Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been creating monthly Playlists of local music (and beyond) that have been the soundtrack to my tour around the city. I even got to bring my Playlists to life with the first I Heart Hamilton event, The Playlist 1.0. While getting nostalgic and thinking about the past twelve months, I thought I would compile a “Best Of” list to highlight my favourite local music that was released this year.

Bonus Track: Walk Off The Earth – “Somebody That I Used To Know” (Gotye cover) [Listen]
2012-10Playlist featured: February
The song was unavoidable in 2012. This Burlington band had one of the most viewed videos of the year when their creative cover of the Gotye megahit went viral. The success of the video landed them a coveted appearance on The Ellen Degeneres Show, a record deal, and they’ll be touring Europe in 2013. They were also featured on the charity single for Kids Help Phone, “True Colours,” to promote anti-bullying alongside fellow Canadian acts Hedley, Fefe Dobson, Lights, and Simple Plan. Of course, the seemingly overnight success has been years in the making for this hard-working band. They released their new EP R.E.V.O. this year and there’s no stopping them now.

10. Cowlick – “I Wanna Be Your Man” (Night Vision) [Listen]
2012-9Playlist featured: November
This year, brothers Dylan and Jackson Hudecki rounded out their lineup with bassist Ned Nolan and I had a fabulous introduction to their live show at their 3D party last month. Night Vision is an eclectic mix of sounds that keeps you on your toes – each track is different but still manages to be distinctly Cowlick. The band has a way of seeming so spontaneous and off the cuff but well thought out at the same time. They also took a unique route to releasing their music, by selling 3D glasses (so you can watch their new video) with a download code to get the album. Taking the road less travelled seems to be the Cowlick way, and I’m all for it.

9. The Ascot Royals – “Defoe” (Don’t Let It Stop You) [Listen]
2012-8Playlist featured: April
One of my favourite local bands for a few years now, the Ascots were one of the acts who helped me bring The Playlist 1.0 to life this summer. Their second release Don’t Let It Stop You (oh, how the title resonates) dropped in November, which is a new direction for the band. It’s a great collection of hard-hitting dance rock that maintains the energy and signature sound of their first album but is a tighter and more consistent effort overall. They also had one of my favourite collaborations of the year with another artist who makes my list, All About Maggie, with “Not In Love.”

8. Ghosts of Memphis – “Mary Rose” (The Devil and the Details) [Listen]
2012-11 Local musicians Trevor Howard and Gerry Finn came together this year to become Ghosts of Memphis, and I was thrilled to get the opportunity to chronicle the making of their album at Boxcar Sound. I spent a lot of time with the boys at Boxcar, and getting to visit a recording studio was a favourite moment of the year for me. The finished product is absolutely beautiful – every track is so solid (I could barely decide which one to include here) and you can tell the care that went into the album. I especially love listening to the tracks that I got to witness the recording of, like “J’entend ton coeur,” “Rails,” and “Save Me.” Look out for album release shows in the new year.

7. The Dirty Nil – “Little Metal Baby Fist” [Listen]
2012-7 Playlist featured: October
This Dundas trio really won me over this year. I think it took seeing them play live to really seal the deal – the Nil deliver one of the best live shows in the city. It’s high energy, raw, and always a blast. It was great to get to know Kyle, Luke, and Dave this year – they quickly became one of my favourite local bands. I was even sitting with them when they won “Punk Recording of the Year” at the Hamilton Music Awards, which was so exciting. They keep churning out great music and at the rate they’re going, they are a band to watch out for in 2013.

6. All About Maggie – “Lovesick” (Now Hear Me Out) [Listen]
2012-6 Playlist featured: September
What an amazing year for pop artist All About Maggie. She released her debut album, hit the radio waves with this single, was nominated for 3 Hamilton Music Awards, and continues to be one of the most watched artists on YouTube. Now Hear Me Out is a polished pop album that is irresistibly catchy and, as I’ve said, is completely on par with anything on the radio right now. It was so lovely to meet up with her for a Rendezvous and it has been really exciting to see one of our own make it happen.

5. Illitry – “Roadtrip” [Listen]
2012-5 Playlist featured: April
How the central lyric, “It’s been a long year,” really hits me now. Illitry are by far one of my favourite new acts of the year. The project began with Troy Witherow, who then connected with Chester Edington, and they’ve now added a drummer and bassist, making their sound even richer. There is something so magical about their music. They’re also one of my favourites to see live. I’m always so transfixed; it’s music that you can really feel and I come away feeling like I was just in a dream. They’ve been in the studio with Michael Keire at Threshold – new material from the band is easily one of my most anticipated for 2013. I’m so excited to hear more.

4. The Rest – “Hey! For Horses” (Seesaw) [Listen]
2012-4 Playlist featured: June
Absolutely one of the best bands in Hamilton, The Rest are another act that leave me in awe after seeing them play. I saw them live everywhere this year, from Casbah and This Ain’t Hollywood, to their stunning record release performance in Christ’s Church Cathedral, to the rooftop of Dr. Disc. My first taste of the band was Adam Bentley’s solo set at Threshold’s opening, one of my favourite parties of the year. Seesaw is one of the most impressive and expansive albums of 2012. It earned “Record of the Year” at the Hamilton Music Awards and couldn’t be more deserving of the title.

3. Young Rival – “Nothing You Know Well” (Stay Young) [Listen]
2012-3 Playlist featured: May
No list of Hamilton music, or Canadian music, for that matter, is complete without Young Rival. Stay Young, their follow up to 2010’s LP, is one of the best releases of 2012. I got a sneak peak of the new album months before its release when I visited their label Sonic Unyon and left with a sampler that included two new tracks. Their music is a complete 50’s and 60’s throwback while being really modern at the same time. This record builds on the surfy pop rock sound of their earlier work and still keeps it gritty. Infectious and upbeat, it’s fantastic from start to finish, just like their live show. Honourable mention to Aron D’Alesio’s solo project, D’LUXE, which I’m looking forward to hearing more of in the new year.

2. Canadian Winter – “Get the Show on the Road” (Original Six) [Listen]
2012-2 Playlist featured: February
I’ve called this smash the theme song to the tour, and it really is! Kobi penned this one as a love letter to Hamilton and it couldn’t be more fitting as I hit the road, myself. The award-winning video also brilliantly showcases our beloved city, and getting to be an extra was definitely a highlight of the year. I also loved getting to chat with Kobi for a Rendezvous was thrilled to have them on board for The Playlist 1.0. This year there were some lineup changes for the band and some great collaborations. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

1. New Hands – “Whichever Way You’ll Have It” [Listen]
2012-1 Playlist featured: September
This is, hands down (pun intended), my favourite piece of music I’ve heard out of Hamilton this year. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of New Hands. I knew how special they were when I saw them live for the first time in April (and promptly booked them for The Playlist 1.0 immediately after). Throughout the year, they have been steadily working away on their debut full length album and slowly releasing a few singles. It was so awesome to become friends with Evan, Gordy, Spence, Pat, and Ben this year (my Rendezvous with them was a favourite moment of the year) and I look forward to future shenanigans. 2013 will be their year and I couldn’t be more excited for them.

And with that, I’ll take my favourite lyric from my #1 pick (which also translated quite nicely to a fitting hashtag) and make it my mantra going into 2013 – I’m alive and can’t say no!

The talent in this city is incredible and I can’t wait to hear more in 2013.

– Kristin

Kristin Archer is the creator of I Heart Hamilton (www.ihearthamilton.ca), where she has blogged about experiences around her hometown since 2011, growing a social media presence along the way. Encouraging locals to “be a tourist in your own city,” she promotes arts and culture across her various social media platforms, blog, and weekly radio show on 93.3 CFMU.

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