Here we go! Wrapping up the 11th year of I Heart Hamilton with the annual Best Of Playlist. As I always say, it’s so tough to narrow down and rank music, so please use this as your jumping off point to discovering more, and show your support for local artists. A cool thing this year – my Spotify Wrapped named “Hamilton ON Indie” as one of my top genres – which I didn’t know they tracked at a local level!
I really miss interacting with the local music community regularly – I haven’t had my steady doses of live music since the start of the pandemic. I’m heartbroken about that, but I am so grateful we can stay connected online and that I can keep spinning so much local music every week on 93.3 CFMU.
Continuing the honoured tradition, I’m charting only EPs and albums. First, I’ll give honourable mentions to these standout singles that were released in 2022:
The Crowleys – “Sewer Drain” [Listen]
Family Of Things – “Slingshot” (Studio and Live versions) [Listen]
Lee Reed – “Drop The Charges” [Listen]
Onglish – “Channels” [Listen]
The Dirty Nil – “Bye Bye Big Bear” [Listen]
Ellis In Transit – “On The Run” [Listen]
Eric Brandon – “Take It Out On Me” [Listen]
Gareth Inkster – “Link” [Listen]
Kojo “Easy” Damptey – “Party X Clementine” [Listen]
Ariana Fig – “Guilty Pleasure” [Listen]
Julianna Jones – “Just Another Girl” [Listen]
Linebeck – “Bed” [Listen]
Adam Rigby – “wait” with ANOU [Listen]
Whitness – “Let It Go” [Listen]
Queen Cee & Duckai – “Find Yourself” [Listen]
Granny Smith – “Out Of My Head” [Listen]
Naked House – “Change Of Plan” [Listen]
LifeandtheTribe – “Gone Leave” [Listen]
LTtheMonk – “The Lo” [Listen]
Miles From Nowhere – “Runnin’ Away” [Listen]
The HP’s – “Hope To See You Again” feat. Claire Davis [Listen]
S.O.A.P. – “Rome” [Listen]
Spookyguava – “Heartbeats” [Listen]
The Ruddy Ruckus – “Bloodbath” [Listen]
Golden Feather – “You’ve Been On My Mind” [Listen]
10. Ryan Sykes – Grateful
Emerging pop singer-songwriter Ryan Sykes delivered his debut album, Grateful, this summer (and a follow-up Deluxe Edition featuring a couple new tracks). About the process, Ryan shares, “I honestly needed to let my old self go, this defines something I’ve never felt before. It’s some of the most honest and vulnerable music I’ve ever made.” It’s an impressive debut and the artist is just getting started.
9. Uncle Lift Off – Out Of It
What I love about these year-end recaps is hearing new sounds each year, and bringing new local acts into the fold. An awesome new project on my radar, Uncle Lift Off, is comprised of siblings Elinor (vocals, guitars, etc.), Ian (production, mixing, keyboards, guitars, and mastering) and Olivia (backups and bass). I was strapped in and along for the ride right from the first track, “Airport Security” (where they quite literally tell you to “get ready for lift off”)!
8. Junior Boys – Waiting Game
I was pleasantly surprised to see a new Junior Boys record drop, their first album since 2016’s Big Black Coat (which made that year’s Best Of list, of course). This time around, however, it’s a more ambient, meditative listen, a slow burn, but still a distinctly Junior Boys experience. The band will hit the ground running at the top of 2023 with a North American tour.
Mother Love is such a beautiful collaboration between iskwē | ᐃᐢᑫᐧᐤ (Cree Métis) and Tom Wilson | Tehoh’ahake (Mohawk). It is still a relatively new pairing between the artists, as they first performed together in 2020, but it feels like they have a rich musical history already. The record is described as reading “like a set of spirituals; a sonic landscape that hints at the different sensibilities they bring to their individual work but blurs the lines between genres.”
6. The Beans – F*ck it, we are The Beans
I love being impressed by a new musical project, and The Beans delivered that this year. The brains behind local record label Andthenyoudie dropped an EP as their indie band, and the three tracks leave an awesome impression. I got a little Arctic Monkeys vibe right away – right up my alley. It was also great to catch them live outside The Gasworks this summer. Looking forward to what The Beans have next up their sleeves!
5. Arkells – Blink Twice
Arkells are obviously one of Hamilton’s biggest musical exports, becoming of the most high profile bands in Canada. We got an awesome hometown bash this year, as they were finally able to stage The Rally at Tim Hortons Field, and what a joy it was to be in an outdoor stadium again for a concert of that magnitude! This year, Arkells dropped Blink Twice, which follows Blink Once, released almost exactly one year prior. I enjoy this follow-up even more. I’d say it’s the most vulnerable lyrically for Max Kerman, and the collaborations are so stellar: Aly & AJ, Cœur de Pirate, Lights, Tegan and Sara, Joel Plaskett, Cold War Kids, Jake Clemons, and Wesley Schultz (of The Lumineers).
4. Math Club – Suddenly
Math Club’s songwriting and instrumentation has always tugged at my heartstrings, and with Suddenly, Wade Morrison shares his best work yet. The emo rock sensibility will always feel so nostalgic, bringing me back to my teens, but lyrically we’re dealing with the realities of adulthood that we can all relate to.
3. Allegories – Endless
2022 marked the return of electronic duo Allegories! Endless is the band’s first release in 14 years and it was worth the wait – we welcomed them back warmly. The album is a pulsating, dynamic listen; it’s experimental while still having undeniable pop melodies to hook onto. I knew from the first single, “Pray,” released in November 2021, that the full album would wind up on this list one year later.
2. Basement Revolver – Embody
I remember having chills and tears in my eyes when I had my first listen of Basement Revolver’s second full length album, Embody. This band has been so impactful and emotional since their self-titled 2016 debut EP. Since then, the band has continued to evolve and grow in so many ways. All of that is reflected in this record, as the band vulnerably unpacks and processes so much, and through that, we can relate and connect with them even more.
1. Ellevator – The Words You Spoke Still Move Me
Ellevator has been poised to have their big moment, and the band delivered above and beyond when we finally got to hear the band’s first full-length offering, which was long time in the making. I’ve returned to this album again and again this year – it’s full of catharsis and release; it’s polished and shimmery but also has so much depth. Since the pandemic, I’ve had so few live music experiences, so getting to see Ellevator perform on the main stage at Supercrawl this year, and hear these tracks, was all the more of a joyous experience.
Thank you for connecting with me online every year and for tuning into the radio show, Fridays 2-3pm ET on 93.3 CFMU. Thank you to all of the artists who have shared your music. See you in 2023! ❤️ Kristin