Suuns, Iskwé, Black Atlass and more: Songs you need to hear this week
Each week, CBC Music producers come together to highlight Canada's best new tracks.
This week, we have songs from Montreal band Suuns, experimental rockers Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Toronto post-punk group FRIGS and more. Scroll down to find out why you need to hear them.
What are some Canadian tunes you're currently obsessed with? Share them with us on Twitter @CBCMusic.
'Make it Real', Suuns
"It's the same, same," Ben Shemie sings on Suuns' new track, "Make it Real". The Montreal band is going in circles on the song, around and around in a synth loop that forms a meditative core. Combined with the kaleidoscopic music video, "Make it Real" is an entrancing experience, comforting you with the repetition of this "feeling" Shemie keeps singing about as pixels collapse to reveal a bright, blue sky. It's beautiful, understated and once it's over, you'll want to hit replay immediately.
— Melody Lau
'Hungry Ghost', Yamantaka // Sonic Titan
Nearly a month ahead of its third album Dirt, experimental Montreal collective Yamantaka // Sonic Titan's latest single "Hungry Ghost" is a relentless, four-and-a-half-minute spiral into the group's eerie, fantastical universe. Starting with airy vocals, the track quickly shifts from light to weighty, combining wild horns and ferocious guitars to brew the kind of sonic storm that only Yamantaka // Sonic Titan can.
— Jess Huddleston
'The Unforgotten', Iskwé feat. Tanya Tagaq
When Hamilton-via-Winnipeg singer-songwriter Iskwé teased her new single on Facebook, we knew to expect something powerful. Her voice rang out atop stirring communal chanting, and a 30-second snippet wasn't nearly enough. One week later, we got the full version of "The Unforgotten": a powerful anthem of hope borne of Buffy Sainte-Marie's protest and activist music but with a voice and sound distinctly Iskwé's own — at times alongside the voice of Tanya Tagaq.
"In the wake of the 150 years celebrations, I felt it was important to remind everyone that while celebrating each of the wonderful things that make Canada a beautiful and unique place to live, it's important we remember, honour and acknowledge our darker corners as well," Iskwé explained with the release of the track. "I'm proud of who we are, as Indigenous people. I'm proud of what we've fought for, and how we continue to fight for our culture, our languages, our children, our women, our men, our Earth and our water. But I'm also proud of all my non-Indigenous family and friends who continue to fight along with us. This song is for all of us. Let's all dance together!"
— Holly Gordon
Watch Iskwé perform the song in her CBC Music First Play Live:
'My Life', Black Atlass
These are exciting times for Montreal-born, Los Angeles-based neo-soul musician Alex Fleming, a.k.a. Black Atlass. He's the latest artist to be signed by the Weeknd's label, XO, for whom Fleming has just dropped his first single, "My Life", a seductive reflection on love and isolation: "Living on the edge of a dream/ living on the other side of a screen." There's no mistaking the label's influence on the Black Atlass sound — the bedroom vibe and Fleming's febrile vocals bring the Weeknd immediately to mind — but rather than boxing him in, these fresh surroundings have given him a new expressive lane.
— Robert Rowat
'Solid State', FRIGS
For years, Toronto post-punk band FRIGS have been hard at work, refining their sound at live shows, and it looks like they've landed on something polished and confident for their debut album, Basic Behaviour. "Solid State" is the second single to drop from that album, a stream-of-consciousness act of meditation for lead singer Bria Salmena. Thoughts race through Salmena's mind as she tosses out lines about seeing a shrink and trying to be light-hearted. She delivers this in a spoken-word style that fights through the track's rumbling bass line, slicing riffs and pounding drumbeat. We can't wait to see what else the band has to offer on its upcoming album. — ML
'Honour Song', Jeremy Dutcher
Last year, Jeremy Dutcher unleashed his debut single, "Honour Song", a three minute-long jolt of lightning, zapping the listener awake and into a new kind of consciousness where traditional Indigenous music is the backbone of a stomping, electrifying, genre and era-defying song. Now, Dutcher has delivered a powerful and painfully timely video to accompany "Honour Song", which pulls from real, archival footage of the 2013 confrontation between heavily armed police and peaceful Indigenous protesters at Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick.
The incident is at the heart of Dutcher's song, which he explained via a statement on Revolutions Per Minute: "George Paul's 'Honor Song' was lifted up during these protests as an anthem for the people. It has been and will continue to be an invocation for the nations to gather and support each other in our mutual goal of protecting the land we have sprung from. This track is all about lateral love — respecting our Indigeneity and helping each other; so let's get to it."
— Andrea Warner
'Don't Tell Her That You Love Her', the Heat Death
Shotgun Jimmie is a busy guy. When he's not constantly on the road with friends like Daniel Romano and Steven Lambke, he fills his time cranking out an impressive amount of music. Now, he has teamed up with By Divine Right's José Contreras for another project: the Heat Death. On "Don't Tell Her That You Love Her", which was released as a sort of Valentine's Day gift for fans, Shotgun Jimmie gives new lovers a little piece of advice: don't rush into things. They're wise words, but funny when put against the track's breakneck rhythms and Jimmie's speedy delivery, like he can't wait to get his feelings out. The rest of the Heat Death's new album takes its time to unfold, but this song is a snappy gateway into an exciting new band. — ML
'Lovers in Love', Lindi Ortega
Alt-country singer Lindi Ortega released a spaghetti western-inspired track titled "The Comeback Kid" earlier this month, effectively announcing her upcoming three-part concept record. But it's her Valentine's Day track that's gotten us a bit sappy, featuring the harmonica work of Country Hall of Famer and Grammy-winning session musician Charlie McCoy. "Some leave, some stay, when the going gets tough/ that's the difference between lovers and lovers in love," sings the newly married Ortega on the hopeful, twangy track. Liberty will be released March 30, with half of the 12 tracks written by Ortega, and the other half written with John Paul White (the Civil Wars), Bruce Wallace and Aaron Raitiere. — HG
'You Don't Own Me', Whitney Rose
Texas transplant Whitney Rose reveals a new side of herself — the "I have no time for your bullshit" side — with her fearless cover of Leslie Gore's 1963 anthem "You Don't Own Me". Rose milks the magic of a slow build with this twangy spin, allowing her gentle coo to promenade forward before unleashing arguably her most heroic vocals yet as she howls the famous closing lines, "I'm young and I love to be young/ I'm free and I love to be free." While it's hard not to shake your head at the shocking relevance of this song's message 55 years after its inception, Rose's brave re-ignition is necessary and praiseworthy. — JH
'I Was in New York', Shy Kids
There's a lot to love about Shy Kids' amble through the Big Apple in their new song and accompanying music video, "I Was in New York." It unfolds like a three-act play, meandering and musing over the piano keys and the ebb and flow of strings, saxophone and guitar. It's confident, effortlessly cool in a low-key way, and packed with surprises — a perfect night to look back on and say, "I was in New York." The Toronto band's new album, In a State, drops Friday, Feb. 23. — AW