2021 Team GDW Miscellaneous Honors

2021 Team Picks

As Martin prepares to reveal his Final Four Albums of the Year tomorrow (and having already listed his Twenty Favorite Singles and Albums over the last couple of weeks), here are some favorite Canadian singles and albums from 2021 as selected by our writers at GDW.  The team were also happy to share their favorite international album choices too, offering glimpses into their individual tastes in non-Canadian listening pleasures.

Top Canadian Singles of 2021

Del Barber: “Just A Little Heat”

Reshaped by Del Barber and his band, this song written by Boyd Barber (Del’s father) is a song of mystery so deep that every weary heart can relate to.  Made all the more poignant by Boyd’s passing shortly after the song was released, it is a song for the ages and will, I am sure, resonate for years to come.  And lord, that mandolin cuts through it all like an arrow aimed straight to the essence of human existence. Brings me to tears every time. An extraordinary achievement. (Douglas McLean)

Kiwi Jr: “Domino”

It’s not often you want to buy an entire album based on a few notes and opening lines from one song. However, that’s exactly what happened when I first heard this catchy, angular, slacker-perfected tune. I ran out that day to buy the record. (Steve Murphy)

Neil Young: “Song Of The Seasons”

Everybody’s favourite Canadian doing what he does best!  And this time, he’s back with Crazy Horse.  I chose this single due to part-nostalgia, part-loyalty, but really partly an age thing like comfy slippers.  But mainly because it’s timeless and beautiful and wonderful. (Richard Clark)

Scott Mackay: “Half Of Everything”

I really enjoy Scott’s storytelling through song and this one is a favorite from his 2021 album (even though this single was released in 2020).  He has such a fabulous voice too. (Jess Lahr)

Tania Joy: “Who I Am”

This song was my introduction to Tania Joy, and is, in my opinion, the best tune from her notable EP of the same name.  It is a piece that displays a songwriter who is comfortable in her own skin, who isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, and who is instantly relatable. (Matt Wheeler)

Top Canadian Albums of 2021

Caroline Marie Brooks: “Everything At The Same Time”

Without reservation, I cannot recall having been so moved or touched by an artist’s work in a long, long while. Brilliantly co-produced with Jim Bryson, and with a team of musicians to die for, every song hides some sort of moment that connects to the others and builds momentum toward an overall thunderous feeling of awe, gratitude and wonderment for all the little treasures that a life provides.  Family, parents – mother, father, little children, friends, lovers, overhead sky, dark roads lit but high beams, falling into sleep in a loved ones’ arms, falling every more deeply in love with all and everything.  And of course, all those beautiful singers harmonizing rapturously. (Douglas McLean)

Daniel Romano: “Cobra Poems”

Instantly familiar, yet new, this musical shapeshifter classic rock album rocked my world.  But I’d also add the reissue of Willie Dunn’s “Creation Never Sleeps” – the First Nation’s “Sugarman” (without the payday) by this long-lost troubadour.  (Richard Clark)

Dizzy & Fay: “Songbook”

No surprises here. I’ve been raving about this duo for months and I still can’t get enough!  Dizzy & Fay are at the top of my “must listen to” list.  (Jess Lahr)

Great Lake Swimmers: “Live At The Redeemer 2007”

Great Lake Swimmers are far and away my favorite Canadian band, and back in 2009, an early version of a handful of these songs (released as an EP at the time) introduced me to them.  This fully-realized recording of the entire concert is moving, accessible, and brilliant. (Matt Wheeler)

TUNS: “Duly Noted” – AND –  Kiwi Jr: “Cooler Returns”

You’re not reading this wrong!  I couldn’t decide between either album for my top pick, and even had the chance to see both bands play together live recently.  “Duly Noted” sees TUNS return with their second set of superb and catchy three-part harmony numbers; their minimalist production perfectly showcasing each member’s contributions, with catchy tunes making this the soundtrack to my summer.  Yet, “Cooler Returns” was my most immediate musical love this year, the album a concise collection of jangly, post-rock, literate, unfettered tunes.  These songs are jam packed with clever one-liners and constantly evolving melodies. (Steve Murphy)

Personal Favorite (Non-Canadian) Album of 2021

David Crosby: “For Free” 

For all his past sins and missteps, at 80 years of age, Crosby has found that redemption dwells in the heart of music; that song writing, creativity and making music with friends and loved ones will save your soul.  Every song a gem, this period of productivity for Crosby caps the fifth album in as many years – each time getting closer to the bone, deeper into the heart, filled with ferocity and generous courage that only an old, old, soul could muster.  What an inspiration!!!  “I Won’t Stay For Long,” written by his son James Raymond is beyond words – a masterpiece at every level. (Douglas McLean)

Explosions in the Sky: “Big Bend (Soundtrack for Public Television)”

Not Canadian, but Explosions in the Sky are the best instrumental post-rock band out there, and here, they composed the score for a recent episode of PBS’ “Nature” that featured Big Bend National Park in their home state of Texas. This sprawling, tender, cinematic album is the result. (Matt Wheeler)

Kodaline: “One Day At A Time”

This may be a 2020 release, but they were a new-to-me alternative band from Ireland that I stumbled on this year.  All it took was hearing a single line from what I came to find was their song “Wherever You Are,” and I was hooked. (Jess Lahr)

Notable International Mentions

So many choices from across the globe, making it impossible to pick just one.  High on my list are: Low: “Hey What” (USA), Viagra Boys: “Welfare Jazz” (Sweden), Benny Sings: “Music” (Netherlands), and Lana Del Rey: “Chemtrails Over the Country Club” (USA). (Steve Murphy)

Various Artists: “Highway Butterfly: The Songs Of Neal Casal”

Forty-plus artists join hands in a Triple CD / 5LP vinyl set to pay homage and celebrate the music of this sadly departed and overlooked ‘musician’s musician.’ Heaven sent. (Richard Clark)

Martin’s Honorable Mentions For 2021

  • Best Breakthrough Artist:  Brittany Kennell
  • Best Breakthrough Duo/Band:  Clever Hopes
  • Best Single:  Celeigh Cardinal, “There Ain’t No Way (Better Days Version)”
  • Best International Album:  Brandi Carlile, “In These Silent Days”
  • Best Music Video:  The Redhill Valleys, “Finish Line”

Best wishes for 2022, from all of us here at Great Dark Wonder.