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Heavy Rotation: 10 Songs Public Radio Can't Stop Playing

CBC Music can't get enough of the Canadian folk-rock duo Whitehorse.
Courtesy of the artist
CBC Music can't get enough of the Canadian folk-rock duo Whitehorse.

Hear The Songs

Whitehorse, 'Sweet Disaster'

From 'Sweet Disaster'

Named for the capital city of the Yukon Territory, Whitehorse is the bluesy, folksy duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland. Both had their own solo gigs before they came together to form Whitehorse, which in turn gave both of their careers a boost. Whitehorse has a new single out called "Sweet Disaster," and it's kind of like a cross between Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" and the soundtrack to True Detective. A smoky, sultry, sexy duet, it's enlivened in all the right spots by killer guitar work. —Grant Lawrence, CBC Music

Hop Along, 'Waitress'

Shervin Lainez

From 'Painted Shut'

The Philadelphia band Hop Along is about to experience a national breakout with Painted Shut, its second album, which drops May 4. Hop Along's power rests squarely on the talents of singer-songwriter Frances Quinlan, whose voice is huge: urgent, dynamic, sometimes harsh but undeniably intense. Get into it and you'll experience her reflective first-person stories in songs like "Waitress." The words stem from places of frustration and even darkness, but the music is pure, riff-churning headlong joy. —David Dye, World Cafe

Pinkshinyultrablast, 'Holy Forest'

From 'Everything Else Matters'

Pinkshinyultrablast's members have described their music as "thunder pop" — which is fitting, because every song on their debut album, Everything Else Matters, explodes with vibrancy and color. Blissful guitar and synth washes help send the ethereal vocals soaring. "Holy Forest" is deceptive at first: It starts out with a sparse, catchy guitar riff, followed by an additional guitar line, then bass, drums and synths — pretty straightforward. But it's all a set-up for the pink-shiny-ultra-blast of melody and noise that catapults the song into overdrive about a minute in. The band's name says it all. —Kevin Cole, KEXP

Leon Bridges, 'Lisa Sawyer'

From 'Lisa Sawyer'

Leon Bridges is often compared to soul legends Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, and was just awarded a 2015 Grulke Prize at this year's SXSW Music Festival in his native Texas. Bridges' debut album isn't due until summer, but the songs released so far have been wonderful — particularly a sweet, sentimental, dreamy tribute to his mother called "Lisa Sawyer." His astonishing vocals and songwriting are buoyed by the finesse of his producers, two members of White Denim. Known for their layered progressive/psych-rock jams, their touch here is light and just right. —Anne Litt, KCRW

Magna Carda, 'Juice'


From 'Like It Is'

When Austin's Magna Carda was born, producer Dougie Do wanted MC Megz Kelli to email her verses to him, but Kelli understood the power of recording in the same room. The hip-hop duo — which expands to a full band in live settings — doesn't explode so much as simmer. There's a push-and-pull energy to the recent Like It Is mixtape: While Do keeps things smooth and soulful, Kelli turns heads with rapid-fire rhymes, bobbing and weaving inside the productions like a boxer. "The juice is from within and I don't need no permission to be myself," she raps in "Juice." It might read flat on the page, but in the hands of up-and-comers, it's a necessary truth to live by. —Art Levy, KUTX

Inner Oceans, '8 Cousins'

From '8 Cousins'

As a young band, just a couple years and an EP old, Denver's Inner Oceans took last year to figure out its identity by writing songs in any style its members dreamed up, just to see what would happen. Along the way, they found the makings of their newest single, "8 Cousins." When a haunting drone started emanating from their bass amp in the middle of the night, it served as the foundation and inspiration for this pulsing, psychedelic turn. The percussion builds and breaks, while the ghostly vocals and light distortion pull you through to an airy finish. —Jessi Whitten, Colorado Public Radio's OpenAir

Emile Haynie, 'Falling Apart'

Alexandra Gavillet

From 'Falling Apart'

Emile Haynie already has a Grammy Award, and he's been a producer and songwriter for the likes of Eminem, Bruno Mars, Kanye West, fun., Lana Del Rey and Drake. But it took personal heartbreak to inspire him to craft his own debut album. Seeking comfort after a breakup, Haynie headed to Hollywood for warmth and sunshine; with little expectation of an outcome, he says, he brought in instruments and recording gear.

Over a period of six months, he wrote and recorded what would become his debut. "Falling Apart" illustrates the personal investment Haynie made in the process, and taught him how different it is to work on your own songs and write from your own experiences. Lyrically, the song nails the consequences of bad choices and the demons that guide them.

"Falling Apart" features Andrew Wyatt (of Miike Snow) on vocals, not to mention the unmistakable harmonies of Brian Wilson — as unlikely a combination as the rest of the album's contributors, who include Randy Newman, Kid Cudi and Rufus Wainwright. It takes an assured artist to stand at the helm of all this, and Emile Haynie is just that.

Rita Houston, WFUV

Pharis & Jason Romero, 'Ballad Of Old Bill'

From 'A Wanderer I'll Stay'

Pharis and Jason Romero are from Horsefly, British Columbia — population 1,000, in the foothills of the Cariboo Mountains — where they write and sing modern-day folk ballads. Their tales of wandering, loneliness and "local characters" with an independent spirit will challenge you to identify which are original compositions and which come from old songbooks. All of the duo's songs are deftly played on vintage or newly handcrafted instruments, and each is sung with sublime vocal harmonies that blend and intertwine effortlessly. "The Ballad Of Old Bill" is a highlight from Pharis and Romero's latest album, A Wanderer I'll Stay. Pharis told us the song is about "a character who lived in a rundown old house, miles out of town, with just his animals for company. He lived off the land, hunted, trapped, and had an apple and plum orchard. He grew a beautiful flower garden, and on his infrequent trips to town (a couple times a year), he would get all dressed up and bring bouquets of flowers to all the unmarried ladies who lived between his house and town. A couple Septembers ago, he was found dead in his orchard, mostly eaten by a bear." —Linda Fahey, Folk Alley

Bearcubs, 'Touch'

From 'Touch'

Bearcubs, a.k.a. 23-year-old Londoner Jack Ritchie, draws on an eclectic blend of electronic genres. He wrote, performed and produced his latest single, "Touch," which helps mark Ritchie — who studied digital music and sound at University — as one of BBC Music's artists to watch. —Huw Stephens, BBC Music

Torres, 'Strange Hellos'

Shawn Brackbill

From 'Sprinter'

Mackenzie Scott, a 23-year-old singer-guitarist who goes by the stage name Torres, doesn't shy from PJ Harvey comparisons: She's even working with Harvey collaborators Rob Ellis and Ian Olliver. But her dramatic style draws blood all the same. "Strange Hellos" whispers a few devastating lines at the outset and then gets progressively nastier. Torres pushes her voice across a spectrum of emotions, from angelic cries to distorted rasps, over an ebb-and-flow backdrop that crushes quibbles. —Greg Kot, Sound Opinions

Copyright 2015 NPR