Stare Into a River by Spoon River, from Kingdom of the Burned (independent); streaming at myspace.com/spoonrivertheband
Do you remember how you felt when you heard the news that the Band's Richard Manuel had died? Spoon River, the soulful roots-rocking Canadians whose "carry-me-home" last waltz warns against being swept away, totally do.
The Smidge by the Hold Steady, from Heaven Is Whenever (Vagrant)
I like Thin Lizzy as much as the next guy - as long as the next guy is Bruce Springsteen. The E Street-lovers from Brooklyn break out the cowbells and throw in a shout-out to Vancouver on a swaggering, crunch-wrapped "let's roll" rocker about a citywide search for smoke signals and soft narcotics.
Be My Girl by Karyn Ellis, from Even Though the Sky Was Falling (independent); streaming at myspace.com/karynellis
A breathy piano ballad about escape and desire builds to a joyous gospel chorale, proving that the Toronto singer-songwriter has a magical way with song and that Leonard Cohen has no copyright on the word hallelujah.
Rock and Roll Is the Only Way Out by Bachman & Turner, from an unnamed forthcoming album; free download at bachmanandturner.com
Rock and roll is the only way out? That's unfortunate, because this growling, beer-bellied rip-off of a Joan Jett anthem offers no hope of escape from seventies-era purgatory. Bachman and Turner, without the overdrive.