Following the feature from earlier this week that chronicled what I consider to be my 20 favorite Canadian albums released across 2022 (28, if you factor in the decision to name-drop a few others that really deserved to be in the same conversation), just like every other year, it was an even tougher challenge whittling the list down to just four. After plenty of long and hard decisions, here they are: my Favorite Four Canadian Albums of the year, with one, final and incredibly worthy victor.
Runner Up: Bywater Call, “Remain”
Of the 20 albums shortlisted for my year-end honors, this stunning sophomore release from Toronto soul-blues rockers Bywater Call is an impressive, passionate, rootsy, and soul-stirring powerhouse of an album. Bywater Call are the only nominee on this list who were unknown to us prior to 2022, but having caught their highly-energetic live show at the Home Country Music and Art Festival this past July, we knew we had witnessed something special. “Remain” was released in September, and remains possibly the finest, and most potent soul-blues album I’ve had the pleasure to review, period!
Runner Up: The Redhill Valleys, “Travel Well Pt.1 & Pt.2”
While we have enjoyed watching the emergence of this Hamilton-based alt-country band since their formative years, never did we imagine just how quickly their career would blossom. Many artists no doubt found their momentum crushed by the arrival of the global pandemic, yet the Redhill Valleys not only embraced the sudden changes presented to them, they persevered and exited the pandemic with a rebranded identity, along with a solid vision and determination for their musical journey. “Pt.1” dropped earlier this year, featuring all of those popular pandemic radio hits, with “Pt.2” following later, and loaded with proper country tunes that prove once again the future is very bright for this talented quartet.
Runner Up: Clever Hopes, “Artefact”
In the name of full disclosure, this album was destined for my Final Four the moment it was released back in January. The duo of Eva Foote and Andrew Shaver started sharing their musical magic across the radio-waves in 2021, heightening the anticipation for a full-length release that ultimately does not disappoint. The album’s title track easily landed on my 20 Favorite Singles list last year, earning Clever Hopes my choice as breakthrough Canadian duo/band too. Boasting amazing dual harmonies, stellar musicianship, and introspective songwriting, “Artefact” DESERVES the top honors – but, cue the sudden plot twist – would be pipped at the post by a victor that proved pretty much untouchable this year.
2022 Winner: Tami Neilson, “Kingmaker”
Of the 365 days at our disposal to choose from throughout 2022, it is July 15th that proves both memorable and significant. For starters, that particular Friday found Team GDW driving north – heading to Ontario for our first music festival adventure in almost 3 years. Furthermore, the journey was accompanied by first spins of new album releases that dropped that day – and when it came to experiencing Tami Neilson’s latest, “Kingmaker” – well, could the stars ever be more perfectly aligned? Rooted firmly within themes of feminism, misogyny, and gender identity, Tami’s 10 original compositions hold no punches, challenging patriarchal structures through a deep and personal narrative of empowerment.
Tackling topical subjects such as exploitation, sexual glorification, ‘mansplaining,’ and the aftermath of the “Me Too” movement, the release timed itself perfectly as a counter-protest to the barrage of oppressive issues surrounding women’s rights, social inequalities, and body autonomy dominating the US news media cycles throughout the summer. The marginalized needed a voice, and “Kingmaker” delivered. Tami’s platform is equal parts social commentary as it is musical perfection – challenging norms, tackling inequalities, provoking responses, prompting debate – and at its core, making life more than a tad uncomfortable for those long accustomed to benefitting from gender norms and societal controls.
“Kingmaker” is a juggernaut of an album, and THE worthy victor as my number one pick for 2022. If you have been living under a rock this year and not yet experienced this stunning release – go ahead and do so right now.