The Playlist: May’s Must-Hear Music
Discover why our music guru Sarah Liss thinks these tunes should top your May playlist.
The astonishingly talented Rufus Wainwright has taken on madrigals, operettas and Judy Garland’s catalogue. His seventh studio album is an oddly perfect effervescent excursion into pop, showing flashes of Stevie Wonder and Abba.
Standout track: “Montauk,” a subtly powerful rondelet for his baby daughter.
The fourth album by Patrick Watson and his eponymous band showcases the same lush, crystalline sound that made the group’s sophomore record, Close to Paradise, such a success. Filled with intimate, painstakingly detailed arrangements overlaid with Watson’s feathery falsetto, this collection is quiet in spirit but epic in scope.
Standout track: The jaunty “Into Giants.”
A candidate for national treasure status, this disc is a collaborative effort by Travis Good of The Sadies, Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo and actor/writer Gordon Pinsent, whose poems are the basis for songs that fall somewhere between CCR and Alison Krauss and Union Station.
Standout track: The elegy “Old Part of Town.”
For Mother’s Day
“Baby Mine” – Betty Noyes (Click to Listen Now)
Is there a more tender ballad than the one featured in that heartbreaking scene in Dumbo, when the big-eared baby pachyderm visits his wronged mama in jail and cuddles with her through the bars of her cage? The original version, by little-known Hollywood singer Betty Noyes, is best, but the Bette Midler cover from the Beaches soundtrack will do in a pinch.
For the Solar Eclipse
“Staring at the Sun” – TV on the Radio (Click to Listen Now)
May 20, 2012, marks the first annular solar eclipse to take place over the U.S. since 1994. In Canada, the astronomical to-do will be visible only to folks in the western part of the country, but anyone can enjoy this mesmerizing topical tune by Brooklyn art-rock ensemble TV on the Radio.
For Channelling Your Inner Supreme
“Do My Thing” – Estelle and Janelle Monaé (Click to Listen Now)
Hordes of modern-day soul singers try to replicate the sound and energy of classic Motown acts, but few succeed. Notable exceptions: silky-voiced British R&B chanteuse Estelle and American funk-meets-musical theatre visionary Janelle Monaé, who came together for the irresistible joint effort “Do My Thing.” The handclap percussion alone will have you pressing “Repeat.”
For Putting the Little One to Sleep
“Asa”- Bry Webb (Click to Listen Now)
Bry Webb, the former front man of southern Ontario punk rock band The Constantines, turned down the volume for his first solo collection of songs. This gorgeous tune was written for his brand-new son, who celebrated his first birthday in January.
For an Impromptu Slow Dance
“Lost in the Light” – Bahamas (Click to Listen Now)
Toronto-based troubadour Afie Jurvanen, who performs under the name Bahamas, is a spectacular guitarist with a mellow ripple of a voice. The doo-wop chord patterns and plaintive melody of this tune provide a great backdrop for gentle head-on-shoulder swaying.
For Deep-Sea Dreaming
“Ocean Blue” – Rae Spoon (Click to Listen Now)
This ethereal reverie by Montreal’s Rae Spoon uses cool, cascading washes of synthesizer in a way that evokes both undulating waves and the haunting cries of marine mammals rolling in the deep.
For Improving Communication
“My Better Self” – Tennis (Click to Listen Now)
This winsome tune by husband-and-wife duo Tennis sounds like a self-improvement guide, which is rather fitting. The bittersweet lyrics paint a picture of a complicated relationship and the difficulty of reconciling rational thought and the whims of a mercurial heart. “If I don’t use words, then each sound goes unheard,” sings Alaina Moore, offering up a simple but essential reminder.
For Your Kiddie’s Birthday Party
“Wraith Pinned to the Mist (and Other Games)” – Of Montreal (Click to Listen Now)
With singsong vocals, a kid’s-eye-view chorus (“Let’s pretend we don’t exist / Let’s pretend we’re in Antarctica”) and a beat reminiscent of a bouncing ball, this tune by the Athens, Georgia-based collective Of Montreal is a great adult-friendly soundtrack for children’s shindigs.
For a 2K Run
“DoYaThing” – Gorillaz featuring Andre 3000 and James Murphy (Click to Listen Now)
This hypnotic, effortlessly funky hip-hop track is a collaboration between three disparate musical acts: cartoon supergroup Gorillaz, outré rapper Andre 3000 and laconic dance music ace James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. Commissioned by sneaker brand Converse, the extended version is approximately 13 minutes-ideal for a brisk jog.
For Whistling While You Work
“Young Folks” – Peter, Bjorn and John (Click to Listen Now)
Back in 2006, the lilting refrain of this breezy pop hit by Swedish group Peter, Bjorn and John wiggled its way onto radio waves and into our collective consciousness. The song is not quite as ubiquitous these days, but that cheerful whistle is just as catchy.