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John Legend to Zaki Ibrahim to DJ Shub: 11 songs you need to hear this week
By
Holly Gordon

Published

November 25, 2016

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Each week, staff from CBC Music, Radio 2, Radio 3, Sonica and CBC regions across the country collect songs they just can't get out of their heads, and make a case for why you should listen, too. Press play below and discover new songs for your listening list.

Let us know via @CBCMusic what catches your ear, or if you have a new song you just can't stop playing.


A Tribe Called Quest, ‘We the People’

A Tribe Called Quest was a tough act to miss. The group followed the release of its final album, We Got it From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service, with an appearance on Saturday Night Live on Nov. 12, where they performed the track “We the People.” This track bumps pretty hard, pushing toward digital distortion; kinda like a call to the masses through a megaphone. The tune has its finger on the pulse of the developed world. Featuring lyrics about the disenfranchised, gentrification, xenophobia and a world where, in Q-Tip’s words, “guilty pleasures take the edge off reality.”

I can't help but get a little emotional upon hearing Phife Dawg (R.I.P.) dropping bars like: “Dreamin’ on a world that’s equal for women with no division/ Boy I tell ya that’s vision.” Q-Tip would never have allowed this album to drop unless it was fire. It is.

— Angeline Tetteh-Wayoe (@MissAngelineTW)


Daniel Romano, ‘I Had to Hide Your Poem (in a Song)’

Daniel Romano’s album Mosey, released earlier this year, highlights the versatility of his talent and the progression of his artistic vision. “I Had to Hide Your Poem (in a Song)” is one of the strongest tracks off the album, and now it has an official music video. The new video is set on a cruise ship and looks like a compilation of ’70s-mod B-roll. The blue-tinged shots and quick transitions play to the grittiness of the lyrics, while the word “Coward” flashes across the screen as Romano chants the chorus in agony. It’s no surprise that Romano directed the video, flexing his limitless talent. With no Canadian show in sight, check out the music video below and let yourself get lost in Romano’s vision.

— Olivia Pasquarelli (@oliviapasq)


Zaki Ibrahim, ‘Focus’

Zaki Ibrahim is back, and is set to release a new album in early 2017. To set things up, the Toronto-based singer has just released her four-song, sci-fi-oriented EP ORBIT: a postcoital prequel. As the title suggests, the EP is not a collection of unconnected songs. Instead, it is a concept suite, underpinned by the narrative of the life cycle of “a love story of twin stars.” Indeed, Ibrahim recently launched the music on the EP as a collaboration with the planetarium at University of Toronto’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, where galactic visuals were set to her music. Of the four excellent tracks, “Focus,” produced by South African collaborator MRMZA, is the most upbeat, intended to score the “ceremonial dance” of the two stars. However, you don’t have to know or understand the astral background of this song as a prerequisite for the inevitable head-nodding that ensues once you press play.

— Del F. Cowie (@vibesandstuff)

 

Rural Alberta Advantage, ‘White Lights’

The Rural Alberta Advantage returns with a new track, and a lineup change. “White Lights” was released last week in anticipation of a new record coming next summer, and it’s the first new track since the band’s 2014 release, Mended With Gold. The track presents the familiar guitar strumming of lead singer/guitarist Nils Edenloff along with his trademark vocals, especially when he bellows out "takes a heart attack," which immediately brings me back to my first discovery of RAA through the band's 2006 record, Hometowns. This past September, founding member Amy Cole announced her departure from the band. Replacing her is Robin Hatch (Sheezer, Our Lady Peace), and it’ll be interesting to see how her addition impacts the overall sound of the band. While we’re a long time away from the new record, fret not: RAA will be releasing new singles corresponding with each announcement of tour dates. More great music is coming soon.

— Matt Fisher (@MattRFisher)

 

100 mile house, ‘Hiraeth’

It was a chance encounter on Queen Street W. in Toronto a decade or so ago that saw Denise MacKay and Peter Stone meet for the first time. A wedding, a dog and a cat (or two), and three albums later, MacKay and Stone are poised to release their fourth studio album, Hiraeth, this month.

For the title track, understated strums and enquiring strings set the scene, before kindling chords and Stone’s sober charm warm up with burning promise: “Long may we love with a fire in our hearts” and “Long may we go.” “Hiraeth” — a Welsh word without English equivalent — is ultimately a song of love and longing for home, and 100 mile house delivers a moving address reflecting on the husband-and-wife duo’s journey so far. Long may they go.

—Andrew McManus (@mcmns)


Tommy Hawkins, ‘The Way I Walk’

Mutual admiration is kind of the best thing — especially when two of your faves get together to create the thing that you love. Such is the case with Tommy Hawkins, a new project born of a collaboration between Thomas D’Arcy (the Carnation, Small Sins) and Hawksley Workman. The duo of multi-instrumentalists — who are also accomplished songwriters and producers in their own rights — were fans of each other’s work. After meeting in a Toronto studio they decided to record something together. The result is six sexy, aggressive songs that make a perfect soundtrack to whatever life you’re currently living. Put on your headphones, crank this up and go for a strut.

— Judith Lynch (@CBCJudith)


Amaal Nuux, ‘Who are We?’

If you’re looking for inspiration right now — and let’s face it, a lot of us are — Amaal Nuux is who you need. The Somali-Canadian singer returns after a four-year break with an elevating spiritual exploration of self-awareness, a message of optimism that says, when you can’t control your surroundings, there’s still power in being yourself. Produced by Toronto veteran Beatchild (the Slakadeliqs), the song is a mix of soulful strings, reverbed guitar and a percussion section that comes in at exactly the right moment. It’s life-affirming pop music, right when you need it most.

— Jesse Kinos-Goodin (@JesseKG)

 

Japandroids, ‘Near to the Wild Heart of Life’

With the year (finally) nearing an end, Japandroids’ upcoming album is just one of many reasons to look forward to 2017. “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” is a sprint forward, something to get listeners all fired up. (It came out earlier this month, but I’ve had it on repeat almost every day, getting me revved up and ready to leave this year behind a.s.a.p.) Not much has changed in the band’s bombastic sound — blazing riffs, pounding drums and the most satisfying sound of voices coalescing to a fiery chants of “ohs” — but it’s that familiar energy that makes it all the more enticing. So dive into that mosh pit, throw your fists up and prepare to leave this experience with your ears ringing.

— Melody Lau (@melodylamb)


DJ Shub feat. Northern Cree Singers, ‘Indomitable’

In times of profound darkness, I'm grateful for a song like "Indomitable" and its accompanying video, which is both a celebration of Indigenous culture, community and people, and an invitation to bear witness. The bouncing, driving beat never overtakes the hollow pounding of the drum, but then it all drops out to showcase a buoyant, defiant and gorgeous chorus from the Northern Cree Singers: "We've got our friends, we got them, we'll be all right."

— Andrea Warner (@_AndreaWarner)


Le Sun Ra and his Arkestra, ‘Saturn’

The music of late jazz icon Sun Ra was bizarre enough that he could convincingly claim to be from Saturn. Between his extreme eccentricity, his avant-garde musical leanings and the sheer incomprehensibility of his 120-plus album discography, Sun Ra is rightly considered one of jazz’s “advanced studies” artists. But a new collection from Strut Records highlights a little-known, more accessible facet of Ra’s career: his singles.

Ra issued dozens of 7”s throughout his prolific career. They range from nutty R&B novelty songs with virtually unknown singers to the kind of groovy jazz that Sun Ra was known for during his Chicago days in the ’50s. This rendition of “Saturn” is punchier and more fun than the version from Ra’s renowned Jazz in Silhouette record. When the full collection is released on Nov. 25, we may finally have a plausible entry point into Sun Ra’s musical galaxy.

— Matthew Parsons (@MJRParsons)

 

John Legend feat. Chance the Rapper, 'Penthouse Floor'

This new one from John Legend's upcoming Dec. 2 album, Darkness and Light, lulls you with an easy, catchy beat, but it's no track for affluent key-holders. Instead, it's a subtle instruction to march to that top floor and take back what's been gated. While being light — "Go to the penthouse floor/ let's ride the elevator" — "Penthouse Floor" is rallying — "it's what we've been waiting for/ we'll tear down those penthouse doors/ let's go let's go let's go." And when Chance the Rapper bounces in, he seals the deal. Chance and Legend — both public Hillary Clinton supporters — may have teamed up for this sexy, crowd-pleasing jam, but it sounds like they are looking to get more out of it.

— Holly Gordon (@hollygowritely)