Canada Day Playlist: Old and New Kids on The Block

Photo courtesy of CBC.ca

 

Oh Canada, how we love you.To better equip you for your Canada Day festivities and shenanigans, for the second year in a row I thought I’d pay homage to both the red and white decked tunes that have rocked the world for decades, as well as those that will keep us shakin’ for decades to come. Music is an integral part of any of the nuts Ottawa and Toronto celebrations, so stay tuned this weekend to hear what we’re up to and who we’re listening to. Stay safe, have a blast and keep those proud speakers cranked up on this momentous long weekend!

 

THE OLD KIDS

Bobcaygeon – The Tragically Hip: All of the nuts love this song, two of us are going to see the old hand rockers play this weekend, and there are no words to describe how much Kaylee and I’s hearts skip a beat when Downie’s voice rises to howl “That night in Toronto…”

Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World – Neil Young: I’m always shocked at those who don’t like Neil Young. I mean, do you not like smiling or happiness either?  Lyrically, this song is a perfect representation of our wonderful country and all of its freedoms – and instrumentally, it’s just a damn good time with one of Canada’s greatest legends.

These Eyes – The Guess Who: Ooh, baby – now this is music. Pour a cool drink, take a moment on the balcony or deck and groove to that classic sultry riff with Burton Cummings.

Hasn’t Hit Me Yet – Blue Rodeo: I would be shamed from the music journalism sphere if I left out the boys and this song. Wherever they’re playing this on Sunday, a resounding national singalong will unite the country like the national anthem itself.

We’re Here for a Good Time – Trooper: Whether from your speakers or acoustic guitar, this campfire ditty only leads to good things like spoons to the knee or clinking glasses.

 

 THE NEW KIDS

Headlines – Drake: Ah, Drizzy – how could we forget your steamy self, the rhymes you spit and this proud Canadian music vid. Whether or not our homeland hip-hop hero is your cup of tea, there’s no denying his superstardom and the kind of excitedness the flashy beat will to bring to your Canada Day bash. HYFR.

Let It Go – Dragonette: Last year in my Canada Day music ABC’s, I listed this band as one of the coolest musical transformations of the past few years – and clearly their wild ride hasn’t stopped there. Bubbly Sorbara and her crew of electro-pop boys continue to amaze me with their Juno-winning discography and cute danceable singles like this one.

Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) – Arcade Fire: As one of jolliest jams to hit the indie airwaves in probably the last five years, these now international superstars provide the perfect 80s-caked backing to any living room dance party.

The Bad in Each Other – Feist: Not an old song, but a veteran indie sweetheart crooning it and all of its thumping glory. As undoubtedly one of the best tracks of 2011, this will make for a good arm-over-shoulders evening sway. I highly encourage you all bring out a little bad (behaviour) in each other during Sunday’s festivities.

Never Gonna Let You Go – Esthero: Jenny-Bea Englishman, the jazzy Ontario pop artist who’s made quite a name for herself in the past decade (collaborations with Timbaland, Kanye and spots on both the Grey’s Anatomy and Sex and the City movie soundtracks), has returned with her first single in nearly seven years – and a catchy comeback like this one has won a place high on our party playlists.

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Still Hip After All These Years

nuts(nts) Slang
adj.
1. Crazy; insane.
2. Extremely enthusiastic. ex: We’re nuts about music.

If we’re talking about an experience that falls under the above definition – crazy/insane and something to be very enthusiastic about – then the past 6 days of mine have been, without a doubt, nuts. I’ve been tirelessly covering Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest every night for Ottawa Life Magazine, making my days seem like wild races around town that are starting to conglomerate into one big blur; a big and beautiful blur that I would never pass up, where I’m able to hear world-renowned music every night. Lately my life has consisted of mornings spent hurrying to finish an account of the night before, speed-walking to work down the empty streets of Ottawa, working a full day, doing some sort of physical activity, snacking on my walk down to the festival grounds – and lastly, wandering around the concert site in the fading sun and taking in the most beautiful sounds until about midnight when I saunter home. Greasy, tired, a little delusional and absolutely the perfect kind of nuts.

The past week has been filled with every kind of music I could ask for – the DJ’ing wonders of party animals like Skrillex and Girl Talk, the blues-rock genius of Steve Miller Band, The Sheepdogs and The Black Keys, and the mainstream indie appeal of Tegan and Sara, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and The Flaming Lips. Looping through maze-like crowds, sipping chilled beer with the summer sounds and sharing in the National Capital’s undying appreciation of these international acts are the reasons that these two weeks are probably the best of the year for me and so many others.

Last night wasn’t any different from the others – manning the lumps of bystanders and rowdy concert-goers, fighting for a spot in the drink line and relishing in the beating sun while the sound checks of popular bands vibrate from every direction. It was one of those nights where there was no mold to the crowd and everyone fit a different category: toddler and aloof, young and absorbent, middle-aged and reminiscent, older and wildly devoted. Why? Because The Tragically Hip were playing, and everyone has a different reason to love The Hip.

The Hip doing what they do best

Despite my early trek to the concert grounds, I didn’t have a chance at getting as close to the front as I wanted. Truthfully, I hoped to be pressed up against the stage at the feet of my fellow Kingston, Ontario hometown heroes – right there to catch the breeze from lead singer Gord Downie’s spastic leg kicks and figure-eighting hips. But, such is life that I was wedged in the middle like so many others; I had a feeling I wouldn’t be the only person vying for that coveted spot. Regardless, as soon as the shaky howls of Downie began with, “They shot a movie once, in my hometown,” they were moving full force ahead with the opener “Blow at High Dough” and it didn’t matter where I was standing – we were on our way. The show continued as everyone figured it would, with Downie’s dramatic physical interaction with his own lyrics – often mimicking the words, eyes rolled back in head, conversing erratically with his microphone stage and wilted handkerchief. The one-of-a-kind frontman is the epitome of a real performer – a fantastically unorthodox bouncing (nut)ball who threads in and around his more subdued and focused (and probably quite accustomed to it) band members. They play and he shoots around stage, those are the roles – and they each rock equal amounts. Hammering out the classics one after another, it was inspiring and momentous to hear the thousands chanting alongside “Grace, Too”, “Bobcaygeon” and “In View”. Watching these people tilt their heads to the night sky with one hand in the air, imitating Downie’s catchy yodels, makes you want to turn to your left, and then to your right, and ask your neighbours what memory they have attached to the tune.

The Tragically Hip, all hometown biases aside, know how to command an audience and they contribute, oh so perfectly, to the togetherness we all want to feel at a music festival like Bluesfest. They ended the first week of the festival on the nuttiest and most memorable of notes, and until next time – it was lovely to see the boys in back in town. Now, onto week number two, so wish me luck, in a nutshell.

Canada, Sing One For Me.

A,B,C, it’s as easy as 1,2,3. My allegiance to the lengthy alphabet of Canadian artists is certainly no secret at this point – so join me in a leisurely stroll through only a few of the countless greats you’ll find coast to coast. If you’ve heard these names before but haven’t gone any further in the discovery process, I’ve outlined for you which hits and hidden gems are those worth looking into to get you started. God bless Canada for sounding so great.

AUSTRA: This Toronto space-pop group has hit me like a ton of bricks recently, leaving me stunned as lead Katie Stelmanis’s piercing new wave vocals (wo)man-handle the clang of the catchy industrial instrumentals. Must hear: “Lose It” or “The Choke

BLUE RODEO: Rock daddies, folk brothers and our equivolent of a musical golden retriever – every man and woman’s best friend. Almost three decades later with a slew of tour dates to boot, Blue Rodeo bring it home every show – reminding us what it feels like to be from Ontario. Must Hear: “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” and “Lost Together

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE: This longstanding Canadian collective has the hearts and minds of our nation in the bag, and has for quite some time. Whether it’s breathless indie-rock, instrument-heavy hits or atmospheric oddities – this “Scene” has been the breeding ground for some of the most successful Canadian acts to date. Must hear:All to All (Skeet Skeet remix)”, “Almost Crimes” or “Lover’s Spit

DRAGONETTE: Originally a Women&Songs solo favourite of mine back in ‘02, Martina Sorbara’s folk-acoustic career must have not done it for her – because she emerged as the lively lead of Dragonette, a four-piece electric-pop dance group that stirs up craftier melodies than any of Catherine’s Dance Mix ’95 tapes did. Must hear:I Get Around”, “Stupid Grin”, and “Easy” (below)


                                              
DRAKE: Drizzy, Aubrey Drake Graham, Jimmy Brooks, or international superstar; whatever you want to call him, the guy is undeniably colossal. He’s got his hand in every hip-hop royalty cookie jar on the planet, and despite maybe not having lived the hard-knock life his rhyming peers have – the 24 year-old airwave-hog waves his maple leaf proudly. Must Hear: Forever” or “Fancy

FEIST: The sweetest girl in town. Gorgeous flower-child and innovative songstress Leslie Feist actually arose out of Broken Social Scene, taking productions like Grey’s Anatomy and 500 Days of Summer by storm with her distinctive croons, genre-savvy concepts and likable melodies. Must Hear:Sealion”, “I Feel it All” and “Inside and Out

GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS: Lead singer Tony Dekker’s haunting howls and folk balladry are just one of a kind – in Canada and internationally. The combination of acrobatic yodels and earthy grassroots strums has tagged these guys as some of the most magical songwriters in the country, snatching the breath out of my chest every time I click play. Must hear:Still” and “Your Rocky Spine

JOEL PLASKETT: …tells it like it is. This honest alt-rocker, who has toured with and without The Emergency, writes what we want to know other people experience as well. His observations are bang-on, his messages are annunciated and crisp, and his rock equipment chars the stage beneath him. Like many of the others on this list, Plaskett is a classic, a favourite, and a fixture in our hearts. Must Hear: “Nowhere with You”, “Face of the Earth” and “Nothing More To Say” (below)

MATT MAYS: Strolling unexpectedly onto the music scene as part of the Halifax jangly-rock group The Guthries, Mays branched out on his own to pick up the pace a little as Matt Mays and El Torpedo. A killer set of pipes  that topple over laid-back ripping guitar have drawn huge comparisons to the likes of Tom Petty, especially after having worked with Don Smith before – who helped launch Petty and Keith Richards in their own scorching rock careers. Must hear: “Tall Trees” and “On The Hood

METRIC: Everyone likes a little Metric. Tough girl Emily Haines got her start in BSS before dragging female-fronted alt-rock up from underground and into the mainstream with her band Metric. Sparkling dresses, a blonde coif and her cheeky rasp certainly haven’t held this broad back from spitting hits, sassing strangers and helping put Canada’s leading ladies on the map. Must hear:Monster Hospital (Mstrkrft remix),Police and The Private” and “Sick Muse

NEIL YOUNG: The man who’s laid the foundation for all rootsy-rockers, the king of the squealing harmonica, the visionary, and the godfather of all country-rock – enough said. Must hear:Harvest Moon” and “Heart of Gold

PATRICK WATSON: (Sigh) Oh, Patrick. This former Polaris Prize winner, in the words of Janis Joplin, always manages to take another little piece of my heart. Watson has the country’s most calming voice, which has landed him countless gigs on television show soundtracks, sold out shows on the global stage and creative projects with acts like the Cinematic Orchestra. Penning many of the most moving songs I’ve ever heard, his progressive pop will command my attention for years to come. Must hear:The Great Escape”, “Sit Down Beside Me“, “Luscious Life” and “To Build A Home” (below)


 STARS:  This group deserves a nod most definitely because they nursed me into my appreciation of Canadian songs; guiding me through the scene with whimsical indie-rock albums like Set Yourself On Fire and In Our Bedroom After The War. Lyrics like, “live through this and you won’t look back” still walk me through the motions of life – and bring me back to nights spent swaying to their booming concert encores. Must hear: One More Night”, “Tonight” or “Your Ex-lover is Dead

TEGAN AND SARA: Born only minutes apart, these West Coast twins have equal amounts of kick. Both hard-hitting and exposed at times, they’re another act that’s also cannon-balled to make an international girl-rock splash. Something similar to what we heard during our recess antics applies to this T&S – they’re not just good for two girls. They’re good for anybody. Must hear: You Wouldn’t Like Me” or “Fix You Up

THE TRAGICALLY HIP: Kingston, represent! I can’t help but be biased in describing my hometown favourites. Despite adoring them because they always wave back when sitting next to you at a tiny coffee shop in the Limestone City, it’s more of the fact that I can’t get enough of their original and timeless Canuck rock. To this day they know how to deliver, and it’s got to be a good sign the number of times I’ve heard of concert attendees making the trip yet again – “just because it’s The Hip.” Must hear: Bobcaygeon”, “Blow at High Dough” and “Long Time Running”. Want to see one of the best performances of all time? See below.

 
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS: 15 years after their inception, this AC Newman-lead Canadian power-group has become one of the most renowned music conglomerates in the country. A microphone-commanding combination of singer-songwriter Neko Case and Newman, this band’s soaring instruments and hearty vocals landed their album Mass Romantic at spot 24 on Blender Magazines’s best indie albums of all-time. Must hear: The Bleeding Heart Show”, “Use It” or “Challengers

Spark the BBQ, sport your red and white with pride, and make a playlist of these tunes – you’ll feel closer to your nation after the first tune. Happy listening!