Looking at album sales across the country, things look pretty grim for the end of May. Much of the 38 per cent, year-over-year drop can be contributed to record stores being closed, but also because many big-name acts have decided to ride out COVID-19, delaying the release of their new records until late in Q3 or in Q4. Lady Gaga decided enough with the postponements. Can she breathe some life into the music of 2020?
1. Lady Gaga, Chromatica
Everyone was all lined up to have this album in stores back in April. But then COVID-19 hit, throwing everything into disarray. For a while, it appeared that Chromatica may be delayed until later in the year, but given that the summer is almost vacant of big releases, Gaga has decided to press ahead. After all, it’s been four years since the Joanne album came out. Chromatica is based on Gaga’s vision of a dystopian planet (cf. the video for Stupid Love), which originated from a place in her mind where sounds and colours mix. I quote: “I live on Chromatica, that is where I live. I went into my frame. I found Earth, I deleted it. Earth is cancelled. I live on Chromatica.” All right, then.
2. Gord Sinclair, Get Back Again (Single)
Thirty years ago, Tragically Hip bass player Gord Sinclair wrote a song for the band that for some reason never made it onto any record. Now that Gord is recording solo (check out his Taxi Dancers album from earlier this year), he and his backing band have resurrected this old Hip song (which they often played live in the early days) into something fresh. Proceeds from the song will benefit the Kingston Food Bank and the Unison Benevolent Fund, an organization that provides emergency relief, counselling, and other services for members of the Canadian music community who made be in need.
3. Taggart and Torrens, Animals Sound the Same (Single)
Several years back, former Our Lady Peace drummer Jeremy Taggart teamed up with Jonathan Torrens, who has been involved in Canadian TV for 30 years. (Think Trailer Park Boys, Mr. D and others). The two started a successful podcast a couple of years back, which won a 2018 Canadian Comedy Award. It also spawned a book called Canadianity: Tales from the True North Strong and Freezing. Their latest project is a musical comedy album entitled Bahds, which features Animals Sound the Same, which was written by Antony Carone of Arkells.
4. Akaah D’oro, You’re Not Alone
The coronavirus still has thousands of people stranded around the world on cruise ships. Canadians Jennifer Simser and Daniel Nogueira are entertainers who were stuck on the passenger-less Caribbean Princess for over two months. Knowing that other cruise ship staff are in the same boat (Sorry; that was inexcusable), they wrote and dedicated this song to them. (They finally returned to Canada on May 9.) Proceeds will go to the Princess Cruise Lines Community Foundation.
5. Rush, Permanent Waves 40th Anniversary Edition
The deluxe reissues of Rush’s catalogue of 19 studio albums continue with another expanded box set from the band’s imperial years. Permanent Waves, originally released on Jan. 14, 1980, has been re-released no fewer than five times so far, but never in such a comprehensive way. The package includes two CDs (featuring many live tracks), three 180-gram audiophile black vinyl LPs, and most intriguingly, a 40-page hardcover book filled with new artwork from album designer Hugh Syme and an in-depth 12,000-word essay on everything to do with the album. A must-have for Rush fans.
London Calling: Gorillaz, Aries feat. Peter Hook and Georgia
This is the third in a series of Gorillaz singles planned for 2020, each of which features special surprise guest stars. If Aries sounds like it could be a New Order song, it’s because it features the unmistakable stylings of former New Order bass player Peter Hook. Percussion is supplied by Georgia, who is based out of London
Undiscovered Gem: Margo, Solo
Edmonton’s Margo (Cassidy Margolis on her drivers license) has slowly been making progress getting her songs featured on influential blogs. She inhabits an alt-pop headspace that might just take up residence in your brain.
Throwback Track: The Stone Roses, I Am the Resurrection
A very important concert happened 30 years ago this past week. On May 27, 1990, The Stone Roses played a concert on Spike Island, a man-made glop of land in the Mersey estuary built on the site of an old toxic waste dump. Some 30,000 punters turned up to the gig, making it an astounding achievement by an indie band. The event set the stage for a new era in British music as Madchester peaked and created the foundations for Britpop later in the decade. The last half of this song features one of the greatest instrumental jams every committed to record.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.