Songs you need to hear this week: The Halifax Pop Explosion edition

From Montreal's She-Devils to Toronto's Harrison to Halifax's Not You, our producers pick the songs you need to hear — and acts you need to see — at the Halifax Pop Explosion.
She-Devils perform at this year's Halifax Pop Explosion. (Yulia Zinshtein)

Normally we spend each Tuesday suggesting brand new songs you need to hear. This week, we're doing something different.

Halifax Pop Explosion kicks off tomorrow, Oct. 19, and we spent some time with the lineup, choosing the artists we think you need to hear if you're in town, and singling out tracks from those artists for those of us who sadly can't attend.

From Montreal's She-Devils to Mississauga's John River to Halifax's Not You, here are the songs — and artists — you need to hear from the Halifax Pop Explosion.

Daniel Caesar, 'Death & Taxes'

Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Forum with Lady Wray and BadBadNotGood, 9:35 p.m.

Daniel Caesar is one of the most interesting and exciting young musicians to come out of the current burgeoning hip-hop and R&B scene in Toronto. Interesting, in that rather than follow the safe (i.e., OVO) route and go with woozy, nocturnal R&B, Caesar combines all the music that's inspired him throughout his life, resulting in a soulful blend of R&B, folk, rock, hip-hop and pop. Caesar often plays really clean, classic-sounding piano and guitar melodies while he sings about love, life and religion, making his distinct voice float above the deluge of Drake and Weeknd facsimiles in the city. Exciting, in that he's just really, really good at what he does.

— Jesse Kinos-Goodin (@JesseKG) 

The Highest Order, 'Hurry Down'

Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Seahorse Tavern with Barr Brothers and Laura Sauvage, 11 p.m

As warm as a campfire under a dark, starry sky, "Hurry Down" is the perfect entry point to the psych-country ramble of the Highest Order's latest release, Still Holding. Lead singer Simone Schmidt's voice is mesmerising, a midnight kind of magic that rolls gently through the night toward the first hint of sunrise, and the rest of the band is equally brilliant and low-key about their own genius. The Highest Order put on one of the best shows I've seen this year. I also had the pleasure of interviewing the band's members, and it was one of the most thoughtful conversations I've ever had.

— Andrea Warner (@_AndreaWarner) 

Not You, 'haha'

Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Seahorse Tavern with White Lung, the Yips, Crossed Wires, 11 p.m.

Not You is a newborn Halifax supergroup that started jamming together about a year ago, playing their first show in August and set to release their debut EP, Misty, in March 2017. Made up of Nancy Urich (Dog Day, the Burdochs), Stephanie Johns (the Stolen Minks, Moon), Rebecca Young (Soaking up Jagged, Pastoralia) and Meg Yoshida (Bad Vibrations), the four musicians self-describe as making slippergaze, and what that means for us is sweet-and-hazy '90s indie rock featuring dreamy harmonies and lowercase song names. You can check out "haha" for now, before Misty comes out in full. 

— Holly Gordon (@hollygowritely)

Harrison feat. allie, 'Vertigo'

Friday, Oct. 21, at Reflections with Matty Galaxy, 2 a.m.

From Checkpoint Titanium, Harrison's debut album that dropped last month, "Vertigo" takes the best of '80s synth and funk and drags it — totally grooving — into the contemporary R&B scene currently exploding in Toronto. Along the way, he picks up elements of trip-hop, nu-jazz and neo-soul from the '90s and '00s, adding a personal touch with a sophistication that belies Harrison's age (he's 21.) The combination, abetted by allie's cool vocal delivery, recalls Sade's 1985 megahit, "The Sweetest Taboo," but updated and rearticulated with a richer musical vocabulary.

— Robert Rowat (@rkhr)

Check out CBC Music's session with Harrison — featuring Clairmont the Second, Ryan Hemsworth and more — on our YouTube channel.

She-Devils, 'Where There's No One'

Wednesday, Oct. 19, at Art Bar with Phern, Laps and Programm, 9 p.m. (all ages)

There's something so captivating about the sad, nostalgic sound of the She-Devils' music. "Where There's No One" in particular has a comforting, hypnotic quality that makes you want to listen to it on repeat all day. In fact, it seems like that's the only way you should play it: on a turntable looking out a window on a grey day, with the needle going over and over back to the start. What makes this Montreal duo's sample-heavy dream-pop so spellbinding is the combination of singer Audrey Ann Boucher's vocals — forlorn and timeless — with Kyle Jukka's layers of carefully parsed sound collages. "Where There's No One" has a very cinematic feel, like it would be a fitting background for a dream sequence in a Lynchian-type film. They released a self-titled EP back in January this year, and are currently working on their debut full-length. Their show is happening at Art Bar on Wednesday with Toronto's Programm opening. If you're in the mood for something dark and dramatic, this is a bill you shouldn't miss.

—Andrea Gin (@andreagin)

Laura Sauvage, 'Rubberskin'

Friday, Oct. 22, at the Seahorse Tavern, with the Barr Brothers, the Highest Order and Cactus Flower, 12 a.m.

Laura Sauvage is edging for a spot as queen of the East Coast's sad-song slacker rock. Also known as Vivianne Roy, one-third of New Brunswick's Les Hay Babies, Laura Sauvage started her solo project a few years ago, releasing her debut, Extraordinormal, in spring 2016. Singing in English now, she bounces between cynical and sweet lyrics, with an eye for storytelling detail that'll have you listening into the late hours of the night. "A carton of smokes and a lighter from the Co-op in town/ a 10-minute drive is not enough to let go of that frown," she sings on "Rubberskin," off her full-length debut. A song ultimately about decorating a yard, Laura Sauvage is clearly saying so much more. — HG

John River, 'Hope City II'

Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Forum with Keys N Krates and Grandtheft, 9 p.m.

John River has never been afraid to make passionate statements in his songs. With "Hope City II," he pays homage to his hometown, telling his story as a hungry up-and-coming rapper in Toronto trying to make it on the map: "If Drizzy is the poppa of Toronto then I'm the baby/ because I've been in the crib with blood on my bib."

The song's background track is sampled from Lil Wayne's "Tie My Hands," and River's delivery is undeniably authentic. His rawness is what makes him stand out from the rest. In "Hope City II," he talks about his ongoing grind, and a point in time where both Drake and J. Cole approached him to be on their labels: "Did not sign to Cole and I am not waiting on a deal/ OVO label is great, did not sign to Drake." If there's one thing River knows, it's to be true to his craft by being himself.

— Kiah Welsh (@simplykiah)

BadBadNotGood feat. Kaytranada, 'Lavender'

Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Forum with Lady Wray, Daniel Caesar and Reeny Smith, 10:35 p.m.

Toronto jazz quartet BadBadNotGood has been delving deep into collaborative waters recently. Who knows, they may even link up onstage with Daniel Caesar to perform their collaboration, "Paradise," at Halifax Pop Explosion, given they play the same bill on Oct. 20. On its most recent album, IV, BBNG extends its team spirit to songs with Charlotte Day Wilson, Sam Herring and acclaimed Montreal producer Kaytranada, with whom the band reportedly has dozens of unreleased tracks. BBNG's collaborative production on GoldLink's infectious single "Fall in Love" and "Weight Off" from Kaytranada's Polaris Music Prize-winning 99.9% are two examples of what we might expect to hear from that Toronto-Montreal connection in the future, but "Lavender," from IV, was the first of these collaborations to surface earlier this year. Anchored by some eerily gritty synth work sounding like it was lifted off a late '70s spy movie, the two genre-blurring entities face off on this progressive head-nodder, underlining the fact that BadBadNotGood's intuitively experimental approach to jazz never sacrifices the groove.

— Del Cowie (@vibesandstuff) 

The Barr Brothers, 'Beggar in the Morning'

Friday, Oct. 21, at the Forum with Hey Rosetta!, Royal Canoe and Repartee, 10 p.m.

The music of the Barr Brothers can be dense. Not impenetrably dense, mind you. More like extremely well layered. They combine lyrics and vocals and instrumentation and rhythm and tone, as all good bands do. But they do so in such a way that you hear something different, curious or new with each and every listen. Never boring, the Barr Brothers provoke and entertain every chance they get. One of their most provocative and hypnotic songs, one that still sounds fresh and new every time I hear it, is "Beggar in the Morning." If they're still performing it live, you're in for a treat.

— Judith Lynch (@CBCJudith)


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