I always enjoy revisiting our annual concert-going adventures, and typically use this feature to look back at the 10 most memorable concert moments we enjoyed over the last twelve months. But with just a handful of concerts under our belts in the first few months of the year, the well quickly dried up thanks to the pandemic.
But all is not lost – as the notion of working from home kicked in, so did the opportunity to hear more new music on a daily basis. Yes, I can salvage this article – I’m simply going to replace the content with 20 memorable tunes released by artists I know and love, and 20 from artists whom I knew little or nothing about prior to this year (2 features for the price of 1).
Here are 20 singles from artists who made a great first impression this year – and trust me, narrowing down to just 20 proved very difficult. And just like my approach with the annual concert experience recaps, these are not ranked in any particular order, but listed alphabetically by artist/band first name.
Ben Kunder: “Stranger”
Poised to be one of the breakout artists in 2020, Toronto indie-rocker Ben Kunder offered this softly propulsive and undulating single that really flexed his fighting spirit. One to watch in 2021.
Cayley Thomas: “Two Minds”
Another breakout artist, this Edmonton native lit up the airwaves through the early half of the year with several singles – this one showcasing her vocal range and experimentation with hi-fi and lo-fi sound.
Christina Hutt: “Fifteen Shades”
The first spin of this release from Kearney, ON artist Christina Hutt was like an alarm clock bringing you out of your slumber, greeting you with some powerful vocals and old school country music charm.
Genevieve Racette: “No Water, No Flowers”
Discovered this stunning acoustic track this past autumn, as recommended to us by one of our long-time readers. Thank you, Louise T. for sending this great tune our way for our GDW: By Request feature.
Jerry Leger: “Read Between The Lines”
A veteran artist of the music scene, it was early January before I had the pleasure of hearing his music, and just one spin of this amazing track made me a new fan for life. Super-cool retro vibes here.
Jess Knights: “Leave Me for The Last Time”
Another artist that quickly earned my attention, no two singles sound alike, and straddle many genres, from blues to country, and soul to balladry. Jess Knights refuses to follow convention, and I love it.
JJ Shiplett: “Waiting on The Rain”
I have to admire this Calgary, AB singer-songwriter for abandoning his up-and-coming country career, opting instead to stay true to his heart with his emotional, gritty brand of roots-Americana music.
JJ Wilde: “The Rush”
JJ was one of just a few artists I saw live in 2020, and knew that she was on the cusp of breaking out. Given how popular and record-setting this single proved to be, I can proudly say ‘I told you so.’
Madisyn Gifford: “Without You”
A recent discovery here at GDW, it is so hard to believe that the sound, voice, and production of this stunning debut is the work of an artist who has just now celebrated her 20th birthday. Fabulous!
Michael Martyn: “Bad For You”
I really have to thank the team at 112 Records for this introduction to Michael’s music. Part blues, part rock & roll, and part tongue-in-cheek, this tune is the perfect choice for that casual weekend cold brew.
Miesha & The Spanks: “Unstoppable”
I was looking for some loud and lively garage rock earlier this year, and “Unstoppable” was exactly what the doctor ordered. Try playing this one just once – it’s pretty impossible – it’s unstoppable!
Ocie Elliott: “Be Around”
A duo formed out of a chance encounter in a local café in their native Victoria, BC – and a new firm favorite of mine thanks to a chance encounter of having their music aired more frequently on SXM.
Orville Peck: “Summertime”
I was sold on Orville Peck the minute I first heard his smooth baritone vocals and banjo interlude on this song. I incorrectly assumed he was American, being country – but he’s 100% CAN CON, and amazing.
SOLA: “Finding You”
Possibly one of the most original and multi-genre crossing tracks of the year. SOLA mixes Latin beats with smooth jazz and sweet soul, wrapping it all together with her phenomenal vocal delivery.
Slow Leaves: “Sentimental Teardrops”
A name that showed up in my email inbox, I opened this one and clicked play, falling immediately for the heartfelt strings that open. A great introduction into the music of Winnipeg’s Grant Davidson.
The Blaze Velluto Collection: “Fish Mountain, Pt. 2”
These Quebec-based retro rockers are probably the biggest and most pleasant surprise for me this year. This single is an instant classic, beckoning the volume dial to be cranked to the max with each spin.
The Hello Darlins ft. Matt Andersen: “Still Waters”
If you are looking for the next household name on the folk-Americana scene, I’ll save you some time. The Hello Darlins are gearing up to explode with their debut album in early 2021. Bookmark NOW!
The Prairie States: “Every Little Town”
A great toe-tapping country tune that I had on repeat last winter – with tales of dreamers, schemers, quarterbacks, prom queens, and kids pumping gas to earn a few bucks. On our radar for 2021.
velours: “Summer Haze”
A great alt-pop debut from this SK newcomer, “Summer Haze” lures you in with some indie-folk opening vocals, and then taking you on an ambient, upbeat journey. Replace great debut with STUNNING debut.
Wild Rivers: “Thinking ‘Bout Love”
Repeating what I said about Orville Peck earlier, this is another band I assumed were from the US, with their tight harmonies and country sound. Nope, Toronto-based, and another new found favorite.
The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.