Curtis Harding

(Photo: Matthew Correia / courtesy of the artist)

Suddenly it's November, which means that at the time of this writing there are roughly four weeks of new music left in 2017. The 2018 previews have already started rolling in. (You'll find some in this month's playlist, in fact).

But I digress, as usual. October and November are traditionally strong months for new releases, particularly from big artists. This year is no different. Luckily, there are plenty of under-the-radar discoveries waiting to be made, too -- the 35 cuts that make up Waking Life for November include a bit of everything. Balance is key!

Curtis Harding's new but he's no newcomer: "Face Your Fear" follows his 2014 debut, but prior to that he was a back-up singer for Cee-Lo Green. Review after review will warn of the trappings of recreating classic soul sounds, and the ease with which one can unintentionally cross from homage to imitation (and they're right). But Harding's sound holds nuances that set it apart, thanks in part to co-producers Danger Mouse and Sam Cohen. It's a record worthy of excitement, and I couldn't help but include two songs from it here. 

Another relatively new artist I'm enjoying is the Edmonton, Alberta-based Faith Healer. Lead singer Jessica Jalbert has released music in the past as jj. She started Faith Healer in part so that she wouldn't be pigeon-holed as a solo artist. It's a project that's definitely come into its own on the recent sophomore record "Try ;-)" (yes, that's what it's called). "Light of Loving" is one of several cuts exhibiting an adventurous, psychedelic flair while still managing to remain catchy. 

Speaking of catchy, rarely has rock & roll managed to be more so than the Flamin' Groovies' 1976 nugget "Shake Some Action." It's simply one of power pop's defining singles and its ease is impossible to fake. Still, one wouldn't expect the Groovies to approach such heights more than 50 years after first forming. I'm not saying they do, exactly, but "Lonely Hearts" is among a batch of tunes on "Fantastic Plastic" (their first record in almost 40 years to feature the core founding trio) that are prettay, prettay good. 

And that barely begins to highlight what's here this month. This is going to take bullet points! Listen up for:

  • The final releases from a couple of huge musical losses in recent months, Sharon Jones and Gord Downie. "Soul Of A Woman" features the last recordings from the dynamic Jones and her band the Dap-Kings, and arrives just over a year after her passing. The Tragically Hip's Gord Downie, meanwhile, lost his battle with brain cancer last month but not before turning in "Introduce Yerself," a 23-song collaboration with Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew. 
  • Veterans! Returns from Morrissey (who performs Nov. 20 at the Paramount Theatre), Ted Leo, Franz Ferdinand, R. Stevie Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, YACHT and more.
  • Covers! We got 'em. Check out The Veils' stately, stripped down take on David Bowie's "Where Are We Now?" and Julia Holter teaming with Nite Jewel and Nedelle Torissi for a stark version of Depeche Mode's "Condemnation." 
  • Locals! Check. Hear recent in-studio guest Morning Bear's remarkably lush new single "You're Right," as well as the fantastic first single from Sur Ellz' upcoming EP. 

It's all best listened to on shuffle, and because it's November save room for seconds (and dessert). That's the best way to guarantee a full waking life.