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Leslie Feist performs during the Polaris Music Prize gala in Toronto on Sept. 18, 2017.Chris Donovan/The Canadian Press

While the concert calendar is in peril, music fans still have much to look forward to in the waning months of 2021, beginning with an annual fall festival in benefit of the tractor class, continuing next week with the awarding of this country’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize and including new albums released by everyone from Lana Del Rey to Shad to the greatest Swedish invention since zippers and furniture store meatballs.

ABBA, which is set to release its first LP in four decades on Nov. 5, promised us things with its 1976 hit Dancing Queen that no longer hold true: That we could dance (with masks?), that we could jive (not specifically prohibited in 2021, but not encouraged either) and that we’d be “having the time of your life.”

We live in different times today. Here’s to doing the best we can under the circumstances.


Neil Young has pulled out of the annual farm-sector fundraiser because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis by explaining “My soul tells me it would be wrong to risk having anyone die.” But the show still boasts Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Margo Price, Sturgill Simpson and others. The concert will be streamed on the Farm Aid’s website and YouTube channel on Sept. 25, from Hartford, Conn.


The shortlisted artists up for the award recognizing the Canadian album deemed to be the year’s best are Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Cadence Weapon, DijahSB, Dominique Fils-Aimé, Mustafa, the OBGMs, Klô Pelgag, Tobi, the Weather Station and Zoon. One of them – possibly the eloquent rapper Cadence Weapon, for Parallel World – walks away with the $50,000 prize on Sept. 27. The proceedings are watchable on CBC Gem.


Canadian rapper Shadrach Kabango.CBC

He doesn’t have the mansion, Spotify streams or courtside seats of a Drake, but the rap artist Shadrach Kabango is an elite, thoughtful rhymer with colourful musical ideas. His latest (out Oct. 1) is about human connections – to the spiritual world, to nature, to technology, to rhythm and pace.


To Ottawa’s National Arts Centre (Oct. 12 to 17) and Toronto’s Meridian Hall (Oct. 20 to 30), the multitudinous singer-songwriter Leslie Feist brings what she describes as something “halfway between a regular concert and some kind of constructed theatre piece.” The communal, interactive event (which premiered this summer in Germany) was created in collaboration with acclaimed lighting and production designer Rob Sinclair.


Except for the unexpected, we have no idea what to expect from prolific eccentrics Hawksley Workman and Kevin Breit. A video teaser for the single Corvair Blues involves basketballs. The album from the extroverted Juno-winning singer-songwriter Workman and the inimitable guitarist Breit is an all-instrumental affair, out Oct. 15. That’s all we know.


In advance of its Max Martin-produced ninth album (out Oct. 15), England’s famous melodists released the single Coloratura, built for constellation spotting. The spacy epic contains an unobtrusive Galileo reference and is long enough to boil a 10-minute egg, with 15 seconds to spare.


After a breakout year in 2020, what comes next for the Vancouver-based twosome comprised of Haisla rappers Darren (Young D) Metz and Quinton (Yung Trybez) Nyce? If their latest single Wild Boy is any indication – ”Amazing to me how I even came to be/ when they kidnapped my daddy, my mama wasn’t even a person” – expect more hard-hitting hip hop from an album that drops Oct. 22.


Lana Del Rey performs during an Apple launch event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Oct. 30, 2018.Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The American singer-songwriter and self-mythologizer has already released four songs from her second album of 2021, due Oct. 22. They are the type of dreamy, enigmatic and velvet-lined melodrama we’ve come to expect from her. On the single Arcadia, she proposes that she is the embodiment of Los Angeles: “I’m not native, but my curves, San Gabriel all day.” Whatever it is that Del Ray has, she’s still got it.


“There was a union of heart and mind, the likes of which are rare and oh so hard to find.” So sings ABBA on the wistful I Still Have Faith in You, one of two singles released earlier this month in advance of Voyage (Nov. 5), the Swedish pop quartet’s first album since 1981. The other new song is Don’t Shut Me Down, which we wouldn’t dream of doing.


The making of the Beatles 1970 album Let it Be was previously thought to be fractious, with Paul McCartney being bossy and Yoko Ono cast as the villainess. A sneak preview of Peter Jackson’s long-awaited docuseries released late last year, however, showed the band in high spirits. Revisionist fantasy or setting the record straight, the three-part counter-narrative premieres on Disney+, Nov. 25, 26 and 27.

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