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The Playlist: June’s Must-Hear Music

Want to get summer off to a rockin’ start? RD’s Sarah Liss has just the tunes for you.

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Americana - Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Americana – Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Neil Young’s first album with his Crazy Horse crew in almost a decade is a collection of classic American folk songs cranked up to 11 and run through a gritty, grungy rock ‘n’ roll filter.

Standout track: The shaggy, guitar-heavy lament “Clementine.”

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I Predict a Graceful Expulsion – Cold Specks (Click to Listen Now)

Al Spx, the majestic voice behind Cold Specks, hails from Toronto, but she polished her soul-blues sound across the pond in England. The 24-year-old’s debut album is a beautiful, ragged revelation.

Standout track: “Blank Maps,” on which multi-tracked vocals chase each other across ripples of ringing percussive notes.

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A Joyful Noise - Gossip (Click to Listen Now)

A Joyful Noise – Gossip (Click to Listen Now)

The title of the latest album by Portland trio Gossip is a nod to the ecstatic, gospel-honed voice of front woman Beth Ditto. The sound, however, is pure electro-punk explosion-Ditto treats her songs as though they’re the seeds of tiny dance floor revolutions.

Standout track: The self-empowerment anthem “Move in the Right Direction.”

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Bonus Playlist

Bonus Playlist

Summer vacation special!
June marks the arrival of summer-which officially begins on the 20th-and its balmy weather, family downtime and rambling road trips. To celebrate, here’s a place-by-place playlist for trans-Canadian travels.

For heading to Hudson Bay
Kathleen Edwards, “Wapusk” (Click to Listen Now)
In 2010, Toronto-based singer Kathleen Edwards teamed up with her sweetheart, Wisconsin native Justin Vernon (of Grammy-winning band Bon Iver), to record this shivery, spare ode to Manitoba’s remote polar bear enclave, Wapusk National Park.

For getting to Gros Morne
Sherman Downey, “Five Little Fingers” (Click to Listen Now)
Gros Morne National Park, on the western coast of Newfoundland, is home to stunning rock formations and a celebrated annual music festival. Local Sherman Downey and his band performed at the 2011 edition of the fest; this winsome tune showcases their folksy charm.

For kicking back in Kluane National Park
Basia Bulat, “Gold Rush” (Click to Listen Now)
In 2008, Ontarian singer Basia Bulat spent five days and nights in Dawson City, Yukon, where she was profoundly awed by the silence. This galloping, string-laced whirl was written in the wake of that experience.

For meandering through Bruce Peninsula National Park
Bruce Peninsula, “The Swimming Song”
Like a twangy, sun-drenched corollary to REM’s “Nightswimming,” this old-fashioned hoedown by the Toronto collective named after a Lake Huron park features a jubilant chorus, gorgeous steel guitar and a dreamy narrative about a summer dip.

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For hiking the Cabot Trail
Ashley MacIsaac featuring Mary Jane Lamond, “Sleepy Maggie” (Click to Listen Now)
There are loads of talented musicians native to Cape Breton, but few have had the kind of crossover success that outré fiddler Ashley MacIsaac achieved with this boisterous 1995 hit.

For catching your breath in Banff National Park
Doldrums, “Chase the Tear” (Portishead cover)
Doldrums-a.k.a. 20-something Torontonian Airick Woodhead-was one of a handful of acts chosen to participate in the 2011 Banff Indie Band Residency, a high-profile, high-intensity musical workshop at the Banff Centre. This electronic composition is a cover of a moody trip-hop tune by British group Portishead.

For scaling the footbridge at Parc national d’Aiguebelle
Geneviève et Matthieu, “Brouillard” (Click to Listen Now)
Offbeat musical and romantic partners Geneviève et Matthieu hail from Rouyn-Noranda, a small city in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of northwestern Quebec that’s also home to the beautiful Parc national d’Aiguebelle. The duo is usually known for cartoonish, whimsical performances, but this song-inspired by fog-is enchantingly pretty.

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For trying to spot caribou at Torngat Mountains National Park
Torngat, “Celebrating New” (Click to Listen Now)
The Torngat Mountains sprawl over northern Labrador and eastern Quebec. The area’s glaciers, hidden finger lakes and lack of trees make the landscape seem quite otherworldly, which is a perfect match for the haunting instrumentals of the Montreal-based trio that has taken its name from the region.

For finding fossils in Grasslands National Park
The Deep Dark Woods, “The Banks of the Leopold Canal” (Click to Listen Now)
True, the canal named in this plaintive, pensive number by indie-folk group The Deep Dark Woods is actually located in Belgium. But the band hails from Saskatoon, and their worn-in, rootsy tunes ripple with the spirit of the prairies.

For portaging in Point Pelee National Park
Weeping Tile, “South of Me” (Click to Listen Now)
Point Pelee is the southernmost point of mainland Canada. And while Sarah Harmer may be more closely associated with the Niagara Escarpment region, this delightfully spiky anthem about delayed gratification by her former band Weeping Tile-sung in both official languages-seems entirely appropriate.