Alan Cross’ weekly music picks: A mini-soundtrack for your self-isolation

Dua Lipa performs at the Osheaga Music and Art Festival at Parc Jean-Drapeau on August 5, 2018 in Montreal. Mark Horton/Getty Images

You have to feel with artists who scheduled new albums for release during the whole coronavirus mess.

But life goes on and with plenty of material still in the pipeline, at least we have more time to listen to music. Here’s what we’re listening to in isolation this week.

1. Pearl Jam, Gigaton

Pity Pearl Jam and their fans. After going seven years without a new studio record, everything was all lined up for Gigaton: the marketing, the tour, the listening sessions. And then BAM! Just like that, all those plans go up in flames thanks to COVID-19. But release schedules being things that are locked in, the album is now available as promised. As you listen to the album (Quick Escape is the latest single) feel free to play this Space Invaders-style game where you can leave all this behind and head to Mars.

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2. Gord Sinclair, Forward March Fight (single)

Tragically Hip fans have been most interested in the debut solo from the other Gord in the band. The new single, Forward March Fight, was written in response to the times we live in, Gord says. “When the going gets tough, the ‘powers that be’ always turn to the old ways, trying to hold onto their wealth and authority instead of charting a new path forward. They send young men and women off to wars, stoke fear and point fingers at home. But it’s all about money. Their greed comes at our expense.” A song for our times, then?

3. Jesse Reyez, Before Love Came to Kill Us

Watch for this record to make waves internationally. After a number of singles and a couple of EPs (not to mention a Polaris Music Prize nomination and a Juno nod), Reyez, the Canadian-Colombian pop singer, finally has a debut album for us. Mixing together pop, dance, soul, hip-hop, and Spanish influences, she’s crafted a record that should travel extremely well. For a debut album, this is nothing short of outstanding.

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4. Dua Lupa, Future Nostalgia

Originally set for release next week, Future Nostalgia was leaked online forcing her label to bring things forward by seven days. If dance-y, electronic pop is your thing, this record will sound both fresh and familiar. Listeners will have a lot of fun picking out the samples. A timeless pop record? Could be.

5. Brian Fallon, Local Honey

Brian’s band, The Gaslight Anthem, was one of the closest alt-rock ever came to giving the world a Springsteen-style vibe and character. His third solo album will resonate with people who struggle with a family (he’s a married father of two), mortgage payments, and serious adult responsibilities. If introspective songs with the occasional ache go with how you’re feeling these days, this album is a good place to start.

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Bonus Tracks

London Calling: The Blinders, Forty Days and Forty Nights

I’m not gonna lie. The thing that initially drew me to this band was the title of their album, Fantasies of a Stay at Home Psychopath. Go beyond that and you’ll find a three-piece Manchester band with something very “Arctic Monkeys” about their sound. Lyrically, there’s a lot of despair, stories of toxic relationships, mental health, and other similar concerns. Surprisingly, though, it’s kind of a feel-good record, too.

Undiscovered Gem: Dead Defined, Lifeline

This is the one-man project of Uxbridge, Ontario’s, Craig Ewan. He’s been in bands for 18 of his 34 years, but in the case of this single, he plays all the instruments himself. And who couldn’t use a lifeline these days?

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Throwback Track: REM, Everybody Hurts (Live)

I’ve picked this track as a way to pay tribute to drummer Bill Rieflin, who died this past week at the age of 59. Cancer, apparently. Rieflin was a highly regarded journeyman drummer who recorded and toured with Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Revolting Cocks, KMFDM, Lard, Pigface, and others. But he could also play with great delicacy, which is why REM hired him to keep time for the albums and tours following the departure of original drummer Bill Berry. Here he is with the band live in Dublin in 2005.

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Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s Ongoing History of New Music Podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play

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