Alan Cross’ weekly music picks: Tunes for the Canada Day long weekend

Damon Albarn of Gorillaz performs during Sonar Festival on June 15, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain.
Damon Albarn of Gorillaz performs during Sonar Festival on June 15, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. Xavi Torrent/WireImage

The first thing my friend said to her daughter when she walked through the door on the last day of school was, “Only 68 more days until you go back!”

When you phrase it like that, it’s seriously time to dive into summer with some music.

1. Florence + The Machine, High as Hope

When she first appeared a little more than a decade ago, Florence Welch looked as if she stepped out of Renaissance painting that foretold of the eventual presence of Alice in Wonderland. As the spiritual descendant of Kate Bush and Tori Amos, she continues on themes of flighty spirituality liberally mixed with self-doubt. Her fourth studio album features some interesting outside: contributions:  Jamie xx (of The xx), Sampha (the highly-regarded British performer) and Tobias Jesso Jr., a musician from North Vancouver. Throughout the album, Florence confesses to her shortcomings and flaws with honesty and grace, something for which longtime fans will love her.

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2. Gorillaz, The Now Now

A new Gorillaz album? Already? ‘Tis true. A mere 427 days after the release of Humanz, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett are back with something unusually … coherent. There are fewer outside contributors (down from the 16 used for the last album; among those snagged for this record are jazz guitarist George Benson and Snoop Dogg) which may have focused the songwriting into something sharper. You might also find Damon slipping into a semi-optimistic mood, something that doesn’t happen much with this project.

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3. John Coltrane, Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album

A Holy Grail for jazz fans. It’s not a bootleg, but a proper high-quality studio album that had been feared lost in the 1970s. Recorded in 1963 during a one-day session at a studio in New Jersey, this album captures Coltrane’s quartet at the height of their powers. Two compositions — including the one I’ve posted below — have never been heard before.

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4. Drake, Scorpion

Drizzy loves to keep his fans engaged by constantly releasing new music: a single here, a mix-tape there, and occasionally a full album. There was a tight rein on this, his fifth studio album, until late Thursday/early Friday. It wasn’t even listed as “coming soon” on iTunes, a highly unusual thing. Divided into two sections, one rap and one RnB, this record will be the subject of much chatter for the rest of the summer.

5. Let’s Eat Grandma, I’m All Ears

Easily the worst band name of the year, don’t you think? And given that the group consists of two young women from rural England into a mix of art-pop and psych, there’s a certain incongruency between the name and their sound. Still, the listening experience is pleasant enough, don’t you think?

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London Calling – Goldfrapp feat. Dave Gahan, Ocean

Ocean first appeared on the original version of Goldfrapp’s 2017 album, Silver Eye. Now, though, the record is being re-released as a deluxe version next Friday, with this new rendition featuring Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan on vocals. This is one of those inspired sorts of collaborations, because it takes what Goldfrapp does best and mates it with the correct Depeche Mode era, which in this case would be the sound of the band around the release of Violator in 1990.

Undiscovered Gem – Brutus Begins, The Nothing Here

This one dropped out of the sky within the 400-ish unsolicited music submissions I get every week. Ricardo Temporao is from Hamilton, Ont., and works under the name Brutus Begins. According to his bio, he “resamples and processes elements of nature, acoustic instruments and synthesizers to create a song landscape that blurs the lines between the real and the reconstructed.” All right, then.

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Throwback Thursday – Bif Naked, Spaceman

I’ve always had a soft spot for Bif and I’m glad that, despite serious health problems over the last decade, she continues to release music and perform live. Her biggest year remains 1998 when she issued the I, Bificus album, a record that contained four of her best-known songs. The biggest of them all was “Spaceman,” a deliberate attempt to write a song in a pop style. It worked, becoming a major alt-rock radio hit as well as a Top 40 smash. It was helped by a dance remix that swept through the U.S. and Europe.

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

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