Compiling a list of 20 memorable singles from the last twelve months originally came as an emergency replacement for our 10 memorable live concert moments recap, which was shelved during 2020 and 2021 due to a distinct lack of activity. But with another year of “mostly” working from home comes the opportunity to have the radio running in the background, and every now and then, something causes me to stop and take notice.
This list is not meant to be interpreted as a “Top 20 Singles” list – that would take too much time and energy to compile – instead, these are tunes that jumped out from the pack and earned my full attention when first encountering them. Due to the time needed to prepare this recap, only singles released between January 1st and November 30th will qualify – December releases unfortunately shall miss the cut-off date. And like last year, these singles are not ranked in any particular order, but listed alphabetically by artist/band first name.
A Short Walk To Pluto: “Phantom Lover”
Every year, it seems that some random discovery in my email inbox jumps out from the pack and piques my curiosity, only to lure my musical cravings back into the dark recesses of the Toronto underground indie-rock scene. Caught up in their edgy, yet catchy hooks, this jam got under my skin very quickly.
Alicia Toner (ft. Joey Landreth): “Tonight”
Okay, so I may be a little biased here, given that we were granted the exclusive premiere of this release back in the summer – but regardless, the beauty of this single is witnessing Alicia push her own musical boundaries from her folk-based comfort zone towards some synth and guitar driven beats.
Aysanabee: “We Were Here”
2022 has been a great year for new Indigenous artists and music – and while I missed the fabulous track “Dead Man” from Logan Staats last year due to the December cut-off, I refuse to not acknowledge this absolutely stunning debut single from this emerging Oji-Cree singer-songwriter.
Cedarstrip Rocketship: “Megaphone I: Running Red Lights”
Easily one that can fly under your radar, this fabulous cut from Dan Taylor’s 2022 EP starts out as a simple, slightly somber ballad – but very quickly challenges any pre-conceived notions as it progresses – and gives your speakers a solid workout for a brief moment down the stretch. Outstanding.
Clever Hopes: “The Other Side”
Released as a single back in January and STILL in heavy rotation on SXM radio – what more needs to be said about this fabulous duo of Andrew Shaver and Eva Foote? Timing shifts, instrumental changes, and some top-notch songwriting – and yes, this duo have many more tunes for you to discover too.
Dizzy & Fay: “Never Mind”
This Toronto-based jazz duo appeared on many of our 2021 year-end lists, and show no signs of slowing down any time soon – appearing here once again with this beautiful timeless jazz-ballad, complete with full string orchestral accompaniment. Pull up a stool, grab a Martini, and lose yourself in the moment.
Hyaenas: “Little Trophy”
Synth-rockers Hyaenas exploded onto our radar with this absolute scorcher of a single back in June – and I’ll be honest – I had this one on repeat for not just hours, but days. Combining cool riffs and sounds with powerful, yet subdued vocals, this all-girl indie-rock banger is one of 2022’s top finds.
James Gray: “Think About Me”
This tune was being hummed regularly long before it was officially released, thanks in part to catching up with James Gray at a summer festival, and hearing it performed on a couple of occasions. Meaningful lyrics wrapped up in some tongue-in-cheek delivery makes this one quite a charm.
Jesse Roper: “Hold On Me”
Classic soul music and Stax-inspired sounds seemed to be all the rage again this year – with no complaints from this peanut gallery. A lively gospel-soul number from the west coast, accompanied by a vibrant and tongue-in-cheek music video that proved impossible to watch only once.
Justine Giles: “Save Myself”
I must confess to not paying much attention to this single upon first listen, but subsequent spins saw this heartwarming piano and strings ballad soon get under my skin, and proved hard to remove. Soft and soothing vocals one minute, bursts of emotion and energy the next – pretty much a perfect pop-ballad.
Matthew Barber: “Every Time You Cry”
We’ll never complain when Matthew Barber steps back onto the studio floor, because finding him front and center around the microphone means that magic is about to happen. The jangly guitar riffs and electric accents in the sound here bounce along almost like an old mid-period Beatles number.
May Davis: “Devil May Walk”
Although originally recorded prior to 2022, the live-off-the-floor version from January is what grabbed my attention – from an emerging Roots-Americana artist who both captures the spirit of the music’s tradition and stamps her own sound and identity all over it. Davis plays a mean harmonica too.
Melina Coolen (ft. Sarah Frank): “I Believe In You And Me”
Powerful and emotive piano keys bounce inside a slight jazz and doo wop structure to create some retro sounding romanticism amidst big-budget theatrical elements. Melina’s movie score experience shines here in this beautifully paced, soft-spoken ballad (with a stunning contribution from The Bombadils).
Meredith Lazowski: “Prairie”
Hit me with a ton of old school country charm, vintage guitars, and an almost unhealthy dose of pedal steel, and you’ve pretty much guaranteed your inclusion here today before you’ve even uttered your first lines. This methodical slow-burner can very quickly tear every one of your defenses down.
Mia Kelly: “Kitchissippi”
Americana music continues to thrive, and is in good hands when emerging artists such as Mia Kelly step up and bring the genre to the next generation. Mia names both Allison Russell and Irish Mythen as her influences, but this raw and infectious tune carries a healthy dose of Brandi Carlile swagger too.
Night Owls: “Night Owls”
Another debut single which earned my immediate attention – this Montreal duo mated their haunting and atmospheric instrumentation with some stunning dual vocals and harmonies, taking listeners on a gorgeous five-minute musical journey of epic proportions. A duo to watch in 2023.
Tami Neilson (ft. Willie Nelson): “Beyond The Stars”
What a great year for Tami Neilson, who shared this emotionally charged duet with the legendary Willie Nelson last April. Willie heard the tune and was eager to add his own unique voice to the lines that Tami wrote with her own late-father in mind. Stunning beyond belief – as is Tami’s 2022 album.
Terra Spencer & Ben Caplan: “Good Friends”
One of the most pleasant of pairings from 2022, this collaboration not only brings together two of Nova Scotia’s finest, but delivers a simply outstanding melting pot of all things folk, jazz, blues, and soul, complete with some cocktail lounge piano keys and distinct 40s inspired horns. Bliss.
The Hypochondriacs: “Waitin’”
I hate to sound repetitive, but once again, we have another tune that possesses vintage flair and old-school doo-wop charm that earns a spot on this list. Bluesy guitar riffs, tight percussion, a blast of horns, and some killer harmonies accompany some rockabilly vocals that made this one very hard to ignore.
The Redhill Valleys: “Anymore”
It seems that this Hamilton quartet are frequent fliers on my Year-End lists, and rightfully so. As the winning submission in an American Songwriter magazine lyric contest, this beautiful alt-country ballad helped kick off 2022 – and the band have had no further use for their rearview mirror since.