Although I unfortunately seldom have the opportunity to write full reviews for our site as Martin does, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been listening to a wide array of Canadian music this year. My picks reflect my extremely varied tastes, with only a few choices overlapping my partner’s – which does make for great variety on those occasions when we’re traveling together!
We enjoyed a banner crop of new music in 2022 from north of the border; in particular, I highlight several terrific albums from Canadian Francophone artists (many of whom too often go unnoticed in the English language media) and classical musicians. I hope you find some new discoveries in this list!
(Like Martin, I’ve alphabetized rather than indicate any hierarchical ranking of preference. They’re all terrific.)
Catherine Durand – La maison orpheline
One of several excellent albums from Québécoise songwriters this year – this project’s spare beauty allows Catherine Durand’s voice and lyrics to shine through.
Daniel Bélanger – Mercure en mai
A new album from Daniel Bélanger is always cause for celebration in this household! This is another superb collection of songs, akin to (perhaps a descendant of) his 2001 masterpiece “Rêver mieux.”
David Myles – It’s Only a Little Loneliness
Over the years, David Myles has perfected his smooth, slightly melancholy sound (and many other sounds, to be fair – Myles is as versatile and experimental an artist as you’ll find in Canadian music). This is an album to savor on a cold night by the fire, whiskey in hand.
Elinor Frey, Rosa Barocca, Claude Lapalme – Early Italian Cello Concertos
A delightful collection of early Italian cello works, with Frey using two different four-string cellos on the album. She’s joined by Alberta period music ensemble Rosa Barocca and their director Claude Lapalme.
Ernesto Cervini – Joy
Ernesto Cervini’s latest project, an homage to the Armand Gamache books penned by Louise Penny, is a true delight. For those of us who are long-time fans of the books, Cervini has perfectly captured so many traits of Three Pines and its denizens in his compositions. (More to come from me about this album in January.)
Gentiane MG – Walls Made of Glass
Montréal pianist and composer Gentiane MG presents an expansive musical universe in this, her third album. At times forceful, at times gentle, always fascinating.
Jake Vaadeland – Everybody but Me
When I stumbled across this album a few weeks ago, my first thought was: my, how did we miss this one? As any regular reader of our site can confirm, we’re firm fans of the very style of rockabilly country (with a hint of bluegrass) that Vaadeland carries off so well in this album.
Jan Lisiecki – Night Music
A collection of solo piano pieces themed around the nighttime, all brilliantly played by young Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki. In particular, I’m always a sucker for Mozart’s variations on “Ah, vous-dirai je, Maman” (which many of us will recognize as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”) – I always use them as an example to my students of how a simple tune can be made into so very much more.
Joé Napoléon – Mirages
A curious blend of rock and dreampop – which you might not think work together, but Napoléon merges the two so well that you’ll think they always were meant to go together.
Lisa LeBlanc – Chiac Disco
For people like me whose musical tastes are still firmly rooted in the 1970s (or earlier), this album is a perfect match. A lot of disco, a fair amount of soul, and a whole bunch of attitude – which is exactly what one would expect from Lisa LeBlanc.
Louis Lortie and Hélène Mercier – Debussy: Piano Duets
The beauty, brilliance, and delicacy of Debussy’s music shines in these performances of Debussy’s piano music, adapted for two pianos.
P’tit Belliveau – Un homme et son piano
Any album that starts with an homage to John Deere merits a listen from this American Midwesterner! This is a truly quirky mix of songs that, taken as a whole, is addictive.
Pascal Valois – Vienna 1840
This collection of Romantic-era pieces played by guitarist Pascal Valois has provided me with the ideal accompaniment for a number of stressful days at work this year.
Pierre Lapointe – L’heure mauve
Pierre Lapointe’s latest project was released in tandem with an exhibition at Montréal’s Museum of Fine Arts that featured works by Swiss artist Nicolas Party interspersed with other pieces from the museum’s collection. Although the exhibition has closed, you can still view videos from it here to get a sense of how Lapointe’s album intermixed with the artwork.
The Sadies – Colder Streams
The loss of Dallas Good was, and is, a crushing blow to Canadian music fans, and that makes “Colder Streams” a bittersweet listen indeed. But what I’ve always appreciated about The Sadies’ music – and which is even more prominent on this latest release – is the underlying depth of their lyrics, even above and beyond the entire band’s instrumental brilliance.
Simon Kearney – América
Simon Kearney brings an intriguing mix of styles to the (turn)table here – a bit pop, a bit disco… which is no surprise given that he salutes the original king of genre-busting, Jean Leloup, in the second track on the album. (Not familiar with Jean Leloup? You absolutely should be.)
Sylvie Paquette – Je resterai tout près
This EP of delicate, yet powerful lyrics (written in tribute to her late partner) put to song here with accompaniment that never overpowers but simply enhances – highly recommended.
Tami Neilson – Kingmaker
I wrote about this project last summer when it was released, and I find it just as powerful today as I did then. Neilson’s songs are no less prescient now and I still encourage men to listen to what she is saying here.
Tanika Charles – Papillon de Nuit: The Night Butterfly
We first featured Tanika Charles when her first album, “Soul Run,” came out several years ago. This, her third album, puts her talents on full display as a confident, assured artist and songwriter.
Tragedy Ann – Heirlooms
This is another album I was fortunate to be able to review earlier this year; I suspected at the time that it would make my year-end list and I’m happy to be proven right. And yes, “Velveteen” still makes me cry. Every time.