A snapshot in song From quiet reflection to emotions as big as a Prairie sky, Manitoba musicians captured the many moods of 2022

As every year comes to an end, we think about the things that carried us from January to December. For us, more often than not, they’re songs.

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As every year comes to an end, we think about the things that carried us from January to December. For us, more often than not, they’re songs.

A certain track can become forever associated with a certain period of time, forever entwined with certain places.

This year-end list can’t fully encapsulate the music of this place, but it can serve as a reminder of the songs that helped, healed, soothed, illuminated and, in some cases, changed our lives. Many of those songs were written, produced, performed and released by artists from this province.

This list is not a “best of”; it’s a small snapshot of the songs that gave us hope, laughter, catharsis, comfort and joy during this calendar year.

This is what Manitoba sounded like to us in 2022. The full playlist is available on Spotify at WinnipegFreePress; we encourage readers to take a listen and perhaps discover more Manitoban music.


What Manitoba Sounded Like in 2022

We'll Never Have Sex by Leith Ross.


PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS - Local act Taylor Janzen kicked things off Thursday night at the WInnipeg Folk Festival- - July 11, 2019.

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The Birds Are Chirping — Jamboree

“I’m too young to unfold. I’m too dumb to be this old.” Jamboree puts into 12 words the eternal unfairness of growing up and feeling depressed. This Winnipeg three-piece has high ambitions and a knack for creating grungy melodies, reminiscent of cult bands such as Teenage Fanclub and My Bloody Valentine.

Cold Night — Begonia

This lush-sounding single from Winnipeg’s alt-rock singer-songwriter also bodes well for 2023, when she releases her new album, Powder Blue.

December Forever — Living Hour

Few bands know how to cultivate an atmosphere as well as Living Hour. December Forever shows the band’s cohesion in achieving a common goal: creating soft, lovely songs that invite listeners to sit in strips of sunlight and to dream.

RIP, Love — Faouzia

This single with Middle Eastern influences was one of the new ones on Faouzia’s 2022 album Citizens; an acoustic version she released later shows she’s got the vocal power to drive the song without the pop flash she’s become known for.

Fool Under Water — Ila Barker

We’ve all felt the way folk-soul singer Ila Barker does on the title track from her stunning album: trying to understand our place in a world that doesn’t seem to notice we exist. The singer-songwriter calls the album “an honour song” to her own metamorphosis as an artist, and a “promise that the tide will turn.” A beautiful reminder that growth is worth being proud of.

A Cottage for Sale — Jocelyn Gould

The Juno Award-winning jazz artist and professor of guitar is known for her fancy fretwork, but on this standard, it’s her vocals that provide a sad foundation for those who’ve had to let their favourite summertime spot go.

Self Destruction — Roman Clarke

“I do what I need to do, when I’m getting over you. Why’d you have to give me something that’s so f—-ing hard to lose?” This cathartic breakup song from this multi-instrumentalist and singer hits hard, with Clarke’s climbing vocals crawling along atop a thrillingly simple riff from keyboardist Kieran Placatka.

Homemaker — Fontine

Performer Fontine was a fixture in 2022; you might have seen her at folk fest, backing up Boy Golden, who gleefully ceded the spotlight to Fontine’s explosive talent. Fans waited patiently for this singer to step out on her own, and on Homemaker, Fontine calmly and gracefully throws her cowboy hat into the sky, announcing an ascendant talent in Manitoba.

Star People — Indian City, feat. Jim Cuddy

This is a 2021 song, but Warner Music Canada reissued the Indigenous folk-pop band’s Code Red album this year, just months after the death of Indian City’s founder, Vince Fontaine. He made a video of the song with bandmate Jeremy Koz for an ill friend just hours before he died of a heart attack.

God Is a Reptile — JayWood

What a year for this band, the creative outlet for Winnipeg multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Haywood-Smith. Early in the pandemic, the artist signed with renowned indie labels Captured Tracks and Royal Mountain Records, and his debut album, Slingshot, was unmissable. God Is a Reptile is a swampy, funky anthem. JayWood at its best.

Song for My Sister — The Secret Beach

Micah Erenberg, the singer-songwriter behind the Secret Beach, unveiled a new album in 2022, inspired by the words of British poet Kae Tempest. This cool track has him seeking to ditch all the small stuff, such as cigarettes, weed and chasing dreams, to “get back to the place that I belong.”

First Strike — Super Duty Tough Work

After being long-listed for the Polaris Prize for its remarkable debut album, Studies in Grey, Super Duty Tough Work returned to the lab and emerged with First Strike, a supreme mix of jazz, hip-hop, and punk sensibilities. More than its finger, SDTW has its entire soul on the pulse of Winnipeg: politically, musically, economically, socially.

Leave Me As You Found Me — Whitehorse

The husband-and-wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland moved from Toronto to Winnipeg, where Doucet grew up, in 2022 and went full-on country with their new album I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying and this weeper. Along the way, they found a lot to like in their new home. “Obviously, we show up in summertime and Winnipeg’s got its best foot forward, but people are still making incredible art and really committed to doing cool things,” Doucet said.

Island Vibes — Booter

Take us to wherever this song feels like. Actually, take us wherever Booter is going next, because this band seems incapable of leading listeners astray. Billing itself as ‘90s rock made in 2022, Booter gives off vibes reminiscent of the Breeders, but its new album, titled 10/10, shows it’s far more than a nostalgia act.

A Love Letter — KEN Mode

The Juno-winning noise metal band added a new member, saxophonist Kathryn Kerr, for its new album, but this rocker proves the group has lost none of its power after a three-year pandemic layoff.

I’ll Set the Fire — Amos the Kid

Indie-country artist Amos the Kid has a playful energy, but on this track off his forthcoming album, due in 2023, the kid looks inward, reflecting on his actions, his loved ones, and all the things he does not take for granted. A gorgeously sad love song, filled with regret and responsibility.

Bella Vista — Scott Nolan

Nolan, a folk singer, created an album about city landmarks with Winnipeg New Music Festival co-founder Glenn Buhr, and Bella Vista, about the former Italian restaurant at the corner of Maryland and Wolseley, evokes many memories for customers and the musicians who played there alike.

Fine — Cassidy Mann

Poppy and soulful, Cassidy Mann’s Fine is a sweet song about moving on, and moving forward, in a place that seems intent on not allowing us to do so. Intricate, image-filled and personal lyrics shimmer, revealing memories that the singer-songwriter has shaped into much more than a diary entry.

Wouldn’t That Be Fun? — Desiree Dorion

The Dauphin country artist can sing about good times and parties as well as anyone in the genre, but the member of Opaskwayak Cree Nation continues to raise awareness about Canada’s residential school history and the trauma it has brought forth, while pushing to get more Indigenous artists played on the radio.

River of Tears — Serena Ryder & William Prince

Is there any voice that can stand alongside William Prince’s? Serena Ryder’s certainly does more than just that. Together, the deep-voiced Peguis raconteur and the Toronto singer-songwriter find rich harmony. Most singers can sound like themselves when singing alone; it takes special voices to sound even better when singing with others.

Scorsese — Dill the Giant

Dill the Giant’s talent towers over Weed Man Son, the deluxe version of his 2021 album, forcing us all to look up. What do we see? An artist leaning into his best instincts to create a mix of East and West Coast hip hop with a healthy dose of Dill’s island sounds.

Dead Bolt — Yes We Mystic & Virgo Rising

Yes We Mystic fans know that, after a decade of arty rock-making, nothing the band does is entirely by mistake. Dead Bolt, off YWM’s final album, Trust Fall, is a symbolic passing of the torch to the next generation of indie weirdos and obsessives, including Virgo Rising (Emily Sinclair, Lauren & Jenna Wittmann). A dramatic and powerful sendoff from a band who always did things a little differently.

True Needs — Matt Foster

Listen to Matt Foster and see what you hear. To these ears, it’s the Delta blues meets Bill Callahan, with a dollop of Prairie mischief and charm. On True Needs, a rollicking rhythm ripped from a revenge movie mixes perfectly with a swinging twang. The result is a wicked gem from a songwriter in full control.

Gemini — Meadows

Inspired by Elliott Smith and the early work of Julie Doiron, Meadows’ latest album lists all of its songs — and even the band’s name — in lower-case, so allow us to use capital letters in describing it as Pure, Blissful and Heartbreaking.

The Bison Hunt — Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra

The WJO marked its 25th anniversary with Voices: A Musical Heritage, a courageous project that includes eight works from eight composers from different cultural backgrounds, from First Nations and Métis to Ukrainian and Nigerian. What a way to prove that music can bring all humanity together.

Mistake — VVonder

VVonder makes screwing up sound so catchy. “I’ve been living off of honeycakes, expired raisins and old mistakes,” sings Micah Braun, the iconoclastic leader of this Winnipeg quartet, rounded out by Steve Martens, Joey Penner, and Nate Jacobucci. Braun wasn’t alive in the 1960s or 1970s, but he summons the spirit of bygone eras. Free Press reviewer John Kendle called the band’s latest the “perfect distillation” of E.L.O. and late Beatles. He wasn’t wrong.

Chasing Ghosts — Nic Dyson

Nic Dyson is nothing if not himself, and on Chasing Ghosts, he looks deep inward, backward, and forward into the stories of his life. Dyson’s a gifted pop songwriter, nimbly layering sounds atop one another that casually coalesce into a well-honed finished product. His 2022 EP, Reflections, is only 15 minutes long, but represents an artist finding himself one lyric at a time.

No Ill — deadmen & Frida Touray

Matt Peters and Matt Schellenberg are deadmen and as producers, they’re alive and well. The two members of Royal Canoe, one of the city’s most inventive bands, are not newcomers by any stretch. But with this project, the Matts craft exciting soundscapes to lift vocals up. The latest beneficiary is British singer Frida Touray, who with understated power makes this song her own.

F That Daily Mail — Son of Dave

Son of Dave, the stage name for former Crash Test Dummy Benjamin Darvill, returned to Winnipeg from London in 2022 and introduced the city to his unique sense of humour, as well as the serious harmonica, beatbox and electronic chops that got him on the BBC in the U.K.

Suzana — Sam Singer

It’s his real last name, and it’s his real voice: earthy, strong, and as gravelly as a country thoroughfare. Suzana, off Singer’s 2022 EP From the Hills, Beaten Roads, Down to the Trees, features flutes, clarinets and trumpets, along with Singer’s characteristically visual lyrics.

Me and My Mental Health — Jacob Brodovsky

Jacob Brodovsky did a few notable things this fall that brought him pride. Most importantly, he became a father. But he also released I Love You and I’m Sorry, a collection of 10 songs that continues the lyrical traditions of the Weakerthans, Christine Fellows and Dan Mangan. On ILYAIS, Brodovsky carves out his own niche, crafting picturesque tunes that double as short stories, telling of the moments, real and imaginary, that make life worth living.

Same Roads — Sweet Alibi

When in doubt, trust roots-pop band Sweet Alibi. Vocalists Jess Rae Ayre, Amber Nielsen, Michelle Anderson, along with bassist Alasdair Dunlop and drummer Sandy Fernandez, have been around for a while, and thank goodness. Same Roads, off the album Make a Scene, should become a Winnipeg standard.

Corduroy — The Bros. Landreth

The Bros. Landreth got some attention when Bonnie Raitt covered their song Made Up Mind on her Grammy Award-nominated record in 2022, but this slow-burn blues is a highlight from Joey and Dave Landreth’s own album, Come Morning.

Ojos de almendra — Onna Lou

This Argentine folk singer, who has chosen to settle in Winnipeg and released her debut album, Diamante, in July, sings in Spanish, but you don’t need language lessons to feel the joy in this track.

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Alan Small

Alan Small

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

What Manitoba Sounded Like in 2022

We'll Never Have Sex by Leith Ross.


PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS - Local act Taylor Janzen kicked things off Thursday night at the WInnipeg Folk Festival- - July 11, 2019.

Read full story


Updated on Thursday, December 29, 2022 8:14 AM CST: Corrects section on Fontine

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