Songs you need to hear this week, Polaris Music Prize edition

Listen to recent music from some of this year's shortlisted artists, including Dan Mangan, Aysanabee, Daniel Caesar and Feist.

Listen to recent songs from some of this year's shortlisted artists, including Aysanabee and Feist

Pictured are Daniel Caesar, Aysanabee and Feist, 3 musicians shortlisted for the 2023 Polaris Prize.
Check out the latest songs from Daniel Caesar, Aysanabee, Feist and other 2023 Polaris-shortlisted musicians. (Vladimir Kaminetsky; submitted by Aysanabee; Sarah Melvin and Colby Richardson; design by CBC Music)

Songs you need to hear is CBC Music's weekly list of hot new Canadian tracks.

This week, we're focusing on new music from some of the artists shortlisted for the 2023 Polaris Music Prize.

Scroll down to familiarize yourself with their latest releases ahead of the awards gala on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

'Alone,' Aysanabee

While Aysanabee made his first Polaris shortlist appearance this year with his debut album, Watin, he's not sitting still — and this second summer single comes with the announcement of an upcoming fall EP, titled Here and Now. In keeping with the relationship themes of June's "Somebody Else," "Alone" touches on the unreliability of romantic memory, and how it might make you fight too hard for something that's already lost. "When loving you means losing me/ no matter what I do, I'll be/ alone/ I'll be alone," Aysanabee sings on the back half of the chorus, his powerhouse voice adding unexpected hope atop synths and guitars as he lets go in order to save himself. "This is the first of more records that will explore the impact of colonization on Indigenous love in this country," Aysanabee said via press release, of his upcoming EP. "This country never made me feel worthy of love, and in turn never made me feel worthy of the love of another. Through this record, I wanted to be honest by facing my own fallibilities when it comes to building and keeping relationships." Here and Now will be out Oct. 20 via Ishkōdé Records. — Holly Gordon

'Always,' Daniel Caesar feat. Summer Walker

Daniel Caesar's lane is making soaring, heart-wrenching songs about falling out of love. When duetting with the queen of R&B slow jams, Summer Walker, the two become an invincible love-struck team on a remixed, bonus track version of "Always." Both vocalists softly sing about wanting to stay in a relationship that's ended, while matching each other's earnestness: "If you're with somebody else/ I'll give you time and space/ just know I'm not a phase," they plead on the chorus. The melody builds to an aerial outro that's laced with gospel-like background vocals as Caesar makes his final promise to his ex-love interest: "Always, my love for you ain't goin' nowhere/ always, I will be here." The most woeful moment on the ballad follows that lyric as the music fades out, the last few muted seconds that let listeners know Caesar is still hoping and waiting for another chance, even though his relationship has fizzled. — Natalie Harmsen

'Graveyard (Feist cover),' Jeremy Dutcher 

On Feist's "Graveyard," off her 2011 Polaris Music Prize-winning album Metals, the singer-songwriter's voice gradually builds alongside the track's instrumentation until it reaches a climax where Feist loudly pleads, "Bring them all back to life!" It's an emotional wallop that not many artists can replicate, except for fellow Polaris winner Jeremy Dutcher, who achieves this with delicacy and heart in his newest cover. Accompanied by an incredible choir, which includes James Baley and Lydia Persaud, Dutcher's take is stripped further down to allow everyone's vocals to take centre stage. The result is breathtaking — a powerful display of grief and trying to reach into the afterlife. Feist herself has praised Dutcher's cover, writing on Instagram: "Having an arrangement be able to untangle my attachment to my own words and deliver them back in my own ears as if they're someone's else's.… that's the gift @jdutchermusic gave me with this version." — Melody Lau 

'Just Know It (Felix Cartal's Sunset Remix),' Dan Mangan

I love when a remix not only shines a surprising new light on a great song, but also generously stretches it out. More is definitely more on Felix Cartal's four-minute "sunset remix" of the two-minute-and-14-second "Just Know It," the most-streamed song off Dan Mangan's Polaris-shortlisted Being Somewhere. Set in wistful A-flat major, Mangan's original expresses a certain world-weariness: "Truth hurts," he begins, "and it always shows up dead last when the party's over." On Cartal's remix, however, the party's just getting started. He samples Mangan's "just know it" vocal from the chorus and makes it a mantra; he takes Thomas Bartlett's piano lick and transforms it into a dizzying ostinato, and he lays down a persistent house beat that completely flips the song's script (not to mention the key, to incisive, sparkly E major.) — Robert Rowat

'Run For Cover,' Boogey the Beat feat. Snotty Nose Rez Kids

Anishinaabe DJ and producer Boogey the Beat released his debut album, Cousins, last month, and one of the standout tracks is the hair-raising, dubstep-inflected "Run For Cover." Teaming up with previous collaborators Snotty Nose Rez Kids, the Haisla hip-hop duo paint a picture of being proudly in touch with their roots: "I smell like money, Elon Musk/ Land Back we don't ask for much," Young D raps over heavy bass. The thundering track explodes with energy thanks to Boogey's smooth production and the Rez Kids' fast-paced delivery. "Run For Cover" shares its name with the 1955 western film, which is no coincidence, as Boogey told Enigma that he wanted to subvert how Indigenous people were stereotyped in those movies: "I imagined being in an old-time western movie where the Indigenous people were often represented as the 'bad guys'," he said. "'Run For Cover' portrays a reversal of that trope, with our oppressors and enemies 'running for cover' as we explore what it means to be truly unapologetic with our sounds, words, and spirits." — NH

To hear more about these standout songs, tune in to CBC Music Mornings every Thursday (Canada-wide) with producer Ryan Chung and host Saroja Coelho, and Here and Now with Gill Deacon every Wednesday afternoon (in Toronto). Both are available via CBC Listen.