Sleater-Kinney to Japandroids: 8 songs you need to hear this week

Our producers pick the songs you shouldn't miss.
Sleater-Kinney is releasing a new live album in 2017. (Supplied by the artist)

Each week, staff from CBC Music, Radio 2, 3 and CBC regions across the country collect songs they just can't get out of their heads, and make a case for why you should listen, too. Press play below and discover new songs for your listening list.

Let us know in the comments or via @CBCMusic what catches your ear, or if you have a new song you just can't stop playing.

Sleater-Kinney, 'Surface Envy'

This is the first single from the band's forthcoming Live in Paris album (originally from 2015's No Cities to Love), and it's one of the best and most empowering friendship anthems of the band's career. Corin Tucker's lead vocals are voracious and visceral, gutsy and inspiring as ever, and when Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss join in on the fists-up chorus — "We win, we lose/ only together do we break the rules!" — it's a vital affirmation of women's friendships as fierce and formidable agents of change.

— Andrea Warner (@_AndreaWarner)

Jens Lekman, 'What's That Perfume That You Wear?'

Jens Lekman is far better at describing smells than I will ever be. The proof is in his newest single, "What's That Perfume You Wear?", an upbeat steel-drum number that recalls the hyper-specific scent of an ex. "And it smells so good/ that sandalwood/ the lavender/ lemon ginger/ but I guess I still love her," he sings over a sample of Ralph MacDonald's "The Path". Lekman relishes in the scent and nostalgia of it all but it's ultimately a bittersweet melody because, as he says, "She's gone forever." It's the sharpness of Lekman's memories that drives home that pang in our hearts.

— Melody Lau (@melodylamb)

Japandroids, 'No Known Drink or Drug'

The second single and penultimate track off the Vancouver band's highly anticipated new album, Near to the Wild Heart of Life, is likely the closest it'll come to an acoustic ballad (made all the more poignant by the lack of acoustic guitars). It's a love song performed during the comedown of a speedball — the vocals dulled, the choir lulled. "No known drink and no known drug could ever hold a candle to your love," repeats vocalist Brian King ad nauseum as the music fades out. A haunting farewell as life's credits roll.

— Jonathan Dekel (@jondekel)

Run the Jewels, 'Call Ticketron'

When Run the Jewels released its second album in 2014, it was an unexpected runaway success. The combination of Killer Mike and El-P proved to be explosive: political, angry, sometimes funny, and completely in the zeitgeist. Fast forward to 2017: Trump is about to become president, and everything Killer Mike and El-P addressed on their last album — racism, violence, the militarization of the police state — has intensified in America.

Run the Jewels 3 reacts by being angrier, gloomier and even more relentlessly intense than its predecessor. "Call Ticketron" opens with a beat that sounds like a helicopter hovering immediately above your house. It feels like something is coming for you. There's something faceless and creepy about the Ticketron "Live from the Garden" sample when juxtaposed against the anxiety-inducing beat and frenzied pace of El-P and Killer Mike's rhymes about looting and blood on the ground. How could you be thinking about buying tickets to be entertained, when the world has descended into chaos around you?

— Raina Douris (@RahRahRaina)

Editor's note: strong language warning.

Julien Baker, 'Funeral Pyre'

Julien Baker put out her now critically acclaimed debut record, Sprained Ankle, on her own via Bandcamp before 6131 Records gave it an official release in October 2015, and this month marks the next big step: the Tennessean just signed to Matador Records for her second release, and put out "Funeral Pyre" in celebration (as much as a trademark Julien Baker sad-song can be celebratory). Over a finger-picked melody, Baker's creeping powerhouse voice laments the death of a relationship, admitting, "But I would have stayed, if you had asked me to." The song swells and sways in a rhythm only Baker seems capable of accurately matching to a broken heart. "Funeral Pyre" has been on her live show setlist for 2016, but this month marks its official release.

— Holly Gordon (@hollygowritely)

Alicia Keys and Kaytranada, 'Sweet F'in Love'

It's been only a few months since Alicia Keys released her new album, Here, arguably one of her finest full-length efforts in years. It's really worth your time to check out the artistic growth and burgeoning commitment to addressing social injustices in her music on display on that release, but in case Keys wasn't on your radar recently, she's just issued "Sweet F'in Love", which proves her recent listening habits include Montreal's Polaris Music Prize winner Kaytranada.

Keys digs in Kaytra's crates to unearth "Hot Jazzy Belle" from his 2013 Kaytra Todo EP release, adding her own vocal take. If the slightly ribald title doesn't make you sit up and take notice, Kaytranada's ornate ivory-tickling sample — which changes speed on the beat drop after a delicate intro — definitely will. Keys delivers a whispery and sensual performance that eschews the powerhouse vocals of which we know she's capable, and it absolutely fits the song's mood and vibe. Hopefully this is a sign that more collaborations with A-list stars are on Kaytranada's horizon.

— Del F. Cowie (@vibesandstuff)

Editor's note: strong language warning.

Snakehips feat. MØ, 'Don't Leave'

The British production duo Snakehips are back with another single in collaboration with Danish singer MØ. The track is an emotive plea called "Don't Leave", a slow but hard-hitting song with the perfect mix of R&B and synths over MØ's powerful voice. You may recognize MØ's vocals, as she's been featured on a string of hits including Major Lazer's "Lean On" and Justin Bieber's "Cold Water". If the success of those hits are any reflection, "Don't Leave" is next up to fly high on the charts.

— Kiah Welsh (@simplykiah)

Editor's note: strong language warning.

Mr. Tophat and Robyn, 'Right Time'

Robyn is doing whatever she wants with whoever she wants. Going on a sonic joyride, drop top, wind in her hair. Sometimes she's driving, sometimes she's riding shotgun, but someone different is always welcome along for the ride. Far from rushing to release another solo album, Robyn has decided to continue binging on the creativity that comes from collaboration. This time she teams up with a fellow Swede, producer Mr. Tophat, for a joint EP due out on Jan. 13. It's called Trust Me, and that is where you will find this pulsating, nine-minute long track, sparse on the vocals from Robyn, which echo in a trance-like fashion. Perfect for that time of night when a barren dance floor holds no fear. Just you and the music, dizzy as the disco lights that swirl all around on the concrete ground.

— Angeline Tetteh-Wayoe (@MissAngelineTW)


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