After listening to several thousand songs released in 2018 whether as singles, tracks on EPs or LPs, we have settled on our 30 favourites. To create a fairer and tidier list, we allowed only one entry per artist. Regardless of genre, language, and relative popularity of the artist, below is a list of our 30 favourite Canadian artist songs of 2018 including our Song of the Year! Note that we have included instrumental tracks even though, technically, a “song” is a piece of music that is sung. Hit singles released in 2017 but achieved their peak chart success in 2018 are included. As well, songs released as singles in 2017 but were included on an album released in 2018 were considered. We have used the artwork for the single where one exists, failing that, the LP or EP that includes the song. We would like to give honourable mentions to “Empire” by Sarah MacDougall, “Hotel Delmano” by Munya, and “Signals” by To the Trees.
Trust us, the 30 songs below are all really, really good and make us proud to be Canadian.
Strangers by Kalle Mattson
This talented man won the Prism Prize in 2016 for his “Avalanche” music video. He released solid studio album Youth in 2018, and this track tickled us most, given its wispy vocals, addictive keyboard pulses, and thumpy beats.
Rue Jones by Simon Daniel
Off excellent album Nightcrawler, New Brunswick’s Simon Daniel put together this sumptuous brew of brooding tones, at times sounding like a cross between Radiohead and Travis.
Je n’arrive pas à revenir by Céleste Lévis
Timmins, Ontario recording artist Céleste Lévis is an ADISQ nominated finalist of The Voice Season 3. Her thick honeyed vocals are a perfect match for “Je n’arrive pas à revenir” with its delicate arrangements that build into a towering climax complete with some delicious synthesizers.
Call Out My Name by The Weeknd
This earth quaking R&B number struck number one on April 10, as fans speculated it was about Selena Gomez. “Call Out My Name” is the opening track off The Weeknd’s EP My Dear Melancholy.
Kiss Me by Magic
A radio hit it certainly was, “Kiss Me” was lead single off reggae-pop group Magic’s third studio album, Expectations, arguably its best yet. We love how it ends with some horns.
Fèngpéi by Kelly Yu
Vancouverite Kelly Yu slayed China with a Mandopop megahit this year, and while it was definitely a winner, we preferred “Fèngpéi” (Accompany), a piano ballad with a great catchy chorus.
Sight Of by Lesser Evil
From one of the best EPs of the year, “Sight Of” from Lesser Evil is an instantly likeable chillout nugget with funky grooves. It teases vocally and claps its way along ever so coolly.
Head Above Water by Avril Lavigne
One of Canada’s most successful recording artists of all time made a big comeback in 2018. In fact, this inspiring piano ballad was one of only two songs by a homegrown female soloist to make the Top 40 through the year.
Magic by Birthday Boy & Trish
Chillout R&B house seldom gets as good as this – “Magic” by Birthday Boy & Trish presenting savoury beats and silky vocals. Fans of the genre can’t ignore this one.
Seule comme une étoile by Maïa
From one of the year’s best pop albums, “Seule comme une étoile” from Maïa of former group Ladies of the Canyon, injects a soft flowing dose of soul-stirring piano and haunts like a Sarah Brightman song.
Science by Allie X
Speaking of great pop music, how about that EP from Allie X? Arguably “Science” was its most likeable track. It sits somewhere between The Human League and Electric Youth and fits easily into an imagined soundtrack for both Miami Vice and Ryan Gosling’s Drive.
Bad Habits by Delaney Jane
Peaking in early September, “Bad Habits” by Delaney Jane is a Billboard Hot 100 charting number and was all over the radio this year. The flickering guitar is what makes it so choice.
In Time by Dizzy
Winning tons of critical acclaim, Baby Teeth was the sleeper hit album of the year. Dizzy is the name of the band. And “In Time” is perhaps its most outstanding track.
We Are the New VR by Brave Shores
A synth pop duo that conjured up a magical album was Toronto’s Brave Shores. It was difficult to pick a standout track but “We Are the New VR” has such a dazzling, uplifting wall of sound quality, we have to place it here.
Love Me by Forest Blakk
Irresistible is “Love Me” from Forest Blakk, a roots-leaning track that does what all singer-songwriter folk-rock pieces should – flare up the goosebumps.
ONO by Ariane Moffatt
This one should have you busting a move or two. “ONO”, which stands for one night only, is electropop done right. JUNO award winner Ariane Moffatt is one of our finest as demonstrated here.
Maybe It’s Me by Jessica Mitchell
Jessica Mitchell is one of those singers who can bristle out your back of neck hairs with a single note. She scrapes the clouds with this phenomenal song, and we are grateful.
MTV by Rosemary Fairweather
The Toronto queen of underground new wave is the one to watch in 2019. Airy vocals, captivating beats, and dreamy synths make her music ever so exquisite. “MTV” has some nice vocal harmonies in the chorus and hearkens back to the 80s, appropriate for a song about MTV.
Crave by Ruth B.
Edmonton multiplatinum JUNO winner, Ruth B released this song which struck us for sounding different from what everyone seemed to be doing in 2018. Its teasing synth pulses and raspy beats should hook you immediately.
Good Intentions II by North Atlantic Drift
Canada is taking its shot at ambient electronic music and becoming a world leader at it. One of our finest outfits is North Atlantic Drift. “Good Intentions II” at just under four minutes does not overstay its welcome gently pulling you along in its breathtaking flight.
Branches by The Coriolis Project
BC’s The Coriolis Project gives ambient music more of an edgier rock sound, as explicitly evident on a cut like “Branches”. It switches on an atmosphere that swings serenely, thanks to some nice ride cymbal percussion, and ultimately excites with riveting guitars and ultra spicy synth riffs.
Manic by Coleman Hell
Quadruple platinum artist Coleman Hell of Thunder Bay delivered perhaps the best lyrics of the year thanks to this knee-slapping stroke of genius dedicated to those who suffer from so-called mental illness. Our favourite stanza:
“So I wrestle my demons
‘Til I go off the deep end
Where I’m drowning and I can’t come up for air
I’ve tried every medication
And I’ve gone in hibernation
Hiding in my room like a bi-polar bear”
Afar by Viñu-Vinu
A sweeping tapestry of ambient soundscapes animates Viñu-Vinu’s excellent album Echoes from Afar which opens with track … “Afar”. This is a creepy waking dream, a deliciously dreary ride through both spook and calm.
Never Any No Good by Allan Rayman
Rock anthem of the year, Allan Rayman’s “Never Any No Good”, slays with its devastating guitar riffs and bluesy croon giving a high-five to Jean Leloup.
Seuls à deux by Éric Charland
From our EP of the year, “Seuls à deux” by Éric Charland has it all. A finely crafted, catchy, and coherent adult electropop tune reminding us a little of Jason Bajada.
I Want It All by Adrian Underhill
The surprise R&B album of 2017 was Jenna Nation’s You Don’t Know and of 2018 is Adrian Underhill’s CU Again. It is smooth, mellow R&B inflected adult contemporary with splashes of alternative. Pastel grooves swish through the gentle earworm “I Want It All” which harnesses a simple melody that is ever so catchy.
Would You Just by Diversion
It was very difficult to choose a track from our 2018 album of the year, Connection by EDM house wizard Diversion. We finally settled on this, a moderate tempo track amidst faster and slower numbers. The vocals of featured singer Yemi Bolatiwa make it even better. Dense and rich with fantastic beats and ground-shaking bass, “Would You Just” is pure euphoria.
My All to You by Beatrice Deer
Title track of Beatrice Deer’s boss 2018 album, “My All to You” is a driving stomp along pleaser oozing with fragrant swagger. So simple and yet so satisfying, it forces you to do one thing: hit the repeat button.
Monophobia by Deadmau5
This definitely qualifies as one of the best tracks emanating from Canada’s most recognizable name in EDM – deadmau5. Monophobia features the vocals of Rob Swire. Wait for the electrifying synth and beats to kick in and you’re in for the feel-good anthem of the year.
Canadian Music Blog’s 2018 Song of the Year
It took ten long years, and a young woman from Calgary finally did it. She became the first homegrown female soloist in a whole decade to reach #1 at country radio. This song did pretty well in the US too, making it into the country Top 20, a rare event for a Canadian song these days. Another rarity is for a singer to melt hearts by voicing a single word, in this case “boy”. Plucky guitar leads up to the most sing-along worthy chorus in a long time. This song deserved every milestone it passed. Off 2017 album The Project, the Canadian Music Blog declares “Criminal” by Lindsay Ell as 2018’s song of the year!