Shay Lia's new tropical pop banger, and 9 more songs you need to hear this week
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.
This week, we're listening to new tracks from:
- Michaël Brun and Shay Lia.
- Clairmont the Second.
- Keeper E.
- Alicia Clara.
- vbnd, Katie Tupper and the Soulmate Collective.
- Kinnie Starr.
- Edwin Raphael.
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.
Hit play on our brand new Songs You Need to Hear stream, filled with songs that CBC Music's producers have chosen for their playlists, and tune into CBC Music Mornings every Thursday to hear CBC Music's Jess Huddleston and Saroja Coehlo reveal which of these tracks is the standout new Canadian song.
'Baby Who,' Michaël Brun, Shay Lia
Shay Lia has been spending the past few months with family in Côte d'Ivoire, but that hasn't prevented the Montreal-based artist from hopping on this slick new single from Latin Grammy-winning Haitian producer Michaël Brun. "Baby Who" is a funky, disco-inflected, tropical pop-oriented jam whose vocal harmonies and bounce recall Doja Cat's "Say So," but with a decidedly cooler sophistication. There's a real moment at the 1:10 mark, when Lia picks things up and starts to flow. "I heard that you been telling all the guys/ you don't really think that I'm the type/ introverted, way too shy," she sings, before setting the record straight in the chorus: "Baby, you don't know who's playin' who." The song will be featured on Brun's new EP, Melanin, due out Feb. 10. — Robert Rowat
'Hands,' Clairmont the Second
Last year, Toronto rapper Clairmont the Second declared that he was done being Toronto's best-kept secret. "I need people to tap into what I'm doing," he told CBC Music. "I need people to ride for me. They're not being loud enough."
"Hands" is Clairmont's first track of 2021, and it's a clear and uncompromising manifesto. "In a league of my own, I'm out here paving a way/ And I don't answer to nobody, people go where I say," he raps over a three-minute stream of consciousness soundtracked by a cinematic soundscape of pianos, flutes and strings. ("Don't try and Google this sample, I'm just a great producer," he interjects later on.) Right before the track whirls off into an extended instrumental outro, Clairmont reminds listeners once again that his days of being underrated are over: "The power's in my hands." — Melody Lau
'Leaf in a River,' Keeper E.
"I'm not a leaf in a river/ I know what I'm here for," Keeper E. reassures on each chorus of her new single, setting her intention afloat over springy synths and twinkling keys. The second ever single from the Halifax-based songwriter, "Leaf in a River" is a buoyant pop song that keeps one eye on life's purpose and one on living in the moment — somewhat competing philosophies, but Keeper E.'s songwriting effortlessly flows from one ("I always liked how you'd kneel down to tie your shoes up/ I'd stand and look at your hair") to the other ("I wonder how far I can walk before I tire/ I wonder how long I can sing before my throat gets dry"). Her new video is just as charming as the single, as Keeper E. finds herself in different areas of Halifax, shedding quilt after quilt in her blanket-fort metamorphosis. We're excited to find out what Keeper E. is here for. — Holly Gordon
'Stones Like Eyes,' Alicia Clara
Alicia Clara's psychedelic single from her forthcoming debut LP eases back and forth like the surf onto Venice Beach, an image in direct juxtaposition with her frigid New York/Montreal writing environments. Clara's vocal coo mesmerizes throughout "Stones Likes Eyes," sounding somewhere between a dreamy Hope Sandoval and Jessica Pratt, while the harmonies swirl around a charming yacht-rock guitar. The song feels like the inside of a daydream or kaleidoscope — colourful and filled with hypnotic possibilities — which, in the dead of winter, within these same four walls, is just about all I ask for in a four-minute song. — Jess Huddleston
'Shape of It' (harp version), Ouri
The original version of "Shape of It," which was released at the end of 2020 by Montreal-based artist Ouri, was an ornate ode to intimacy and human connection. Framing Ourielle Auvé's voice was a cloud of cello and harp, but on a newly released version and video of the track, the song is stripped down to just Auvé, her harp, and a friend who quietly sits behind her, wrapping their hands around her waist in a sweet embrace. Here, Auvé is pushed to the forefront and the warm and understated subtleties of her voice ring with clarity. Ouri's more electronic side begs for a live audience, and it's something we can't wait to return to when it's safe to again. But for now, "Shape of It" (harp version) is a stunningly quiet revelation that we can happily sit with in the comfort of our own home. — ML
'Slowly Starting to Take Form,' vbnd, Katie Tupper, the Soulmate Collective
Bassist/producer Devon Gunn (a.k.a. vbnd) has been keeping Saskatoon's music scene warm for a few years now with a couple of EPs and a handful of singles that showcase his musicianship and effortless assimilation of jazz, funk, electronica and neo-soul. He also knows to surround himself with great musical friends, and that's the case on this first single to drop ahead of his debut full-length, Scum Funk, due out at the end of April. The bubbly electric piano part with its drunken chromaticism contrasts nicely with Katie Tupper's chill vocals as she sings about readjusting priorities — "Let me take the shoes off of my feet/ and feel the Earth beneath" — while a comforting bass line keeps everything firmly grounded. — RR
'Win or Lose,' Kinnie Starr
Singer, songwriter and filmmaker Kinnie Starr knows how to start a pandemic-era pop song: "Well the world went pop/ and all heads turned at once," she sings, quietly kicking off the first new song since her 2018 album, Keep the Fire. Inspired by a Venn diagram of inaction and issues close to her heart — the climate crisis, Indigenous land rights, concerns within her family — Starr uses a spoonful of sugar pop to make the medicine go down. "It feels like if we all continue not to make real changes — in our families, in our egos, in our habits of consumption, in our treatment of the land and its resources, we all lose," she explained via statement. Over light percussion, uplifting backing vocals, light call-and-response and the spirit of a faint tambourine, Starr gets to the heart of it: "This world's better than the both of us/ whether we win, or we lose." — HG
'Build a Ship,' Elena
The most common feedback I've heard from my 30-something friends who took up with Taylor Swift's two 2020 albums, and the current No. 1 song in the world, Olivia Rodrigo's "drivers license," is that this particular flavour of wistful pop has made them feel like teenagers again. Heartbroken or not, there's some kind of young, dramatic muscle memory that swells while listening to soaring pop balladry — it hurts good, and you keep hitting repeat. London via Berklee College of Music songwriter Elena has found this bittersweet spot with her new single, "Build a Ship," which shifts through at least five melodic stages while her pure, melancholic pop vocals glisten. Like the aforementioned artists, Elena's achingly pretty "Build a Ship" gently coerces you to either feel what you haven't felt since those formative, heavy-hearted years, or what you never allowed yourself to process in the first place. — JH
I should know just what it means to get my heart took,
'Cause when you're walking out the door,
You've got me reeling with my heart shook.
So begins this new dance song from producer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Estevan Falcone (a.k.a. falcxne) that's all about falling (like a domino) hard for someone. True to form, falcxne imports elements of classic disco and funk into his sound — in this case, it's the influence of bands like Kool & the Gang, especially in the magical synthesizer transitions between verses. It's smooth, flawlessly produced and the perfect addition to your home workout playlist. — RR
'Time to Sink,' Edwin Raphael
Montreal singer Edwin Raphael quickly sets the mood on "Time to Sink" with an unhurried electric guitar and his voice — sounding just out of reach, as if underwater — as he sings,"I've been feeling so out of this place/ I've been feeling so foreign." It's the beginning of an anxious spiral, the guitar acting as a live wire, waiting to connect.
"['Time to Sink'] is a place of hopelessness, where it's riddled with anxiety and you can't take it anymore," Raphael explained recently in an interview with CBC Music. "And it's the moment where I'm like, it's time to sink. Just indulge in it, dive in headfirst. You don't know what's going to happen, but let's just go." Raphael indulges by opening up that affecting guitar-vocal pairing to a lush bridge with added horn, guitar and drums. As the song drops back down to its original instrumentation, Raphael returns to those opening lyrics. It's good to revisit the beginning after having let go — especially when it sounds so beautiful. — HG