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

"Julia," by Toronto's Fast Romantics, was a favorite at CBC Music this month.
Courtesy of the artist
"Julia," by Toronto's Fast Romantics, was a favorite at CBC Music this month.

Every month, we ask some of our favorite public-radio hosts to share their favorite new songs. For August, CBC Music's Grant Lawrence — a self-professed "fan of guitars" — picks a chiming, catchy tune by the emerging Canadian rock band Fast Romantics.

Also in the mix: the latest from veteran slowcore band Low, punk trio Potty Mouth, old-school soul singer Ural Thomas and more. Hear all the songs below.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Hear The Songs

Fast Romantics, 'Julia'

From 'Julia'

When I sift through songs, I always listen for a few specific elements: a solid hook, a great chorus and, being a fan of guitars, some sort of cool guitar line. This song by the Calgary-by-way-of-Toronto band Fast Romantics has all that in spades. The triumphant "Julia" could be a lost hit for Elvis Costello and the Attractions. It's chiming, high-fidelity indie rock with, indeed, an awesome, dirty guitar line throughout that hooked me right away. The band says its goal is to make music meant to last longer than just one night; I think they succeeded with this one.

Grant Lawrence, CBC Music

Potty Mouth, 'Cherry Picking'

Jesse Riggins

From 'Potty Mouth'

Like a lot of American twentysomethings, the members of Massachusetts band Potty Mouth love '90s alternative rock. The group's 2013 debut album, Hell Bent, thrashed around lackadaisically in the spirit of The Lemonheads' 1992 classic It's A Shame About Ray. But Potty Mouth's forthcoming EP could bring the band out of the basement. "Cherry Picking" sounds like something you'd hear on MTV's 120 Minutes circa 1993. Singer-guitarist Abby Weems says she's been listening to a lot of Veruca Salt, which could expose the origin of that enormous hook. But the oomph of "Cherry Picking" can't just be chalked up to expert mimicry: It's the sound of a good band becoming great.

Ally Schweitzer, WAMU 88.5's Bandwidth.fm

Low, 'What Part Of Me'

Zoran Orlić

From 'Ones And Sixes'

Low's "What Part Of Me" is a haunting, simple, pleading new song from the Minnesota band's forthcoming album Ones And Sixes. Since the early '90s, the trio has been making quietly gorgeous songs with slow tempos and minimal arrangements. Low's aesthetic has come to be known as "slowcore," and while it's never strayed far from that sound, its members have kept the narrow musical genre in which they work fresh and inspiring. Low continues to evolve on "What Part Of Me": The band picks up the tempo just a bit as Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker harmonize over an evocative melody, asking a simple question that digs into the heart of what commitment means between two people.

Bruce Warren, WXPN

Ural Thomas & The Pain, 'Pain Is The Name Of Your Game'

From 'Pain Is The Name Of Your Game'

Forty-five years ago, Ural Thomas was a promising young Portland, Ore., soul singer who had shared the stage with James Brown and Otis Redding. But Thomas had also grown weary of living a musician's life. The travel, pressure to perform and other realities of being on stage for a living had robbed him of the joy he'd once derived from playing music. So he walked away and returned to Portland, determined to live a quiet life. Two years ago, that changed when a group of local musicians convinced the septuagenarian to play once again. After honing a live sound, the newly minted Ural Thomas & The Pain enlisted the help of veteran producer Nick Waterhouse to work on a debut album. "Pain Is The Name Of Your Game" is the first single from that effort. Waterhouse's expertly crafted arrangement propels the song, but Thomas is the star. His voice possesses the urgency of a man who's been holding his pain and joy inside for almost five decades.

Jerad Walker, opbmusic

Kasey Chambers, 'Heaven Or Hell'

From 'Bittersweet'

Since splitting from her husband and musical partner, singer-songwriter Shane Nicholson, Australian country star Kasey Chambers has made changes to her sound while remaining true to her roots. Chambers' previous work had been produced exclusively by her brother, Nash Chambers, but Bittersweet — her first solo album since 2010 — finds her collaborating with producer Nick DiDia, who's worked with Bruce Springsteen and Rage Against The Machine. He does a fine job pairing Chambers' new songs with the darker sound they ask for. In "Heaven Or Hell," her familiar country sound (banjo, singalong-ready chorus) is illuminated by a dynamic full-band breakdown mid-song. The song dives into religious imagery, as the characters in the verses need to decide if they will quit their devious ways and pick heaven over hell. This all leads up to the final verse, where the spotlight is on Chambers herself: "Will it be heaven or hell?"

Cindy Howes, Folk Alley

Main Attrakionz, 'Spoken Jewelz'

From '808s & Dark Grapes III'

Main Attrakionz's third LP, 808s & Dark Grapes III, was produced entirely by Bay Area duo Friendzone. The album marks a new sound for the cloud-rap pioneers and is typified by "Spoken Jewelz." The track starts with a chorus of triumphant horns — reminiscent of Jadakiss' "We Gonna Make It" — that charge in like a team exiting the locker room after halftime. MondreM.A.N. joins the song with a smooth cadence over building, arpeggiated synths, then works up to the call-and-response line, "Without them diamonds I spit (spoken jewels)." This high-energy hand-off leads to Squadda Bambino's mix of braggadocio and reflection.

DJ Ammbush, Youth Radio's ADP.FM

The Bohicas, 'Where You At'

From 'The Making Of'

We came across this month's band thanks to the BBC Introducing crew in Essex — a county not too far from London, where these guys originally came from. They're called The Bohicas, and they're now signed to the legendary Domino label, which has brought us all sorts of great acts such as Pavement, Elliott Smith, Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys. This one, "Where You At," is from their forthcoming debut album, The Making Of.

Huw Stephens, BBC Radio 1

Leron Thomas feat. Bilal, 'Role Play'

Dailyswa Laurel

From 'Role Play'

Jazz trumpeter Leron Thomas has always been willing to take chances with his music, but his latest single, "Role Play," is a masterstroke. Working off a dirty bass line, fresh guitar riffs, shimmering synths and a guest vocal by Bilal, it's a funky, futuristic song that bears the influence of Sa-Ra, N.E.R.D. or even Lenny Kravitz. This is music equally suited to commuting during drive time or lighting up candles and incense to relax after a long day.

Chris Campbell, WDET's The Progressive Underground

Humming House, 'Great Divide'

From 'Revelries'

You can't help but admire the infectious hootenanny thrown by the folk band Humming House, especially in its new single, "Great Divide." With its unamplified instrumentation and rousing chorus (reminiscent of The Lumineers and Of Monsters and Men), the anthemic acoustic rock song captures the excitement of the unknown and serves as a reminder that, "If we don't try to go / we may never know / what we were built to be." The group recently opened for heavy-hitting Mountain Stage alumni St. Paul & The Broken Bones and Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, and I'm confident the band will make a name for itself with its high-energy performances and earnest songwriting.

Larry Groce, Mountain Stage

Jarryd James, 'Do You Remember'

From 'Thirty One'

"Do You Remember," by Australian singer-songwriter Jarryd James, is immediately entrancing and seductive, with a creeping rhythm that builds to a breaking wave of emotion. James' yearning falsetto heightens the intensity of this eerily beguiling song. The up-and-coming singer has a self-titled EP coming this fall and a full-length album on the way sometime after that.

Alisa Ali, WFUV