I had plenty of Aprils Fools puns ready to go when starting to compile this article, but given the global devastation and uncertainty faced by us all from Covid-19, the gags just don’t seem appropriate right now. If there is one positive certainty at this time though, it is the abundance of great Canadian tunes still being created, recorded, and released. Here are a few hand-picked contenders that should definitely be given a few spins this month.
Ian Foster & Nancy Hynes, “Siena”
Kicking off this April edition is this much-needed song about hope, composed and released by Newfoundland folk-duo, Ian Foster and Nancy Hynes, inspired by the viral social media coverage of the people of Tuscany leaning from their terraces and windows on a neighborhood street to sing together during the nationwide lockdown. “Amidst the daily barrage of bad news, we have to look for the bright spots, the honest moment,” Ian reflects. “One of the earliest in all of this for me was a tale of people in Siena singing ‘Canto Della Verbena,’ a patriotic folk song about Siena’s tenacity, out of their windows during lockdown.” Making many references to this traditional song, Ian and Nancy naturally incorporate their own beautiful words into this composition: “And hope is born outside the walls / Because it heard us singing one and all / And hope is the sister of the rain / Because if falls upon us again, and again, and again.” “The song references bringing water to Siena in the 1300s from a river 25km away, via underground tunnels,” Ian adds. “It’s thought that the verbena plant grows outside the walls of Siena because of that water. The song represents hope and triumph over nature, and was so meta in this situation that it got my songwriter senses tingling.”
Laila Biali, “Revival”
Regular readers know that when it comes to feeding our appetite for some great Canadian jazz, Vancouver, BC, artist Laila Biali is a frequent choice for those listening pleasures. With the recent release of her brand new “Out Of Dust” album, this JUNO Award winning performer caught my attention with the video release for the album track, “Revival,” a high-energy, spirited R&B-jazz number focusing on the enjoyment of city dwelling. “Revival is about rising up out of difficult circumstances,” Biali shares. “When we feel like the word around us is caving in, we come together and join forces to fight for the good we believe in.” Filmed on location in New York City, Laila transforms global tumult into an inspiring call-to-arms, delivering her opening lines with the clear-eyed confidence of a warrior: “Come on down when you hear that sound / Come on down, there’s a fire underground / Come on down when you hear that sound / Come on down / There’s a fire blowing round.” “We used to gather in café’s, warm bevvies in hand, comfort for the mind, body and soul,” she tweeted recently. “Now we gather over online spaces to connect, to share our joys and sorrows, to check in on one another, (and) comfort one another.”
Formed originally as a high school band bound by a collective desire to play Rush covers, Burlington, ON, indie-rockers, Pacific Estate, are proud to release a brand new single. Sharing stages with household names like Hollerado and Pkew Pkew Pkew, this quartet of Cam Hart, Grady Evans, Nick Lewis and Evan Catania sought the services of JUNO Award winning producer Julius Butty (City and Colour) to formally lay down their new music at Arc Recording Studio in Hamilton. “She is about more than just her. It’s about uncertainly, the inability to trust, and simply letting things happen,” the band share. “It’s the anxiety of making a decision with the consequences, and not being able to know if it was the right one until the damage has already been done.” Loaded with youthful exuberance and some tight instrumentation, the opening lines are wonderfully feisty: “She’s five ten, looks a bit under fed / She’s got the lips of an angel and the kiss of death / She’s cool, but she don’t know the rules / And just like a cigarette, she’ll take control over you.” “She is the story of a man getting to know someone, but … another woman he’s always longed for starts to pursue him. It’s about the struggle of determining if you’re being selfish or putting yourself first.”
Pharis and Jason Romero, “New Day / We All Fall”
New music from the two-time JUNO Award winners, Pharis and Jason Romero, has been a long time coming, and is not only finally here, but proves to be completely worth the wait. Having announced that their upcoming fifth studio album, “Bet On Love,” shall be released on May 15th, the Horsefly, BC, duo are excited to share two new tracks as a Double A-Side single. The eleven new tracks on “Bet On Love” are all related and intertwined, hence the duo’s desire to release “New Day” and “We All Fall” as the first pair. “Last December we converted our banjo workshop into a recording studio,” Pharis shares. “Playing live with the musicians, we all wanted to create something that felt like a curtain of sound, with the vocals lifting over the pulse of the songs.” “New Day” is a wish for real connection and love, for when someone gives you their hand in love, they are giving you a future and hope. “We All Fall” is a story of rising and falling, with a young rise to pleasure, a middle-aged fall to loneliness, and the wisdom discovered in later years. Welcome back Pharis and Jason Romero, we are ready to enjoy once again your expressions of hope that you find in the resilience of community, and your love born from family, united in the melodies of life.