The basketball and hockey playoffs ended in July. The 2020 Olympics are happening in 2021. School is out, but was it ever really in?
Though the calendar is confused, one thing that has kept to its schedule is the summer music boom. Superstars, newcomers and legacy acts alike are keeping streaming services humming and radios blaring. Justin Bieber’s Peaches is in season, poptimists are advocating the clean energy of Lorde’s Solar Power, and Billie Eilish’s new album this week has her young legion feeling Happier Than Ever.
Though the amphitheatres are open again in the United States and many megafestivals are (perhaps recklessly) back in business full-bore there, the live music industry in Canada is reopening slowly and with physical distancing protocols in place after taking last year off because of COVID-19.
Still, Blue Rodeo is again putting on its traditional gathering of the tribe at the bowl by the lake in Toronto, and enough tickets are being put on sale for shows in Canada this fall that music fans are once again grumbling about ticket prices. Nature, it seems, is healing.
Time to hit the beach
Industry Baby, by Lil Nas X (with Jack Harlow): Full of horns and braggadocio, Industry Baby arrives like a soundtrack to a new Rocky movie starring Kanye West. A provocative prison-set video earns extra attention for the promotionally savvy Old Town Road hit maker.
Hot Summer, by Prince: This irresistibly slinky jam was recorded in 2010, but kept in the vault until climate change considerations demanded its release as part of the just-dropped posthumous album, Welcome 2 America. “Hot summer,” the late pop maestro forecasts, on a cut that will make traffic jams bearable, “shoo-be-doo-bee.” Beat that, Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Accompaniment to edibles
Flower Child, by Untradition: Talking about this three-minute slice of sunshine psychedelia, Canadian-Caribbean producer Julien Bowry said he was inspired by sun-basking, meditation and self-prescribed medication. The result is a sublime, spiralling celebration of hippie blues and hazy hip hop.
Herbalist, by DillanPonders: Aromatic and vibrational, the spliff-happy single from hip hop artist Dillan Alexander Richard King shows an appreciation for dancehall, Auto-Tune and outdated lyrical mentions of retired basketballer Vince Carter.
Songs for sticky nights
Peaches, by Justin Bieber: The fifth single off Bieber’s Justice album is R&B of the easy, breezy, extra please-y kind. The original version of a song about fresh fruit and fresher weed featured Canadian singer-songwriter Daniel Caesar; a pungent remix brings in Usher, Ludacris and the rapper-herbalist Snoop Dogg.
Tangled, by Kelly Sloan: The lush pop ballad is from a Toronto indie songstress who in the past has collaborated with Daniel Romano – check out Romano’s own riff-rocking new single Nocturne Child – and who has more recently teamed up with producer Jeff McMurrich (of Jennifer Castle and U.S. Girls affiliation). With Tangled, Sloan empathizes with your complicated situations.
Blockbuster LPs for the schools-out crowd
Happier Than Ever, by Billie Eilish: Out this week, the much-anticipated follow-up to the young singer-songwriter’s blockbuster debut album from 2019 was preceded by five singles, including Your Power (a fluttering acoustic ballad that marks a departure from the more doomy material of her first album) and NDA (a creepy thumper about giving her boyfriend a paper to sign and “something to cry about”). Other tracks include Oxytocin, Everybody Dies and the (likely sarcastic) title song.
Solar Power (out Aug. 20), by Lorde: The title-track single not only announced the New Zealander’s forthcoming third album, but also trumpeted the beginning of summer itself. The sun-splashed, extroverted song hit the beach with upbeat, anthemic energy that calls to mind George Michael’s bouncy hit Freedom! ’90 and has us believing in renewable pop energy. The more subdued second single Stoned at the Nail Salon, however, sounds just like the song title suggests it might.
Two albums for cottage-time chilling
Alpha, by Charlotte Day Wilson: Silk-sheet melancholia for the broken-hearted. The dusky voiced Toronto singer-songwriter/producer broke onto the scene back in 2016, but is only now releasing her debut long-player. Self-described as an “11-song journey of metaphor and earnest declarations,” Alpha casts Wilson’s gold-dusted vocals in a variety of deep-grooved settings of folky soul, gospel and instances of lightly-jazzed introspection.
For Free, by David Crosby: The freak-flag-flying Wooden Ships singer once owned a fabulous sail boat. Now, at the age of 80, he’s moved on to full-on yacht music. His pristine new record features Doobie Brothers alumnus Michael McDonald on an album opener (River Rise) that rides the wind in the best seventies light-rock tradition.
Outdoor venues only
The Endless Summer Series, at Burl’s Creek Event Ground: Ontario’s Cottage Country home of the Boots and Hearts extravaganza plays host to a classic-rock cover-band festival this weekend at reduced capacity, followed by a country music gathering (Aug. 6-7) and a nineties-remembering show of Our Lady Peace and I Mother Earth (Aug.13-14).
Together Again Outdoor Concert Series, Aug. 6 to Sept. 5, at the Edmonton Exhibition Lands: A facility designed specifically with physical distancing and safety-first considerations in mind holds a month of Serena Ryder, Tom Cochrane, Kardinal Offishall and more.
Burt Block Party, Aug. 20-21 and Aug. 27-28, at Winnipeg’s Burton Cummings Theatre: A street party outside the downtown theatre brings in homegrown rockers the Sheepdogs, 54-40 and others.
Blue Rodeo, Aug. 28, at Toronto’s Bud Stage: The beloved alt-country band gets lost together with fans under the stars.
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