Summer 2019 preview: 12 albums you need to hear
From Amelia Curran to Beverly Glenn-Copeland, here are the upcoming Canadian releases we can't wait to hear
It's the season of long, lazy days, dips in the lake and days by the beach — or sweaty afternoons spent in an air-conditioned theatre, whatever floats your literal or figurative boat.
Summer's often a time when album releases slow down, but this year looks like a bit of an anomaly. From Beverly Glenn-Copeland's 2004 re-release to Dizzy's new EP to Rae Spoon's 10th full-length album to Evangeline Gentle's debut, our soundtrack for the next few months is going to have a heavy rotation of new music.
Read on for our guide to the Canadian albums we think you need to hear for summer 2019, listed by release date.
Artist: Girlfriend Material
Album: Cool Car
Release date: July 12
Tokyo Police Club and Hollerado are two of Canada's poppiest rock bands, and their abundance of catchy hooks has spilled over into a new-ish project. Girlfriend Material is led by TPC keyboardist Graham Wright and features bandmate Josh Hook, as well as Hollerado drummer Jake Boyd and bassist Joseph Garand. Although the band has been around for some time now — Girlfriend Material has three EPs under its belt already, two of which are Christmas releases — Cool Car is its debut full-length. The album is packed with pop-rock gems that are light, breezy and an all-around fun summer listen. "First of the Month" contemplates the mundane housekeeping around break-ups and moving on and out, while "Peace Sign" features a steady guitar riff that becomes a shred storm of a chorus, begging the body to dance along. Contrary to its title, this album is best heard at maximum volume at your next outdoor barbecue.
— Melody Lau
Release date: July 12
One of our favourite albums last year was Dizzy's Baby Teeth, released in August as the perfect soundtrack of layered dream pop for those hot summer nights. It's fitting, then, that the Oshawa, Ontario four-piece is releasing more music this summer — even if it's only two new singles and two remixes in the form of this Heavy EP. The already released "Twist" is band members Katie Munshaw and brothers Charlie, Alex and Mackenzie Spencer's first time producing their own music, incorporating live drums and piano that fit perfectly alongside the rise and fall of Munshaw's voice and that lush mix of background vocals and guitar that slide in during the back half. "There is a hole that's inside of my chest/ in the place of a heart/ in the shape of your fist," Munshaw details, almost wistfully, only assigning blame to her heartache in the chorus. "Twist" and the accompanying title track will be remixed for the EP by Montreal's Cecile Believe (Caila Thompson-Hannant, formerly of Mozart's Sister).
— Holly Gordon
Artist: Smaller Hearts
Release date: July 12
Halifax's Kristina Parlee and Ron Bates stepped out of their Homo Duplex moniker last year to debut their new project, Smaller Hearts, with a full-length album of lo-fi synth pop that was as subtly melancholy as it was poppy. The wife-husband duo is back (almost one year to the day) with followup Honestly, a welcome continuation of bouncy, layered and lyrically sly songs for the summer nights that stretch ahead.
In newest single "Circuitry," Parlee and Bates examine the pathways of our lives — those patterns that we often accept without question. But Smaller Hearts make space for being open in that quotidian, normal space we all occupy: "Sometimes I'll stray and get lost/ inside the clamour of each day/ if our hearts can stay soft/ we'll smile along and find our way," Parlee sings over a driving beat that leaves little room for lingering — only dancing. With small but mighty hearts, Parlee and Bates craft dream-pop that digs deep into the ways we connect with the world and each other, and that's the best kind. — HG
Artist: Chris LaRocca
Album: Saudade EP
Release date: July 17
Woodbridge, Ont., artist Chris LaRocca has only been releasing music for two years, but he has quickly won over many writers here at CBC Music, appearing on our songs you need to hear column a few times now. His second EP, Saudade, promises even more of what we love: silky R&B tunes highlighted by synths, polished production and a voice that transforms from smooth to pitched-up to a show-stopping falsetto that wins us over every time ("Heated Up" and "Dice Out" are prime examples of this). Canada's R&B scene has had some big breakthroughs in recent years, from the Weeknd to Daniel Caesar. Maybe with Saudade, it will be LaRocca's turn. — ML
Artist: Ada Lea
Album: What We Say in Private
Release date: July 19
Omaha record label Saddle Creek has been home to some great Canadian talent over the years: the Rural Alberta Advantage, Land of Talk and Tokyo Police Club. Now, it can add Montreal artist Ada Lea to that list. (The album will be released via Next Door Records in Canada.) The shape and sound of Lea's debut release has morphed over time, according to a press release, but the collection of songs on What We Say in Private appears to have stemmed from a 180-day period following a break-up where Lea journalled every day to process her emotions. The results are a mix of light and dark, a roller coaster of feelings to which many can relate. Sounds range from quiet, detailed vignettes like "The Party" (a single that is also available in French) to a fuller-sounding guitar anthem like "Mercury." If you're looking to discover a new artist this summer, we highly recommend checking out Ada Lea. — ML
Artist: Rae Spoon
Album: Mental Health
Release date: Aug. 16
The chorus of "I Can't Sleep," the first single from Rae Spoon's 10th album, Mental Health, is all glittering darkness, a bouncing beat driving through a droning chorus. Spoon pushes their voice into its lower register, floating just above the depths of the Pack A.D. member Becky Black's mesmerizing backing vocals. The effect is urgent and mysterious and tense, like a neon sign snapping the night in and out of focus or, appropriately enough, that jolt through your body, tip to toe, when anxiety snatches you back from slumber's blissful border. Mental Health is just eight songs long, but it promises to trace Spoon's personal journey with their own mental health, covering everything from insomnia to intergenerational trauma in the best way possible: incredible indie pop from one of the country's most underrated artists.
— Andrea Warner
Artist: Beverly Glenn-Copeland
Album: Primal Prayer
Release date: Aug. 16, 2019
Like many Canadian music lovers, I had not heard Beverly Glenn-Copeland's entrancing voice until this year, even though he's been making music since before I was born. Now, at age 75, the New Brunswick-based singer/composer is finally being recognized for his pioneering sound. It all began when Glenn-Copeland was contacted in 2015 by someone from a Japanese music label asking if Glenn-Copeland had any extra copies of his 1986 limited release album, ...Keyboard Fantasies…, on cassette. Thus began the second chapter of Glenn-Copeland's career, reigniting interest in a Canadian treasure who'd been tucked away for decades.
He's now busy touring the country while record labels around the world re-release his earlier materials. Everything we've heard so far from this artist has been romantic and textured, not to mention way ahead of its time. His masterful use of vibrato brings a depth to his impossible-to-categorize songs, blurring jazz, blues, classical and new-age sounds. While Glenn-Copeland's prior releases date back to the 1970s and '80s, expect something different on the more recent Primal Prayer. Initially recorded in 2004 after a serious health scare, Glenn-Copeland describes the album as "an outpouring of my life, warts and all." What a delight to discover these treasures he's made, while he is still more than happy to sing them onstage for us.
— Julia Caron
- CBC's q: At 75, Beverly Glenn-Copeland's music is finally finding an audience, but he's not letting it go to his head
Artist: Leela Gilday
Album: North Star Calling
Release date: Sept. 6
Acclaimed musician Leela Gilday is poised for a big return with her first new album in five years, North Star Calling. She dropped the record's debut single in May, a powerhouse of a blues track called "K'eintah Natse Ju," which she wrote "in celebration of the resilience of Indigenous northerners." Gilday's voice is like a fire lighting the way, illuminating the dark, calling us closer. When the backing powwow vocals flood in to join Gilday on the key change, it's a moment of love and triumph. North Star Calling will likely be Gilday's most personal offering yet. "It's been a tough five years, some real hard personal realities to face, and so I delayed making this record," Gilday told CBC Music. "As a result, and as a result of meeting my amazing producer Hill Kourkoutis, it's the most honest and raw record I've ever made. It was hard to make, but a beautiful experience, too." — AW
Release date: Sept. 13
Once you've heard the voice behind Begonia, there's no going back. We fell for the solo project of Winnipeg's Alexa Dirks back in 2016 after she released "Juniper" and "Out of my Head," landing on NPR's list of 10 Canadian artists you need to know. Begonia released an EP in early 2017, but now she's back with "Hanging on a Line," a percussion-driven pop song with myriad clap-along opportunities and a playful vocal range — plus the announcement of a debut full-length album at the end of summer.
"This song is about seriously falling in love in the club," says Dirks. "Sometimes anything seems possible when you're slightly intoxicated and there's a sub bass vibrating through your body. Amidst all this there are two extra underlying messages: try to be a good person and remember to stay hydrated."
Excellent messages for the dog days coming up, to keep us safe until Fear drops in September. — HG
Artist: Evangeline Gentle
Album: Evangeline Gentle
Release date: Sept. 13
Evangeline Gentle is now Peterborough-based by way of Scotland, and we're quite happy Rae Spoon's Coax Records has scooped up their debut album. The soft beginning of lead single "Sundays" leaves ample space for Gentle's powerhouse voice as they assure the person on the receiving end of the song that they are, indeed, enough. "It's you that I want/ trust me babe it's you" they sing, drawing out that "you" for emphasis. Gentle's self-titled debut was produced by Coax labelmate Jim Bryson, and was written slowly over the course of three years — years when Gentle contemplated not continuing with music at all.
"As a child I thought becoming a female country music superstar, long blond curls and all, was my inevitable fate," Gentle explained via press release. "Somewhere along the way I internalized a lot of messaging about my queerness as being something that would hold me back, something that made me inherently less gifted and valuable as an artist, that I wasn't enough for the industry and my spirit got broken. Each song on this record is a landmark on the journey toward re-establishing this spirit. I dream like a child again and though I have long since reconciled with my 11-year-old self that becoming a country music superstar is not in the cards for me."
The rich country tone to "Sundays" might put "country music superstar" back in those cards, but whatever the space they create for themselves, Gentle's debut album is evidently just the beginning. — HG
Artist: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
Album: Vivaldi con amore
Release date: Sept. 20
A late entry on the list of 2019's tantalizing summer albums will be Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra's first release under the direction of Elisa Citterio, its music director since 2017. They've opted for an all-Vivaldi program that puts a number of Tafelmusik members — Citterio foremost among them — into the soloist's spotlight. "[Vivaldi's] music describes and evokes landscapes, states of mind and characters in a very direct way," she says via press release. Citterio plays two love-themed violin concertos, L'amoroso and L'amato bene (explaining the album's title), while oboe, bassoon and lute are featured in the other selected works. Expect brisk tempos and impassioned playing from these stalwarts of Canada's baroque music scene.
— Robert Rowat
Artist: Amelia Curran
Album: Live at Massey Hall
Release date: September (exact date TBA)
While Amelia Curran was writing her last album, the Juno-nominated Watershed, she had a special tour stop: Massey Hall on April 29, 2016. "That's the idea of an arrival, as a Canadian musician," explains Curran in the intro for the live video of her performance. "Coming from a very musically cultural place like Newfoundland, and then coming to Canada and arriving at Massey. That's what it is." It was a special evening for Curran, as well as for the audience, as she played favourites like "The Mistress" with a full band. While the video below is a beautifully shot way to experience the show, this September her performance will be available via a digital release. As it's been more than two years since we've had new music from Curran, this live recording is a welcome reprieve. — HG