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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Now in our New Music bin: Valley, Broken Bells, Alice Merton, Michael Jablonka, John Lewitt

Toronto alt-pop quartet Valley has just released Maybe: Side A - the first installment of a three-part LP, or a trio of EPs, depending how you look at it. In the two years since its previous release, This Room Is White, the band worked in its home studio and on trips to Los Angeles and New York to create this new collection, "packed with snapshots from the last two years of our life, and concepts of our generation." From this collection of mostly upbeat, buoyant tunes, we're picking "Loop Love" to feature in our New Music bin, and we'll drop other tracks into our big mix.

Alice Merton also has a connection to the Toronto suburbs, as she lived there with her family during part of her pre-teen years. Having lived at times in the U.S., Canada, England, France and her native Germany, she has said that her 2016 hit single "No Roots" was inspired by the feeling that "there's no one place where my home is." Her first album, Mint, is due next month, and the latest single to spin out of it is the quirky, jumpy "Funny Business." In the lyric, she urges a suspicious lover to "trust me when I say that I was innocent ... I don't break hearts, I don't do funny business."

Continuing in the alt-pop vein, we're picking up "Shelter," a new single from Broken Bells, the collaboration of Shins frontman James Mercer and producer Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton. On this track the duo “combined their unmistakable melodies, lyrics, vocals and singular composition style" with the mouse's “deconstruction and reconstruction of sampled beats.” The result is a breezy mid-tempo take on the well-worn theme of a lover providing shelter from the storm.

We've previously featured Michael Jablonka, who established himself at a young age as a guitarist-for-hire behind various UK artists before recently striking out on his own. His latest single, "Papier-Mache," expands on his blues-funk-rock sound with expressive, soulful vocals. The track takes the listener on a ride through multiple changes in mood and tempo, with a flaming guitar break in the middle.

We circle back to Toronto for a more laid-back sound from singer-songwriter John Lewitt. He recently released his fifth album, All Good Things, which blends strains of Americana, folk, country and rock with personal, relatable lyrics. Our pick for the New Music bin is "Best Kept Secret," the love song of a guy who can't believe his good fortune.

By the way, we debuted four of these five songs on our weekly show The Detour, where we mix a lot of indie and other new releases with older tracks that you don't hear often. It streams Sundays at 5pm Eastern, 2pm Pacific, 10pm GMT and repeats six hours later. Past episodes are archived on Mixcloud.

We've also just added a weekly show called The Birch Street Bistro, which features singer-songwriters and bands that play music on the softer side of the rock spectrum. Join us in the Bistro on Sundays for a relaxing hour starting at Noon Eastern, 9am Pacific, 5pm GMT.

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