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music: essential tracks

Serena Ryder performs at the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest Byward on Monday, July 13, 2009.CP

Serena Ryder, streaming here

You can never be quite sure what Serena Ryder is going to get up to, but the tune's title here is as clear as could be. This is Peggy Lee from the grave, treading with heavy beats, Black Keys' fuzz, an infectious rhythm and a come-on-y'all spirit. It's about music's power as a cure-all, and it is absolutely self-fulfilling – the big-voiced Ontarian rallies anyone glum, and even those who are not. Ryder's new album Harmony is out Nov. 27. You can hear it coming a mile away.

Change of Heart, from Have Not Been the Same (Pheromone); streaming here

Last year's re-issue of Have Not Been the Same: The CanRock Renaissance 1985-1995 spawns a second compilation disc, this time for the cause of the Kids Help Phone. Included is Smile, a tuneful, dynamic rock-out which moves underwater, through marmalade skies and, memorably, up Kick Ass Mountain. Why hasn't Foo Fighters covered this 1992 sub-classic?


Rihanna (Kayne West Remix); streaming here

Only a diamond can cut a diamond, right? Unfortunately all we have on hand is a rough-voiced Kanye West to reshape Rihanna's instant pop classic. His bandwagon-jumping remix feature a minute-and-a-half lead-in verse that mixes scatter-shot references to his mother's death, Brad Pitt, oral sex and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He rhymes "we made it through the hurricane" with "so celebrate and light the Mary Jane." Ultimately, it's all about Kanye: "On the radio, man I miss myself / I need to just step back and kiss myself."

Thanksgiving Song
Linda (from Bob's Burgers) and the National; streaming here

Linda's zippy dinner ditty from Fox's animated sitcom is morosely interpreted by the alt-rock gloomsters the National, who double-dose the tryptophan and moan "kill the turkey" with such baritone mantra-misery that some might turn to tofu instead on America's autumnal holiday.

Breathing Underwater
Metric; streaming here

"Is this my life?" sings and asks Metric singer Emily Haines, on a new video montage of a major band's life on the road. Tambourine-shaking? Drinks? Backstage foosball? Lights, crowds, adulation? Life is perhaps good for Metric, currently touring Canada (London, Ont., Nov. 19; Montreal, Nov. 21; Quebec City, Nov. 22; Kingston, Nov. 23; Toronto, Nov.24).