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Rihanna, St. Vincent, Majid Jordan, Little Scream, more: songs you need to hear this week

Editorial Staff

Each week, staff from CBC Music, Radio 2, 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 in the comments or via @CBCMusic what catches your ear, or if you have a new song you just can't stop playing.

Jean-Michel Blais, 'Nostos'

Jean-Michel Blais started playing the family organ when he was nine years old. By 11, he was beginning to compose original material, and by 17, he began his classical training at the Trois-Rivieres Music Conservatory. Now at 31, Blais is just releasing his debut album, II, a 28-minute collection that was the result of two years of improvisation. Inspired by artists like Chilly Gonzales and Philip Glass, Blais's compositions can be as poignant as they are playful, mixing together accessible melodies with experimental flourishes. "Nostos" begins with a simple, catchy melody before building into a soaring mix of ethereal keys and electronic production, a small sample of the virtuoso on display on II (out April 8 via Arts & Crafts).

— Jesse Kinos-Goodin (@JesseKG)


Majid Jordan, 'Learn From Each Other'

The self-titled debut from Majid Jordan, the duo of Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman signed to Drake's OVO Sound label, dropped earlier this month, firmly establishing the group as a formidable talent in its own right outside of that benefactor's shadow. There are a number of choice cuts on the record, but the album's opening track, "Learn From Each Other," is unquestionably among the best tracks, and late last week the song was assigned as the group's new video. The vulnerability and sincerity of Al Maskati's vocals find warm comfort in the enveloping ambience of the mid-tempo house-indebted groove, co-produced by the duo and Illangelo. The song's video, directed by Ben Strebel, perfectly captures and sympathizes with the emotional fragility on display. Well, at least it does until a heart-wrenching twist.

— Del Cowie (@vibesandstuff)

Little Scream, 'Love as a Weapon'

I predict a big year for Montreal artist Laurel Sprengelmeyer, a.k.a. Little Scream. While details of her sophomore album have not been announced yet — she did recently sign with Merge and Dine Alone Records — the release of her new single, “Love as a Weapon,” is something worth celebrating. This is a beaming ray of sunlight in a song that explores the rather murky territory of seeking and losing lovers. Sprengelmeyer’s falsetto is a rhythmic delight as her words dance alongside a guitar riff and the satisfying rumble of a Moog, both of which would sound right at home on St. Vincent’s stellar 2014 self-titled album. In a press release, Spregelmeyer explained how she was thinking about great pop songs when writing this track: “How a good one can lift you out of a fog like nothing else.” Well one listen to this song and everything will be crystal clear.

— Melody Lau (@melodylamb)


Rihanna, 'Work'

The people of the internet were as patient as they could possibly be waiting for Bajan popstar Rihanna to drop her latest album, Anti. Joy came the morning of Jan. 29 when we woke up to the new album, finally available and completely devoid of radio hits, club bangers and, well, any of the dance-pop trappings that made her a star in the first place. Except for that voice. And on "Work," the first song from Anti to be given video treatment, Rihanna's voice is fully hers. This slow-boiling, dance-hall jam has Rihanna turning her code-switches all the way off as she sings this lusty narrative without translation. If you get it, great. If you don't, she "nuh cyar."

— Judith Lynch (@CBCJudith)

Editor's note: strong language warning.

Frightened Rabbit, 'Death Dream'

Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit announced its return last week with the release of this new track, "Death Dream." It's a beautiful, piano-led piece that has the craziest slow build, but it's worth the wait when the horns finally kick in around the three-minute mark. The best part of this announcement is that Aaron Dessner (the National) produced the record, so if it's anything like what he did for the Lone Bellow's Then Came the Morning, it's bound to do wonders for Frightened Rabbit. Painting of a Panic Attack will be out April 8 on Canvasback/Atlantic.

— Matt Fisher (@MattRFisher)

Mick Jenkins, 'On the Map' (feat. BadBadNotGood)

I’m daydreaming about a road trip. No particular destination in mind — just me, the road, duffel bag in the backseat, windows down and this song on repeat. I’m not cool enough to pull off this cliché in real life, but I can enjoy the soundtrack all the same. An originally charmingly kitschy song by TheSenseiBlue, it has flourished into a buttery smooth and soulfully funky arrangement at the hands of Mick Jenkins and Toronto’s own BadBadNotGood. Dig it.

— Amer Alkhatib (@ameralkhatib)


Ella Mai, 'She Don’t'

Best known for her short, intriguing videos on Instagram, Ella Mai has made her way into the music scene and she's already gaining momentum. The British singer, who recently signed to DJ Mustard's 10 Summers record label, teamed up with Ty Dolla $ign for her latest single, "She Don't." Mai sings about break-up and resentment, but it's the mid-tempo beat and lyrics that capture a series of emotions someone experiences, from being in a relationship to being out of one. In her song she sings, "Keep it moving, it was nice to know ya/ Boy watch me leave/ You ghost to me/ Wish you good luck being lonely." Her voice is smooth and sultry — this R&B tune is definitely one to be on replay.

— Kiah Welsh (@simplykiah)

Editor's note: strong language warning.

St. Vincent, 'Emotional Rescue' (Rolling Stones cover)

This cover from St. Vincent is a heady, teasing promise that slows down the Rolling Stones’ original rescue plea. St. Vincent recorded her version of the 1980 track for the upcoming Tilda Swinton/Ralph Fiennes film, A Bigger Splash, and it was produced by Kendrick Lamar affiliates Terrace Martin and Sounwave. While this cover is a more subdued St. Vincent than we’re used to hearing, it’s a natural fit, easy to imagine her swaying to the lyrics, “You will be mine, you will be mine, all mine.” In the film, Swinton plays a Bowie-esque rock star, so all we’re hoping for now is that she’ll perform the St. Vincent song in character.

— Holly Gordon (@hollygowritely)

Alex Newell, 'Devilish'

Glee alum Alex Newell starts a nine-concert U.S. tour with American Idol alum Adam Lambert this week, a pop-culture convergence that Newell describes as "just two queens screaming at the top of their lungs and just having fun." If that's not your thing, move along. But if you're drawn to Newell's brand of weave-shaking, finger-wagging, gender-bending disco, then bring on "Devilish" from Power, the recent EP that represents his first solo venture.

— Robert Rowat (@rkhr)