectral
When: Aug. 26

Why you need to listen: Toronto up-and-comer Laura Hermiston, a.k.a. Twist, has spent the past two years shaping the tracks that would make up her debut album, Spectral, which will finally be released on Aug. 26. Teaming up with Holy F--k's Brian Borcherdt on the production side of things, as well as a number of guest contributions from Crocodiles' Charles Rowell and Courtney Love bandmate Jenny Vee, Twist's guitar-heavy, '80s-influenced pop tunes are crunchy earworms that will ensure you end your summer with a bang. — ML

Who: Charlotte Day Wilson
What: CDW
When: Aug. 26

Why you need to listen: Charlotte Day Wilson's confident voice will stun you to stillness while making you question whether you're living life right. The 23-year-old Toronto singer/multi-instrumentalist wrote and self-produced her upcoming debut EP, CDW, and on previously released tracks "Work" and "After All," Wilson lets us know that she's ready to do it all. On her newest single, "Find You," Wilson sings, "It's me I was looking for/ now that I can see/ I can find you," giving us a slow jam about finding her love by finding herself first. The track premiered on Zane Lowe's Beats 1, and earlier this year Wilson was featured on BadBadNotGood's standout single, "In Your Eyes," from the band's new album, IV. So far, everything's turning up Charlotte Day Wilson. — HG

Who: Celine Dion
What: Encore un soir
When: Aug. 26

Why you need to listen: This is Dion's first full-length release since the passing of her husband and creative partner, René Angélil, and her first French-language album since 2012's Sans attendre. It's filled with anthems of love and positivity, triumph and survival, and Dion's always at her most powerful and persuasive singing in her first language. Her roster of songwriters is fairly impressive, too: Francis Cabrel and Serge Lama, Zaho, Grand Corps Malade and Marc Dupre. Dion also pays tribute to one of Quebec's favourite sons, Robert Charlebois, with a riveting cover of his classic, "Ordinaire." The title track is a good entry point into the album: it's sentimental and sweeping, but also unfolds in surprising ways, keeping even the most casual of Dion enthusiasts intrigued enough to press play again. — Andrea Warner


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