Martin Noakes: 2022 Fave 20 Albums List

Martin Top Albums 2022

As we prepare to close out another outstanding year for Canadian music, I am happy to share what I consider to be 20 of the finest albums from our northern neighbor released over the last 12 months.  This is by no means a comprehensive list detailing the BEST albums of the year – no, I’ll leave that challenge to the highly caffeinated professionals out there – this is simply a list of 20 releases that landed on my listening radar and remain there to this day.

As I state every year when compiling this list, it is a daunting task to whittle down the choices to just 20 albums. The list stalled out at 28 for the longest time (almost to a point where I considered stretching this out to a Fave 30 Albums List), until I buckled down, and begrudgingly scratched the last 8 to meet the target. There are bound to be many obvious choices that I have missed – I don’t keep a running scorecard through the year, relying instead on my instincts and intuition.  A quick skim through the new vinyl purchases helps too – if your album is in our collection, you left a lasting impression.  

This list represents 20 of my personal favorite Canadian album releases from 2022, and as always, EPs were ineligible for consideration.  Don’t ask me to rank these albums in any order (although I will share my final Top Four choices in a later posting) – I am sticking to the same approach as previous years and listing alphabetically by artist/band first name.

Aysanabee: “Watin”

A stunning and surprising debut album from a rising Indigenous artist, one name-dropped in many ‘Breakthrough Artist of the Year’ conversations, and one who would certainly receive my vote.

Blackie & The Rodeo Kings: “O Glory”

Stephen Fearing, Tom Wilson, and Colin Linden wrote and recorded their contributions separately during the pandemic – and all 13 tracks shine. Covid-19 was simply outclassed every step of the way.

Bywater Call: “Remain”

This Toronto band crash landed on our radar earlier this year with their potent fusion of rock, soul and blues. Bywater Call epitomize the notion that when you’re this good, don’t expect to stay unnoticed.

Clever Hopes: “Artefact”

As this stunning debut prepares for its first anniversary, it continues to spin frequently here at home. I cannot recommend this debut album enough – in my opinion, this debut album BROKE THE MOLD!

Ellevator: “The Words You Spoke Still Move Me”

Given how often I reference 80s pop flashbacks when reviewing new music, is it any surprise that this anthemic, retro, time-warp-treat of a debut album earned a spot on this list? Absolutely not at all.

Geneviève Racette: “Satellite”

A banner year for Geneviève, who showcased her creativity with this indie folk-pop gem, earned an invitation to her first NERFA conference, and embarked on her first US mini-tour. What will 2023 bring?

Jerry Leger: “Nothing Pressing”

Another solid offering from this veteran of the Toronto live music scene – this early 2022 release finds Leger on top form, with hints of Neil Young and Bob Dylan forever etched into these original cuts.

Julian Taylor: “Beyond The Reservoir”

Julian’s album, “The Ridge,” landed in my Top Four Album honors in 2020, and with another collection of outstanding roots-Americana music, is proving incredibly difficult to not add to the list again this year.

Julianna Riolino: “All Blue”

Tracks “You” and “Queen Of Spades” grabbed my full attention back in October, accelerating this alt-country gem to the front of my frequent listening rotation. Should I confess that it is still there?

Lisa Leblanc: “Chiac Disco”

If there ever was a “they did what?” album from this year, this is it!  Did we ever expect a chic, vibrant, French language disco album to sweep us away? Do we want more joie de vivre from Lisa Leblanc? YES!

Mariel Buckley: “Everywhere I Used To Be”

This long-awaited sophomore album proved worthy of every second of pent-up anticipation when arriving last August – vintage twang, pedal steel, tons of heartache, and Buckley’s savvy songwriting.

Tami Neilson: “Kingmaker”

Tami has a natural flair for timing an album release to perfection – this corker has so much relevance in the here and now, meticulously dissecting themes of gender, sexism, and misogyny. Flawless!

Tanya Tagaq: “Tongues”

Quite possibly the most thought-provoking AND deeply-disturbing album experienced all year. I say this not to offend, but to stand in solidarity with Tanya’s sharp, shocking, and justified punch to the gut.

Terra Spencer & Ben Caplan: “Old News”

This unlikely combo of two vastly different Nova Scotia artists looks crazy on paper, but erase any pre-conceived notions before giving this a spin, and prepare to be amazed! Very Amazed!! And then some!!!

The Cedar Sisters: “Love & Loss”

Covid-19 may have delayed the release of the stunning debut from this London, ON duo, but could never steal from us the hauntingly beautiful and ethereal dream-folk sounds that shine brightly here.

The Sadies: “Colder Streams”

Dallas Good – we mourned your tragic loss in the winter, then rejoiced as you lived once more through this posthumous release. The Sadies’ 11th studio album is also quite possibly one of their finest to date.

The Slocan Ramblers: “Up The Hill And Through The Fog”

This Toronto-based quartet once again demonstrate how to honor and respect the traditions of the bluegrass genre, yet continue to push boundaries with their timeless self-penned compositions.

The Redhill Valleys: “Travel Well Pt.1 & Pt.2”

I’ve often stated that this Hamilton alt-country band came flying out of the pandemic with a fully redefined sound and identity – tearing away the rear-view mirror and focused only on what lies ahead.

Tragedy Ann: “Heirlooms”

You will rarely find chamber-folk in my music playlists, but Guelph duo Liv Cazzola and Braden Phelan delivered such a charming collection of songs, that once heard are completely impossible to ignore.

Various Artists: “Coverama”

A simple concept, on paper – Toronto-based artists record pop and indie covers. A super-fun project, in reality – introducing names such as Sam Casey and Juliana Eye. I eagerly await a 180-gram vinyl pressing.

***Last Minute Edit – stop the press, stop the press!!!***

Preparation for this article commences around mid-summer, when the clock is counting down and I have some serious contenders already in mind. So many great choices made it very difficult to wrap up with these 20 albums this year, leaving me frequently second-guessing my decisions with those 8 scratched to meet the deadline – and an influx of new releases in the last quarter of the year certainly complicates things.  Unlike previous years, I’m throwing caution to the wind and adding them here, and encourage everybody to check them out if they are unfamiliar to you. 

Eight Bonus Gems:

  • Adam Baldwin: “Concertos & Serenades”
  • Alvvays: “Blue Rev”
  • Basset: “In The Clay”
  • Bianca Bernardi: “Wildfire”
  • Daniel Bélanger: “Mercure en mai”
  • Ellen Froese: “For Each Flower Growing”
  • Georgia Harmer: “Stay In Touch”
  • Kristen Martell: “Every Season”

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.

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