Spring 2022 guide: 12 albums you need to hear

Our favourite picks to soundtrack the incoming season.

Our favourite picks to soundtrack the incoming season

Digging Roots, Georgia Hammer and Pierre Kwenders all have exciting releases out this spring. (Ratul Debnath, Gemma Warren, Daniele Fummo; graphic by CBC Music)

Spring is a season of renewal. There's almost no better time for discovery — musical or otherwise. As we shed our winter selves and venture back out into the unlimited possibilities that the season promises, artists from across the country are dropping music that will provide the perfect soundtrack. Many of the albums on this list look back to the past, mining influences from the '60s, '70s and '80s to create hybrid sounds that are utterly contemporary. 

From soothing folk to dark disco, the genres that fill these albums and EPs offer a little something for every taste, whether you've been patiently waiting for the return of a certain Montreal-born indie rock band or whether you just want to discover a new artist to fall in love with.

Below is just a selection of some of the Canadian albums that we're excited to check out this spring. What are you most looking forward to? Share with us @CBCMusic

Artist: Marina Thibeault, Nicolas Ellis, l'Orchestre de l'Agora
Album: Viola Borealis
Release date: March 25

The title of violist Marina Thibeault's next album alludes not only to the dazzling natural phenomenon common to northern countries, but also the music of three northern composers, whom she connects through time and space. The album includes German baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann's Viola Concerto (the first concerto written for the instrument), prominent Latvian composer Peteris Vasks's Viola Concerto (premiered in 2016), and two excerpts from Reckoning, a six-movement suite for solo viola by Anishinaabe composer Melody McKiver, who dedicated the work to their grandmother, a residential school survivor. For the concertos, Thibeault teams up with one of today's most exciting young conductors, Nicolas Ellis, who leads his own group, l'Orchestre de l'Agora. The whole project brims with next-gen energy and the promise of a bright future for classical music in Canada. — Robert Rowat 

Artist: Destroyer
Album: Labyrinthitis 
Release date: March 25

Dan Bejar's idea of disco is not like the upbeat anthems we hear on the Billboard charts today. The man behind Destroyer has tapped into a sound that is darker, moodier and even more true to the melancholic Destroyer ethos for his 13th studio album, Labyrinthitis. Reuniting with longtime collaborator and producer John Collins (Tegan and Sara, Stars), Bejar's sound expands to theatrical new heights thanks to pulsating synths, bright horns and even a surprise standout spoken-word sequence on the six-and-a-half-minute opus "June." If the Weeknd's Dawn FM was too glossy and pop for you, Destroyer's Labyrinthitis could be its perfect indie companion. — Melody Lau

Artist: P'tit Belliveau
Album: Un homme et son piano
Release date: April 1

P'tit Belliveau, real name Jonah Guimond, has described himself as an introvert, retreating into his own musical space as a kid when he had trouble connecting with others. Through that separateness, he's since found a unique place in Canadian music: the Acadian artist from Baie Sainte-Marie, N.S., writes mostly in Acadjonne and sometimes English, and releases music that's a little unexpected, often witty and always entertaining. On his sophomore album, Un homme et son piano, Guimond plays with piano ballads amid country, pop and hip-hop influences (to name just a few), and it's surprisingly seamless. On the opening track, "Jaimerais d'avoir un John Deere," he sounds earnest over the piano, until the full verse hits: "J'aimerais d'avoir un John Deere/ j'le driverais sur le highway/ pis tout l'monde partis à Yarmouth voudra m'tuer/ mais moi j'ferais point trop dans une presse." (Translation: I'd like to have a John Deere/ I'd drive it on the highway/ and everyone heading to Yarmouth would want to kill me/ but me, I wouldn't be in much of a hurry.) The cover of the album sports the sticker "Featuring all the hits!!," a nod to P'tit Belliveau's Polaris-longlisted debut album, 2020's Greatest Hits Vol. 1. You won't always know what to expect on Un homme et son piano, but you're guaranteed a damn good time.  — Holly Gordon

Artist: Pup
Album: The Unraveling of PuptheBand
Release date: April 1

On recording Pup's fourth studio album, The Unraveling of PuptheBand, singer Stefan Babcock said in a press release: "As the weeks passed, we seemed less and less rational, objective and sane." That kind of statement can feel alarming to read for almost any other band, but when it's coming from the Toronto rockers, it feels reassuring. That's because chaos, and generally embodying the idea of being "f--k-ups" as they would describe it, is all part of the Pup ethos. There's a madness and catharsis to their music, which is what makes shouting along feel so good, and that feeling is still very much at the core of their new album. What's different are the details — upgraded studio setup, added instrumentation and guest features — but if you're looking for some ear-splitting anthems to fuel your playlist, there's no better place to search than on a Pup album. — ML

Artist: Orville Peck 
Album: Bronco
Release date: April 8

Three years after his critically acclaimed debut, Pony, masked crooner Orville Peck is back with his sophomore album, Bronco. And like his previous output, Peck's latest is more than just country. As Peck details in a statement, Bronco was inspired by "country rock, '60s and '70s psychedelic, California and even bluegrass." The album will be unveiled in chapters, and four of the album's 15 tracks are available now including standout "C'mon Baby, Cry," boasting what might be Peck's best vocal performance to date (just listen to that falsetto!). A master at giving old, traditional sounds a modern polish — not to mention a queer spin, which has placed Peck at the forefront of an exciting gay country movement — Bronco is guaranteed to solidify Peck as one of country music's biggest stars. — ML

Artist: 1969 Collective
Album: 1969
Release date: April 12

If you often revisit songs from the '60s folk era, 1969 will be the perfect contemporary soundtrack. It's a concept album dedicated to the music of the late '60s, helmed by songwriter and producer Connor Seidel and recorded in the Treehouse studio just north of Montreal ("un studio en pleine nature," as Ariane Moffatt says in her artist capsule for her 1969 song, "Deux cœurs vagabonds"). The album is also a beautiful coming together of the Quebec music community: the tracklist of original songs includes contributions from Moffatt, Elisapie, Safia Nolin, Half Moon Run, Les soeurs Boulay, Matt Holubowski and more, including at least four languages (Inuktitut, French, English and Spanish) and giving a rich interpretation of songs inspired by that era. Two buoyant interludes punctuate the tracklist, ending in a dramatic flurry of strings and woodwinds on the third, "Interlude III." If April 12 feels too far away, Seidel put together an Apple Music playlist titled "1969 Collective: Influences" that's a nice window into the album's origins.  — HG

Artist: Georgia Harmer
Album: Stay in Touch
Release date: April 22

Georgia Harmer's debut album is called Stay in Touch — a sentiment loaded with various meanings as we (hopefully) begin to transition out of the confines of a global pandemic. For many, remaining in touch virtually lost its lustre, while friends skipped town indefinitely and getting back in touch with yourself became an unavoidable and necessary practice. Which makes this eloquent folk-rock collection, so deeply rooted in the palpable nostalgia of a moment as soon as it passes, particularly hard-hitting. Harmer's debut single, "Headrush," was the perfect introduction in its wistful recollection of the kind of lifelong friendships, and quiet self-discovery, that can be born out of slow, summery nothingness. — Jess Huddleston

Don't miss Georgia Harmer on a new episode of CBC Music's The Intro, airing March 30 on CBC Gem.

Artist: Dana Gavanski
Album: When it Comes
Release date: April 29

While making her sophomore album, When it Comes, Dana Gavanski was wrestling with an unexpected challenge: midway through the pandemic, she started to lose her soprano voice. "In many ways this record feels like it is my first," Gavanski told the Fader in February. "When I could use my voice, I had to focus so there is an urgency and greater emotional trajectory than before … it's very connected to vocal presence, which extended into an existential questioning of my connection to music." What came out of a personally torturous time is a vibrant glimpse into Gavanski's internal world, and When it Comes is a set of wild and wonderful songs that lean on '60s and '70s pop influences (with shades of Regina Spektor) while being completely unique to the Serbo-Canadian singer-songwriter. The marching beat on "Indigo Highway" gives a jaunty feel to a song that's about those heady childhood days spent with your favourite person, and the video, with many Dana Gavanskis appearing, is such a fun representation of the track. For the more introspective "Under the Sky," Gavanski sings of summer love with a beautiful video shot on the island of Korčula, Croatia. Spending time in Gavanski's world is a breath of fresh air, and we're glad she's let us in again. — HG

Artist: Pierre Kwenders
Album: José Louis and the Paradox of Love
Release date: April 29

José Louis and the Paradox of Love is a wonderland of rich textures that Pierre Kwenders has woven together into a tapestry of cultural artifacts. His personal and familial history create the narrative bedrock for this journey into the complexity of love, as he enlists the help of Win Butler, Anaiis, King Britt, Africa Intshiyetu Choir and more to help him flesh out the storyline. The title comes from his birth name, José Louis Modabi, and the album finds Kwenders at his most bare, searching for and discovering the different ways love can exist. It was written over four years as he toured internationally with his collective Moonshine, bringing Afro-inflected electronic music to dance floors worldwide. On José Louis and the Paradox of Love, the sounds go beyond electronic to include Congolese rumba, pop, R&B and spectacular moments of jazz that completely overwhelm the senses (check out "Papa Wemba" for a taste). Kwenders sings and raps in three Congolese languages (Lingala, Kikongo and Tshiluba) as well as French and English, creating what sounds like his own hybrid language. And perhaps that's exactly what's needed to get to the root of something as complex as love: new forms of communicating. — Kelsey Adams 

Artist: Arcade Fire
Album: We
Release date: May 6

In the five years since the release of Everything Now, you've had to get a little creative to hear new Arcade Fire music. Whether that be replaying the clip from its 2021 performance of "Generation A" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or downloading the meditation app Headspace to hear the band's 45-minute-long song "Memories in the Age of Anxiety." Now, things should be a bit easier with the imminent release of Arcade Fire's next full-length project, We. The band started teasing the lead single, "The Lightning I, II," in March by sending out mailers with the musical notation written on them, and it's a rapturous anthem of hope and optimism. As Win Butler sings, "We can make it if you don't quit on me ... I'll never quit on you," the ethos of the album comes to light: struggle and strife are compounding all around us, across the world, and the only way through it is collectively. According to a press release, the band recorded the album in New Orleans, El Paso and Mount Desert Island, spending the most time they ever have writing together. The culmination of all those hours are seven songs that follow a journey from the cold loneliness of isolation into the warm embrace of reconnection. The last line of "The Lightning I, II" asks, "What will the light bring?" I imagine it's something that feels and sounds a lot like joy. — KA

Artist: Kamikaze Nurse
Album: Stimuloso
Release date: June 3

Stimuloso is full of endless surprises. In one instance, it's a wild stampede of songs with frenetic drums and distortion, but tucked inside, pockets of space, built-in moments to catch one's breath, take hold of one's own centre amidst the thundering onslaught. In another instance, an ominous opening vocal blooms into a cheery-but-not-quite-cheerful droning pop-rock number. Then there's Stimuloso's first single and album opener, "Boom Josie." It's a cinematic mix of momentum and textures from driving guitars to KC Wei's incredible voice, edged in agony, but bright and full as the blue moon. The slightly off-kilter beauty of the first 44 seconds gives way to a burst of early '80s-era pop, when every song felt like the soundtrack to someone else's life-changing moment. It's so smart it could get mistaken for unintentionally weird, but this is well-crafted chaos. The Vancouver-based alt-rock band is mixing up indie-pop, punk, cuddle core, metal, grunge and riot grrrl, and they're putting their own spin on it, playing with octave and tempo changes in unexpected and exciting ways. Stimuloso, Kamikaze Nurse's second full-length album, is a visceral release, the kind most of us haven't had in a while. — Andrea Warner

Artist: Digging Roots
Album: Zhawenim
Release date: June 17

Digging Roots' ShoShona Kish and Raven Katatanka have been busy since their third album, 2014's For the Light. But press play on their forthcoming release, Zhawenim, and it's easy to hear that the break in recording has only deepened and strengthened their vision. Joy, resistance and love anchor every track of the new blues-rock album, even as they touch on everything from climate justice and the land-back movement to ongoing trauma from settler colonialism. The album's name, "'Zhawenim', is an Anishinabemowin word that translates to 'love unconditionally,'" according to the album's press page. Thematically, they're exploring radical love and the first two singles are urgent, vivid expressions of how that manifests. "Skoden" stomps and struts, a swaggering and galvanizing rally cry to "move baby, move baby, small revolutions baby/ stand up, step up or get out of the way." It's a very different energy than the bruising, ominous electro-blues of "Cut My Hair," which features excellent lead guitar and crushing vocal performances from both Kish and Katatanka. — AW