It's back to the future as Canada's favourite prog rockers return to the long-form structures and interlinked lyrics that marked the likes of 2112. (Hey, it's the pre-centenary, right?) While the playing is as fiery and flamboyant as ever, the solos are sharply song-focused, lending the music a strong sense of melodic direction, from the multi-textured title tune to the steely funk of Seven Cities of Gold. J.D. Considine
Rush begins its Clockwork Angels Tour on Sept. 7 (www.rush.com).
The Vancouver band Brasstronaut, on the poised follow-up to its debut Mt. Chimaera, steps up its lulling space rock. The airy brooding of Fossil floats in zero gravity, and Falklands hustles breezily to something like bossa nova before a horned and more majestic chorus. With headphones on, and atmospheric psychedelia engaged, Brasstronaut has a lovely lift-off. Brad Wheeler
Brasstronaut's tour includes dates in Saskatoon, June 9, and Winnipeg, June 11 (brasstronaut.com).
Intricately textured, bristling with tight energy and dynamic in the way it fills large spaces, Hello Hum, the Halifax band's fifth album, is artful anthemic rock with dandy swooshes, mod synthetic touches and drum thumps which punch from all angles. Wintersleep awakens, taller than ever. B.W.
Wintersleep plays Lee's Palace in Toronto, June 12; Burlington Sound of Music, June 16; Charlottetown, June 29; Montreal's Osheaga, Aug. 3; Live at Squamish, B.C., Aug. 25.
The Mynabirds (Saddle Creek)
The singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn is something to look at and her voice coolly hypnotizes, but there is much more here. On the Mynabirds' second album (which sometimes stomps like the White Stripes, while elsewhere stylishly emoting to retro sounds and new wave or slyly bopping to an African pulse), Burhenn's lyrical ideas are elegant calls to arms. Hers is a Sartre-quoting protest album – get a load of her. B.W.
Mynabirds tours North America this summer (themynabirds.com).
Hope in Dirt City
Cadence Weapon (Upper Class)
If he would just stop being himself, Rollie Pemberton's dazzling rhymes and chameleonic flow would be lighting up the charts. But Cadence Weapon likes skronky saxophone solos, nerdy references (e.g. Louis Theroux on the subtly devastating Cheval) and skewering rappers' follies (Hype Man, where he dramatizes both sides of hip-hop's favourite master-slave scenario) too much to consider dumbing down. For fans of more than one kind of hip-hop, Cadence's third album makes for excellent one-stop shopping. Dave Morris
Cadence Weapon plays Lee's Palace in Toronto June 23, La Sala Rossa in Montreal June 25, the Heritage Amphitheatre in Edmonton July 27 and the Dooryard Arts Festival in Woodstock, N.B., on Aug. 10.
Metric (Metric Music International)
Clever kids, choosing a title that reflects both the cool, electronic textures of the arrangements and the central metaphor of the lyrics. But this isn't your older brother's synth-pop. Metric's guitar-rock kick guarantees an organic feel even as the circuits are humming, while the writing is an unbeatable blend of smarts and hooks. Best of all, Emily Haines's uncannily relaxed singing somehow manages to be simultaneously larger-than-life and refreshingly human. J.D.C.
Metric begins its 2012 tour on June 12 at the Opera House in Toronto, and plays June 16 at the Big Music Fest in Belleville, Ont.; July 14 at Festival d'Été de Québec in Quebec City; July 15 at the Ottawa Blues Festival ; and Aug. 5 at the Osheaga Festival in Montreal.
In Our Heads
Hot Chip (Domino)
The poster-children for musical whimsy have discovered restraint, and does it ever feel good. Hot Chip's fifth album is the British septet's hands-down best – never mind ready for the floor, these tunes are ready for the arena. Every one is a gem, from Don't Deny Your Heart's clever yet sincere tweaking of outré '80s pop aesthetics to the dreamy Let Me Be Him. There are moments of insular humour, like the rapped middle of Night and Day ("I play Zapp, not Zappa"), but it never upsets the balance. D.M.
Hot Chip play Sound Academy in Toronto July 15 and the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver Sept. 15.