On the cusp of Canada Day, I thought it a good time to celebrate a few songs by some of this country’s best-loved artists and bands. The focus is on bands that are known best here at home, and whose songs have what could be considered a uniquely Canadian sound. I’ve done my best to include bands from cities across the country, to shine a light on the many Canadian cities that boast thriving music scenes.
Because it’s Canada’s birthday, this playlist includes a bonus sixth song, just because. Have a happy Canada Day, all, and enjoy your long weekend.
Money City Maniacs – Sloan
Sloan, originally from Halifax and now based in Toronto, is regarded as having headmanned the Halifax “Pop Explosion” of the 1990s, which firmly established the Nova Scotia capital as one of Canada’s most fertile pop music scenes. Money City Maniacs is a near-perfect power-pop song, with a strong melody, great harmonies and a simple-but-fun rock guitar riff. This track is from their 1998 record, Navy Blues.
At the Hundredth Meridian – The Tragically Hip
“At the hundredth meridian, where the great plains begin.” Kingston’s The Tragically Hip aren’t universally loved, but the many people who like them, really like them; count me in that cohort. No matter where your opinion of the band, The Hip made a name for themselves writing songs about the country they call home, and the album this song comes from, Fully Completely, is considered high art in Canadian rock music circles. I’ve always thought the Canadian citizenship ceremony should include reciting the spoken-word bridge from this song.
Passenger 24 – Melissa McLelland
Fans of alt-country singer-songwriter Luke Doucet know Melissa McLelland, originally from Hamilton, well; the two have been married since 2006. Melissa is a talented musician in her own right, though, and to me, no song better encapsulates her style than Passenger 24. She likes to tell stories in her tunes; in this one she paints an evocative picture of the song’s subject as he hitches a ride from Amarillo to Orange County with a dodgy truck driver. Close your eyes and you’ll swear you can smell the diesel and dust.
Tournament of Hearts – The Weakerthans
The four guys in The Weakerthans fall as far outside the rock stereotype as you can get while still being professional musicians. At least, they sure don’t look like rock stars, perpetually clad in plaid shirts and worn jeans. Don’t let the scruffy look fool you, though: these four are serious musicians, from Winnipeg, which is home to a seemingly endless stream of terrific rock and folk bands. This song spins a curling game into a metaphor for why the narrator stinks at relationships. How Canadian is that, eh?
Buy: iTunes | HMV
I Love Myself Today – Bif Naked
I have a thing for female rock singers, and Bif (her real name is Beth Torbert) rocks harder than most. Many of this B.C. native’s songs are autobiographical, and it’s not hard to guess what this one’s about, once you hear the lyrics. The song’s defiant message is a good one, but I prefer to forget about it and crank the volume.
Into Your Hideout – Pilot Speed
This Toronto band started out as Pilate, before changing their name to avoid legal trouble. Generally, the band’s songs rarely aren’t happy, but this one comes close, with its bouncy guitar riff and quick tempo. Todd Clark’s haunting voice is the highlight; you could be forgiven for mistaking it for that of U2’s Bono.
Buy: iTunes | HMV