Summer’s here, and typically that means full steam ahead for live shows, concerts, and music festivals. However, this year we’ve had to put a halt on live performances, but that doesn’t mean the music stops. Many artists are still finding ways to be creative, resulting in a slew of new releases coming out daily. Below are five different artists for your listening pleasure to kickstart your summer of 2020!
Sargeant & Comrade
This Calgary duo—by way of Russia (Evgeniy Bykovets) and the Caribbean (Yolanda Sargeant)—has a new album dropping on June 20 titled Magic Radio. It’sa mashup of vintage soul and modern trip-hop samples mixed in with Sargeant’s soft vocals, creating a unique, blissful, and fresh vibe that reflects back on the golden age of soul music. Sargeant’s vocal style infuses inspirations like Billie Holiday and Erykah Badu into something entirely her own. With production credits falling under Bykovets’ White Russian Production moniker, the pair enlisted the help of some funk and jazz musicians to give the album its eclectic, raw sound.
Sargeant & Comrade have been creating their unique music melange together for several years now, with this album being the first full-length release of collected works. Sargeant’s rich, smoky vocals—playful or melancholy, joyful or pensive—come in over a fresh and unexpected mixture of elements in each song.
Listen for collaborative help on a couple tracks from Moka Only, Kool Keith, Planet Asia, Scotty Hills, Touch, and Choclair. Released on Black Buffalo Records.
16-year-old Toronto area singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Anna Sofia has a knack for threading together narrative pop with the unpredictability of 21st-century genre-bending. As a child, she learned piano before picking up ukulele and guitar, which enabled her to craft a signature style rooted in traditional instrumentation à la guitar, drums, and bass.
Garnering attention with her 2019 singles “Meaner Girl” and “I Try,” Sofia then released Self Aware Bitch in 2020. The six-track EP includes her lead-off single, “No Fun,” along with a title track that Sofia describes as, “a representation of my high school experience.” It’s a collection of teenage tales about growing up, experimenting, discovering, and not giving a damn. “There are so many people who want to change you. I’m not going to change for anyone,” she proclaims.
The EP was produced by rising producer Jeff Hazinwith, with Grammy-nominated producer Frank Dukes (Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Post Malone) lending his talents to the title track. Stay tuned for a full-length debut on the way. Released on Electric Feel/Republic Records.
Witch Prophet is an evolution of Toronto-native, Ethiopian/Eritrean singer-songwriter Ayo Leilani. She provides listeners with a soundscape of vocal layers, loops, raps, and harmonies on a bed of hip-hop, house, and soul-inspired beats. Think Lauryn Hill meets Jill Scott.
Witch Prophet recently released her full-length sophomore album, DNA Activation, a fusion of Jazz/R&B/Hip-Hop, with songs sung in English, Amharic, and Tigrinya. She takes you on a cerebral and airy journey that layers seemingly disparate elements with rich harmonies, smart beats, and vocal samples to create sound experiences that elevate the storytelling process.
“I believe in the power that the energy you put out will come back to you, and energy is a real thing. Every song is named after a family member. It’s really a very personal album,” says Leilani. Her vocals have also appeared on Shad’s Flying Colours LP (2013), as well as 2009’s Polaris Prize winner, Fucked Up’s Dose Your Dreams (2018). She’s also shared the stage with the likes of A Tribe Called Red, Shad, Lido Pimienta, LAL, and The Cliks. DNA Activationwas co-produced by SUN SUN.
Colombia-born Bogotá-raised musician, Gabriela Jimeno, is currently based in New York City, performing under the alias Ela Minus. Her debut single, “they told us it was hard, but they were wrong,” was released in April and has that “replay” vibe to it.
Self-made and punk in spirit, Minus uses only hardware synthesizers to perform, write, and record. She melds machines with her living body, creating complex electronic music that exudes a vibrant warmth, and a stark, celebratory affirmation that our breaths aren’t infinite. The accompanying video, directed by Will Dohrn, begins with fog and mountains, a direct homage to the Andes of Colombia.
Over an invigorating beat and staccato synthesizer, Minus’s controlled, breathy vocals are motivating. She says, “When everything is taken from us, the ability to choose our attitude and create our own path forward is the only certainty we have. We have no control over anything except ourselves.”
Guelph/London Indigenous rock band, WHOOP-Szo, sprung from a mixed-blooded experience of Canadian history with deep Anishinaabek roots. Renowned for their cross-genre experimentalism, this five-piece outfit creates a wild fusion of folk, metal, pop, grunge, and even classical music that evokes deep emotions, while conveying troubling stories of civil unrest.
Their latest album, Warrior Down, released last year and was unfortunately overlooked by many. Band member Adam Sturgeon stated that it was deemed “too heavy” by the indies and “not heavy enough” by the metalheads. So when the pandemic hit, they decided to switch gears entirely.
“We were craving some interaction during self-quarantine after canceling well over 50 shows, so we reached out to our contemporaries in the electronic world,” Sturgeon explains. “Before we knew it, we had an EP’s worth of Warrior Down alterations.”
The new EP of remixes was released on June 5, with contributions from Zoon, DOOMSQUAD, Ice Cream, AG47 (nêhiyawak), and more, with 100 per cent of proceeds generated going to Life Spin for COVID-19 Relief based out of London, Ontario.