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Rural Alberta Advantage to Leif Vollebekk: 5 songs you need to hear this week

Holly Gordon

Each week, staff from CBC Music, Radio 2, 3 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.

Ladom Ensemble, 'Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ (Radiohead cover)

Classical crossover often makes me cringe, but not this new Radiohead cover by Ladom Ensemble, the world music quartet coming out of the University of Toronto’s faculty of music. The ensemble achieves that delicate balance between emulating the song and placing a unique stamp on it. Marie-Cristine Pelchat St-Jacques’s cello and Michael Bridge’s accordion take turns as convincing avatars of Thom Yorke, and the arpeggios referenced in the title and played on guitar in the original are beautifully rendered here by pianist Pouya Hamidi. Percussionist Adam Campbell brings the arrangement to an intense climax. Nice, straightforward video, too, produced by Canterbury Music Company’s Jeremy Darby.

— Robert Rowat (@rkhr)


Rural Alberta Advantage, ‘Beacon Hill’

Feverish, hit-you-right-in-the-chest drumming is at the heart of most Rural Alberta Advantage songs, and this new track thrives on that trademark rhythm. The first single with new member Robin Hatch (Our Lady Peace) since longtime bandmate Amy Cole left, "Beacon Hill" is frontman Nils Edenloff's complicated plea to his teenage hometown, Fort McMurray, after the 2016 fire that hit his titular neighbourhood hard. "Oh I'm living in the terrible lines I guess I've drawn/ I'll say goodnight/ to all I want but I never want to see you gone," he cries, touching on a sensitive hometown nerve: we might not want to live in the place that formed us, but we also don't want it to disappear.

— Holly Gordon (@hollygowritely)


Leif Vollebekk, ‘Into the Ether’

I stopped breathing when I first heard "Into the Ether," the latest single from Leif Vollebekk’s upcoming record, Twin Solitude. I don’t remember holding my breath, nor do I know how long I held it — could have been for the whole song or perhaps it started at that devastatingly wicked little bit, one minute in, as he croons wordlessly but manages to still say everything. I just know that when it was over, I exhaled. A long, slow deep breath. Written in one sitting, the song breathes and heaves, with Vollebekk laying fragmented reflections on top of some gently jammy piano-playing. Ultimately, I fired up this SoundCloud player and listened to the track all over again. I advise you do the same.

— Judith Lynch (@CBCJudith)


SZA, ‘Drew Barrymore’

A few months back, it seemed like we'd never get a SZA album, as she threatened to quit music altogether. But the deliverance of this shimmering new single, "Drew Barrymore," is proof that would have been a colossal waste of talent. Hailing from the same musical crew that gave us Kendrick Lamar, SZA is marking out her own territory with what she calls "brown grunge." Lyrically, SZA’s emotive voice is frank and vulnerable, singing about low self-esteem on the track: “I'm sorry I'm not more attractive/ I'm sorry I'm not more ladylike/ I'm sorry I don't shave my legs at night." No apologies needed.

— Del F. Cowie (@vibesandstuff)

The xx, 'Lips'

The xx’s third album is the sonic expansion the band needed. After 2012’s Coexist, which offered little in building up the band’s minimalist foundations, I See You finds the trio embracing member Jamie xx’s spacious productions without losing the band’s trademark intimacy. “Lips” is a prime example, opening with a sample of David Lang’s “Just (After Song of Songs),” which creates a framework that Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim’s breathy coos bounce off. “My name on your lips/ your air in my lungs/ drowned in your oxygen,” Croft sings, drawing you in closer and closer. “Lips” is a highlight off of one of 2017’s first great albums.

— Melody Lau (@melodylamb)

More to explore

The xx is happier than you think

New albums to stream this week: Austra, Kid Koala, Danny Michel, Carmen Braden

2017 Canadian album releases: what we know so far