Here’s your long weekend playlist with new music from Sudan Archives, Alessia Cara, Rina Sawayama, Kevin Morby and more

This week’s playlist includes music from Alessia Cara (top left), Sudan Archives (top right), Rina Sawayama (bottom left) and Kevin Morby (bottom right).
By Richie AssalyToronto Star

Demar GrantStaff Reporter

Annette EjioforToronto Star

Fri., May 20, 20226 min. read

Star Tracks compiles the most interesting new music from a broad range of established and emerging artists.

This week’s playlist features new music from Sudan Archives, Alessia Cara, Rina Sawayama, Kevin Morby, Remi Wolf, Lupe Fiasco and Sharon Van Etten.

Click here to listen along to the Spotify playlist, which includes additional tracks we loved this week.

Sudan Archives: Selfish Soul

The latest single and video from rising experimental singer and violinist Sudan Archives – real name Brittney Denise Parks – is a celebration of individuality, and specifically an ode to Black hair. “I feel like there’s an American standard of what beautiful hair is,” she explained in a press release. “I wanted to show in this video that’s not what all beauty is; to showcase different hairstyles and different types of women and their hair.”

But “Selfish Soul” is also an irresistible summer jam, one that explodes over the course of two-and-a-half minutes like a glitter bomb. “Time I embrace my selfish soul,” she chants triumphantly over a throbbing bass line and layers of hand claps, as her electric violin carves through the mix like a hot knife through a stick of butter. She sounds unstoppable.

Sudan Archive is the guest curator for the Sled Island Music & Arts Festival, which takes place in Calgary from June 22 to 26. — Richie Assaly

Rina Sawayama: This Hell

To listen to Rina Sawayama is to indulge in y2k culture. The 2000s was two decades ago: soak that in and realize that those sounds, tropes and references are officially vintage. Between the glam rock electric guitars, Sawayama’s Aguilerian vocals and references to “The Devil Wears Prada,” “This Hell” is 2000s reincarnate.

On her way to eternal damnation, Sawayama makes it a triumphant trip in a two-seater as she implores: “Getting ready for the night / Damned for eternity, but you’re coming with me / Into the afterlife (Wow, that’s hot).” It’s cheeky, but Sawayama makes it powerful and defiant. If you’re cursed to a fiery inferno for the rest of eternity, you might as well have a ball on your way there. — Demar Grant

Alessia Cara: You Let Me Down

It feels like everyone I know is either in the season of ending a relationship or mourning one. But whether you’re single or annoyingly in love (light sarcasm), Alessia Cara’s new single “You Let Me Down” speaks to the disappointment we’ve all experienced in this crazy thing called love.

The 25-year-old artist from Mississauga, Ontario, has come a long way from singing about being an introvert at house parties that are too loud, surrounded by people too obnoxious. “You Let Me Down” is exactly where pop music should reside: the upbeat melody is balanced with her soft harmonies as she sings “I love you but you let me down” — she wants listeners to know how taut her lover has her in the relationship, but also how fed up she is. A feeling we can all relate to or have at one point.

Thank you to Cara for once again saying what we’re all thinking. — Annette Ejiofor

Kevin Morby: Five Easy Pieces

At the end of 2020, singer-songwriter Kevin Morby journeyed to Memphis, Tennessee, a city spotted with tragic landmarks – the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the spot where Jeff Buckley drowned, the locations where Elvis Presley and Jay Reatard died. “When lockdown was happening, I wanted to go to the darkest place possible,” he told The New York Times.

The resulting project is “This Is a Photograph,” a polished and dynamic folk-rock record, filled with immersive storytelling, existential musings, banjos, fiddles, and musical contributions from a broad range of artists — from indie singer Cassandra Jenkins to jazz drummer Makaya McCraven.

“All of my time has been wasted on you, baby/ Best tears of my life fell like ice from my eyes,” Kevin Morby sings over a rustic groove and lavish strings on “Five Easy Pieces,” his voice shot through with ambivalent yearning as he wallows in the memories of a fiery but broken relationship. “Oh Bobby, baby, I hope you’re well/ I’ll see you in hell,” he concludes, dreamily.

Morby will play the Danforth Music Hall in October. — RA

Remi Wolf: Michael

For someone with such energetic and vibrant songs, Remi Wolf sure knows how to make a dreary track. Dreary in a good way. Dreary in a way where you can feel the hopeless emotion leaking from each lyric and the despair every time she calls out “Michael!”

Despite the song’s chugging pace and heavy guitars, “Michael” is an explosive track. It captures Wolf amid a tortuous emotional relationship: “Yeah, I want a scab today / Put it in my favourite place / Kinda hurts, but that’s OK.” There’s something addictive in relationships that we know aren’t good for us and Wolf has found herself trapped inside one. They hurt so good and Wolf’s track is more than enough catharsis for those who are or were in that situation. — DG

Sharon Van Etten: Mistakes

Written and recorded at the height of the pandemic, as wildfires encroached on her home in Los Angeles – “gripped by collective hysteria” – Sharon Van Etten’s sixth studio album, “We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong,” is a dark masterpiece, filled with moody and downtempo songs that swell with Springsteenesque grandeur.

“I’m looking at our grass/ I’m struggling for words/ I’m dreaming of a place/ I held close in a state,” Van Etten sings on the epic opener, “Darkness Fades,” her voice quivering as before she shifts into a soaring falsetto.

But the album’s pinnacle – and its moment of catharsis – arrives on “Mistakes,” a gratifying disco-rock track, on which Van Etten steps out of the darkness and back onto the dance floor (“I dance like Elaine, she quips). “Even when I make a mistake, mistake/ Turns out it’s great,” she sings, set free by the music and ready to embrace the absurd.

Van Etten plays Massey Hall along with Julien Baker and Angel Olsen on Aug. 12 and 13. — RA

Lupe Fiasco (feat. Nayirah): AUTOBOTO

When you listen to “AUTOBOTO,” I want you to remember that it’s from an album Lupe Fiasco made in 72 hours. Lupe is in a fun phase but he’s dealing with a serious subject matter. Rapping about living through gang violence in Chicago he manages to set up and punch through a funny aquatic metaphor: “Why buy a tub when they buy you a flood? Better buy you a sub/ How you gon’ survive in the club? You gon’ kayak it cuz when it rise up above/ And the waves come and push/ And the tidals are shoved.” The imagery is vivid and combined with a glacial pace, surfy guitars, twinkling chimes and drowsy synths — “AUTOBOTO”’s production only reinforces the watery tropes.

Nayirah’s outro is also a nice touch, giving “AUTOBOTO” a R&B reflex to contrast Lupe Fiasco’s speedy flow throughout. It could have sounded even better as a bridge, but for something made within 72 hours it’s more than superb. The hook is super sticky too. —DG


Richie Assaly is a Toronto-based digital producer for the Star. Read him via email:

Demar Grant is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach Demar via email:
Annette Ejiofor is an Ottawa-based digital producer for the Star. Reach her via email at


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