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Fresh Sounds Canada: New Songs from Jonita Gandhi, Iskwē & More

Listen to the must-hear Canadian songs and releases of the week, which also includes Fredz, Milk & Bone and Aqyila.

Jonita Gandhi & Ali Sethi

Jonita Gandhi & Ali Sethi

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In our first new Fresh Sounds roundup of the year, we check in on one of Billboard Canada's inaugural cover stars, who's poised to have a big year. Plus, a new version of a Montreal indie pop tune, a meditation on social media and self-image, some franco hip-hop and lots more to refresh your playlist.

Jonita Gandhi feat. Ali Sethi, “Love Like That”


When we last spoke to Jonita Gandhi as part of our Punjabi Wave cover story, she had just signed to the new Warner Canada/Warner India collaborative label 91 North Records and was getting excited about reintroducing herself to the world. Now, she admits, she wasn't quite sure where she'd go next. She already has a huge audience for the music she's made for blockbuster movies in India, but was looking to nail down what she sounded like. With her first song from her upcoming new EP, Love Like That, she settled on a sound: a relatable pop song that travels everywhere.

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"I've struggled with that [diversity in my sound] for a long time," she tells Billboard Canada. "I've started to embrace it, to use it as a strength instead of a weakness. The music can be fluid, as fluid as my life jumping from continent to continent."

The song features Pakistani-American singer Ali Sethi and has at least three languages: English, Hindi and Urdu ("plus one or two lines in Punjabi"). It's a modern pop song full of hooks you could easily hear on the radio, but it also features ancient Pakistani folk melodies. And it all fits together. Lots to look forward to from here. — Richard Trapunski

Iskwē, “Waiting For The Laughter”

Iskwē’s “Waiting For The Laughter” is an anguished meditation on aging and self-perception, released ahead of the singer-songwriter’s upcoming fourth album, nīna, out April 12. Drawing on Iskwē’s Cree Métis heritage, the album title comes from the Cree translation for “me,” and promises an autobiographical story of passion, loss and renewal. If it’s anything like “Laughter,” nīna will possess a dark intensity. The single pairs Iskwē’s powerful vocals with a driving beat and emphatic strings, as Iskwē sings about being caught in a cycle of negativity, and seeks catharsis or relief. — Rosie Long Decter

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Fredz, “Houston”

Two years after his album Astronaute, Montreal singer-songwriter Fredz continues to operate in his own galaxy. In the rapper’s song "Houston," he references the famous words of astronaut Jack Swigert, "Houston, we have a problem," to depict loneliness and malaise. Despite its melancholy, the hip-hop track is a catchy earworm that gives a promising glimpse of what’s to come. Amélie Revert

Aqyila, “Effortlessly”

Since Aqyila first went viral with a freestyle about a hairstyle, the Toronto singer has built a strong profile for herself, signing with Sony Music, garnering a Juno nomination for Contemporary R&B Recording, and releasing a six-song EP in 2023, For The Better. She’s kicking off this year with a forward-looking new single, “Effortlessly,” about relaxing into what’s meant to be. The song begins with laid-back guitar and Aqyila’s breezy vocal, before piano chords and horns help lift it up on the chorus. “What’s on its way / will not miss me,” Aqyila sings, manifesting good things to come in 2024. On “Effortlessly,” just for two minutes, success sounds easy. Rosie Long Decter

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EDITOR'S PICK: Milk & Bone, "Movies (Softest Version)"

This acclaimed Montreal duo of Laurence Lafond-Beaulne and Camille Poliquin has come up with a new version of “Movies,” a song featured on its third album, 2022’s Chrysalism. As the revised song title suggests, this new take is a gentle, almost tranquil one. The duo's signature vocal harmonies are to the fore, placed amidst bubbling keyboards and soft atmospherics, to beguiling effect. Milk & Bone has won multiple awards in Quebec and beyond, including a 2019 Juno Award in the Electronic Album of the Year category, for Deception Bay. They're returning to the stage for a mini-tour that begins at Le Moulinet in Terrebonne (Feb. 2), followed by shows at Espace Diffusion in Cowansville (Feb. 3), Théâtre Beanfield, Montreal (Feb. 16) and Minotaure in Gatineau (March 9). Tickets here. — Kerry Doole

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Sabrina Carpenter
Bryce Anderson

Sabrina Carpenter

Pop

Sabrina Carpenter is Coming to Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver on 2024 Short N’ Sweet North American Arena Tour

The singer will also fill-in for Tyler, The Creator at the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco following the rapper's announcement that he's dropped off the bill.

Sabrina Carpenter announced the dates for her upcoming fall 2024 North American headlining arena tour on Thursday (June 20), with the Short n’ Sweet outing slated to kick off on Sept. 23 in Columbus, Ohio followed by Sept. 25 at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena. The 29-date tour will travel across the U.S. and Canada from September through mid-November, with stops in Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta, Dallas, Vancouver, Seattle, San Diego and Phoenix before winding down on Nov. 15 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.

Support acts on the tour include Amaarae, Griff and Declan McKenna, with the singer partnering with PLUS1 to launch the Sabrina Carpenter Fund to support the well-being of people and animals to provide support for mental health, animal welfare and the LGBTQ+ community on the swing.

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