The triumphant return of Florence and the Machine, plus new music from SAFE, Cancer Bats and more

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 Florence and the Machine, SAFE, Cancer Bats, Doja Cat featuring Tyga, Silk Sonic and much more.

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

SAFE: Day Ones

Over the course of the last decade, the Halal Gang – a hip hop collective formed in Regent Park – has quietly left its mark on the Toronto music scene. Made up of Mustafa, Puffy L’z, SAFE and the late Smoke Dawg, the group shares some sonic similarities to the artists on Drake’s OVO Sound roster, but come across as a more grounded and introspective group of musicians. Last year, Mustafa’s debut album “When Smoke Rises,” an elegiac tribute to his community in Regent Park, won critical acclaim and made the singer an international star.

SAFE, the 24-year-old singer and rapper born Saif Musaad, is the latest rising star to emerge from the Halal Gang. At the start of February, one year after landing a spot on a star-studded compilation album inspired by the film “Judas and the Black Messiah,” SAFE released a seven-song mini-album, titled “Get Home SAFE (Part 1).” Teeming with luxuriant and moody R&B beats, the music is quintessential Toronto, elevated by Musaad’s effortlessly smooth vocals and buttery falsetto.

“Baby boy back in the city,” he sings on the standout track “Day Ones,” a love letter to his hometown from an artist that sounds ready to take on the world. — Richie Assaly

Psychic Jailbreak — Cancer Bats

Ontario hardcore legends Cancer Bats may be a three piece now, but those chunky, head-banging riffs still hit hard.

After the departure of longtime guitarist Scott Middleton, bassist Jaye R. Schwarzer took over the axe-wielding duties, and so far, the results have been hell yeah. The band released their latest single “Psychic Jailbreak” last week, their first track since 2018’s “The Spark That Moves.” The band will also release a new album on April 15.

“Psychic Jailbreak” is bound to make you move, with that dirty distortion on the guitars, an anthem-like chorus that climbs and the hoarse energy of Liam Cormier’s vocals. Hopefully we can get to move to this banger of a track in person when the band embarks on a Canada-wide tour in March.

And wouldn’t that be one helluva way to release the pent-up post-Omicron energy (within safe means, of course)? — Justin Smirlies

Florence and the Machine: King

“I am no mother, I am no bride, I am King,” Florence Welch bellows on “King,” her majestic voice brimming with righteous anger as she rebukes the patriarchy.

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“As an artist, I never actually thought about my gender that much … I was as good as the men and I just went out there and matched them every time,” Welch explained in a statement. “But now, thinking about being a woman in my thirties and the future, I suddenly feel this tearing of my identity and my desires … for the first time I felt a wall come down between me and my idols as I have to make decisions they did not.”

The tension in “King” is only heightened by the cinematic visual directed by acclaimed photographer and director Autumn de Wilde, which depicts Welch, draped in a purple gown, murdering a man with her bare hands before hovering mysteriously through abandoned concrete buildings.

But the true moment of catharsis comes in the song’s bridge, when Welch finally lets it rip. At that moment, she sounds capable of absolutely anything. — RA

Doja Cat & Tyga: Freaky Deaky

Get ready to hear this one on the radio for the rest of the year, because Tyga and Doja Cat just dropped everyone’s summer song three months early.

Over an easy summery guitar, trap drums and classic west-coast claps, Doja Cat is dropping the dreamiest sex hook of 2024, singing “I’ve been feelin’ freaky deaky, you’re on your way to see me, got the mirror on the ceiling, you’re in the mood to please me.” Tyga also pitches in a few bars about the options he has if you ever leave girls around him, but it’s hard to stand out when Doja is dropping lines like: “He don’t want an if or an and, just butt, don’t give me a miss or a ma’am, just slut” during her verses.

Although this is a collab, Tyga is very much a guest in Doja Cat’s house as she crafts a sultry fantasy around Tyga’s braggadocio. — Demar Grant

Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak: Love’s Train

Singer-songwriters Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars have continued to produce magical, feel-good tunes via their Silk Sonic partnership. Their latest single dropped on Valentine’s Day. Titled “Love’s Train,” it is a cover of funk band Con Funk Shun’s 1982 hit.

.Paak and Mars maintain and honour many of the ‘80s slow jam’s musical elements, including its R&B sounds and smooth instrumental intro. But they also add their own flare, fusing in vocal melodies and smooth, funky instrumentals.

“Love’s Train” is certainly a comforting, romantic song, and one play of this cover by .Paak and Mars is sure to have you feeling like you’re on cloud nine.

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.Paak and Mars are currently gearing up for their recently-announced Las Vegas residency, which includes a run of 13 shows at the Dolby Live theatre between Feb. 25 and April 2.

The duo are up for four Grammy Awards including Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best R&B Performance. — Madison Wong

RealestK: Love Me

In the latest of a blazing set of singles, between a glacial set of drums, smooth bass and understated guitar RealestK lays delicate, forlorn vocals. Making a catchy R&B slow jam is one of the hardest things to do in music. Not only does it need to capture dynamic emotion, but the hook has to be sticky enough to keep people around. And yet, as RealestK wonders “Baby, why can’t you love me?” everything comes together. K’s bouncy then drawn-out hook is just as likely to draw vocals from your mouth as it is to jerk tears from your eyes. “Love Me” is another track that continues to flex K’s ability to draw on The 6ix’s marquee emotion, melancholy, while still forcing you to keep the track on repeat-one. — Demar Grant

Daniel Rossen: Unpeopled Space

In 2020, singer-songwriter Ed Droste left Grizzly Bear to become a therapist, a decision that likely marked the end, or at least the start of a lengthy hiatus, for one of the most beloved and acclaimed indie rock bands of the early aughts. A silver lining, however, comes in the form of a forthcoming solo project by the band’s co-lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Rossen.

On the album’s lead single, titled “Unpeopled Space,” Rossen, who performs nearly all the instruments on the project, is joined by Grizzly Bear drummer Christopher Bear for a sweeping musical odyssey that subtly transcends the sonic parameters of their band’s previous work. The track is staggeringly complex, weaving together staccato guitars, brooding cellos and upright bass, and indulging in pastoral vocal harmonies that make the Fleet Foxes sound like Mumford and Sons. Though demanding of one’s attention, “Unpeopled Space” is a gorgeous and rewarding song – one that should satiate mourning Grizzly Bear fans.

“You Belong There” arrives on April 8. — RA

Mura Masa, Lil Uzi Vert, PinkPantheress, Shygirl: Bbycakes

In one the most bizarre collaborations of the year, Lil Uzi Vert, PinkPantheress and Shygirl are caught in a playful bout of love, lies and lifestyle. Wistfully prancing through Mura Masa’s bubbly, dancehall-influenced, U.K. garage production littered with DJ scratching, xylophones and steel drums is Shygirl, who sings: “Babycakes, you just don’t know, know/ How I, I, I want you so, so/ And I just want you to know that I think our love will grow.”

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Seamlessly, she’s met by Uzi’s croons of a lost love in his lavish “Don’t even start on to that stuff that you used to (Used to)/ Because I put you in this lifestyle, wasn’t used to/ And don’t even act like you don’t even care (No)”. And Finally Pink Pantheress offers her dainty vocals to reflect on her past bad behaviour, singing “So, I called you here to tell you I’m with someone you know/ And if I said that I loved you, I lied.”

On paper it’s a combination that doesn’t make any sense, but Mura Masa’s eclectic production and his past experience with Shygirl and PinkPantheress on previous songs provides an excellent yet unorthodox stage for all talents to shine. It’s playful enough for Uzi’s carefree lyrics, it’s dainty enough for Shygirl’s airy vocals and it’s fleeting enough for PinkPantheress’s both. — DG

Dehd: Bad Love

If you’re in need of an aural palette cleanse after a week of heavy vibes, go ahead and click play on “Bad Love” by the Chicago-based garage rock trio Dehd. Painted with reverb-drench guitars, crisp post-punk percussion and Emily Kempf’s ecstatic yelps, the feel-good tune hearkens back to a simpler, sunnier time. Stop doomscrolling, turn it up, and remember that spring is on its way.

Dehd’s fourth album, “Blue Skies,” drops May 27th. — RA

Jazz Cartier: Trust

Who can you trust when you can’t even trust yourself? Wandering through spectral synths and sparse drums, Jazz Cartier is lost in thought: “Who can I trust when cops out to get us? Who can I trust when n— killin’ n—, I don’t recognize who I’m seeing in the mirror, can’t even trust myself, can never trust these b—.”

“Trust” is a window into a mind of someone paranoid and annoyed with everything around him to the point Cartier offers breathy raps explaining he’s “Sick of n— saying that I look like Big Sean, Big Sean look like me, Big Sean think he me.” The flow is buttery, the hook is sticky and beat is floaty, a premium cut off Jazz Cartier’s “The Fleur Print Vol. 2.” — DG


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