Here’s the Best Canadian Stuff From 2017

Here’s one last list, promise.
December 29, 2017, 2:00pm
Daniel Caesar, Maria Qamar, and Marilyn Gladu | Images via Wikipedia Commons / Getty 

As Canadians we spend approximately 57 percent of our waking life saying “Hey, he/she/they are Canadian!” since we have a national case of young sibling syndrome. But it is true, we do a lot of cool shit in this country and don’t get much credit for our culture beyond hockey and Celine Dion. Anyways, this intro is already too long so here’s a list of Canadian content that we at VICE Canada want to highlight from 2017.


Lido Pimienta
"Anger motivates me a lot," Lido Pimienta told us between otherworldly vocal runs at the Art Gallery of Ontario last year. “Getting my power back is also very important.” The Columbian-Canadian singer’s reflection became an apt summary of 2017, a year of much resolve forged in deep pain. Her lush 2016 debut album, La Papessa, led to a stunning Polaris Music Prize win last fall, but not without white critics decrying her acceptance speech as “unprofessional.” Pimienta refused to back down from her spontaneous triumph and jabs at racism, raising her voice again to call out a racist volunteer during Halifax Pop Explosion, affirming the importance of safer spaces for people of colour. Let Pimienta’s wisdom across all these year-end lists foreshadow an even bigger 2018 for her career. —Jill Krajewski

Unfounded - Robyn Doolittle, Globe and Mail
Before the New York Times ripped open a global conversation around sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood and beyond, Canadians were unknowingly a few months ahead of the curve thanks to some heavy-hitting data journalism by Robyn Doolittle. Like those later 2017 reports, this one crystalised the way we think about a widespread injustice hiding in plain sight. Doolittle uncovered massive disparities across police forces when it comes to how sexual assault allegations are labeled and investigated, with one in five cases dismissed entirely as “unfounded.” It did the unimaginable—actually changed policing for the better. —Sarah Berman


Alvvays - Antisocialites
It’s been three years since “Archie, Marry Me” catapulted this Toronto-by-way of the Maritimes band to Canadian indie rock darling status. And while nothing on Antisocialites quite reaches Archie’s perfection, you will find 10 extremely well-crafted indie pop songs on this record. Alternating between 60s garage rock and 80s Anglo synth pop, Alvvays is elevated by Molly Rankin’s melodic penchant for late 20-something melancholy, best seen on should-be Toronto anthem “Forget About Life.” —Josh Visser

METZ - Strange Peace
Going to see METZ’s album release/homecoming show in Toronto on a Friday night back in September was a perfect release valve for all the pent-up frustration with the constant stream of bullshit that has been 2017. The entire crowd seemed ready to embrace the sonic assault and let the sheer power of amped-up decibel levels blast away the bad vibes—the pit was a sloshing, sweaty mess of spilled beer and late-30-somethings colliding together in reckless abandon. It was a fitting scene, considering the Toronto trio’s third (and best, imo) album, Strange Peace, is a perfect soundtrack to this ongoing apocalypse. Engineered by Steve Albini—an inevitable choice for a band so clearly steeped in the AmRep oeuvre—the album builds upon the Metz’s penchant for atonal riffage and massive drum grooves, by adding more layers of sprawling noise reminiscing of their early “Blue” 7-inch (yeah, I’ll be that guy) and tightening up the lyrical punch. Some days, “Lost in the Blank City” on infinite repeat is the only way to get through. —Chris Bilton

CBC’s Baroness von Sketch Show
Baroness von Sketch continues to be genuinely funny. The all-female sketch comedy troupe returned for a second season of biting social commentary, physical humour and absurdity. The highlight of the season was a mimed childbirth sequence in the middle of a dance floor. —Maisie Jacobson


Daniel Caesar
It was the year of Daniel Caesar, who just played five magical sold out shows in Toronto, resulting in five nights of amazing Instagram stories and an unknown number of marriage proposals. Everyone’s rooting for Danny, whose soulful indie R&B debut Freudian, an emotional rollercoaster of an album about what he’s described as “the most intense relationship of my life,” has picked up two Grammy nominations and racked up hundreds of millions of streams without the backing of a label and little radio play in Canada. Not bad for a 22-year-old from Oshawa. More of him, everywhere. —Tamara Khandaker

Feist - Pleasure
While Feist might not receive the same kind of attention as she did in the post-iPod Nano commercial heyday a decade ago, she has continued to put out ridiculously great albums. Metals deservedly won the 2012 Polaris prize (full disclosure, I was on the grand jury), but her follow-up, Pleasure, is even better. Feist seems to have embraced the vibe of her one-off pairing with metal stalwarts Mastodon—aka Feistodon—and pushed her sound into a looser, grungier depths of expansive riffs (check the title track) and disaffected signalongs (“Any Party”). This should be on any self-respecting Canadian’s year-end playlist. —Chris Bilton

Maude Lewis, Canada’s beloved Maritime folk artist you’d probably never heard of, got a biopic this year. The film explores illness and creativity, and includes an unusually nuanced depiction of a marriage with a striking power imbalance. Sally Hawkins gives a beautiful performance, much of it within the confines of a tiny house (but way before that was a thing). —Maisie Jacobson


Jacques Greene - Feel Infinite
Toronto-based Montrealer Jacques Greene has gained a solid reputation in the electronic music world by being one of the few people who can pull off consistently flawless live sets. In a scene where LPs are becoming more and more uncommon, Greene impressed everyone once more by dropping Feel Infinite last March. The 11 tracks perfectly showcase the producer’s ability to create dark yet energetic club anthems, all while using samples as forgotten as Amerie’s ‘That’s What U R’ on ‘I Won’t Judge’, and enlisting friend and collaborator AsianDan to play live bass on ‘Real Time’. — Billy Eff

NHL Playoffs Actually Had Canadian Teams
For one brief shining moment, Canadian hockey teams were great again. After coming off the bleak 2016 playoffs where none made the playoffs, five of the Canadian teams made the postseason. The only two that didn’t make it were the Jets and the Canucks (and let’s be real here, everyone hates the Canucks.) Hell, Erik Karlsson, on his back, hauled the Ottawa Senators to the Eastern Finals. Most importantly though—the Oilers and the Leafs made their triumphant return to the after party. The Leafs put up one of the most entertaining series of the playoffs against the Capitals and the Oilers made it to the second round.

The playoffs ended as it usually does—with an American team led by a Canadian hoisting the Cup but that doesn’t matter all that much though. ‘Cause in the end, for one small but glorious moment, post-season hockey in Canada meant something again. —Mack Lamoureux


Kent Monkman’s show Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience at the Art Museum At the University of Toronto
Cree artist Kent Monkman’s contribution to Canada 150 turned our country’s archaic colonial narrative on its head. Monkman’s alter ego, the two-spirited Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, led us through the last 300 years from an indigenous perspective with tenacity, wit and stilettos. If you missed it, it’s being released as a book in 2018. —Maisie Jacobson

Travis Lupick - Fighting for Space
This is a deeply researched account of Vancouver's first overdose epidemic, and necessary reading for anyone trying to put 2017’s terrifying stats in perspective. There are some truly gutting scenes in here that prove it's always been a life-or-death battle to simply exist as an addicted person. In the face of police harassment that treated them like pests to be quarantined, drug users built up their own support network in the 90s and fought hard for the harm reduction transformations that experts now tour the world talking about. Back then 100 deaths was enough to get a public health emergency declared, but it was still a years-long struggle to get basic life-saving policies put in place. —Sarah Berman

The $60 phone deal

My last Rogers bill was more than $200 because apparently I’m a data fiend. For years, I’ve wanted a reasonably-priced plan that was data heavy but Canada doesn’t (and maybe never will) offer unlimited data plans. So imagine my shock when my friend told me Koodo was offering a $60 deal for 10 GB of data, and unlimited calling and texting. I didn’t even hesitate to ditch my decade-long relationship with Rogers. I did it so fast that I didn’t realize Rogers was offering the same deal. Long story short, all the major cell companies in Canada ended up offering customers this bargain for a limited time—finally some healthy competition. And Canadians went nuts. We waited on the phone for hours, only to get hung up on and dial in again. We set foot in shopping malls—at Christmas—with the hopes that it would be easier to sign up in person. And we posted about it on every form of social media. Canadians are starved for decent cell phone plans, so it’s no wonder we reacted that way. Even though it’s a service I’ll be paying for, and probably pales in comparison to what Americans can get, I still kind of feel like I won something. Sad. —Manisha Krishnan

With music, beer, friends, and beds all within stumbling distance, this little festival that could in Sackville, New Brunswick is frosh week-meets-summer camp but better. Happier. Cozier. At Sappyfest 12, headliner Lido Pimienta moved more hips in the Maritimes than ever, guitar heroes Partner made the main tent a hotbox mosh pit, and legendary songwriter Willie Thrasher reminded us to sit down, be humble. Every community-branded festival with a food truck and Emerging Artist Stage™ is trying to be Sappy. Once you meet the real deal—complete with the best (only?) bowling-alley venue Thunder & Lightning—you’ll be charmed for life. Sappy forever. —Jill Krajewski


Marilyn Gladu’s weed poem in parliament
With weed legalization around the corner, it’s been a banner year for reefer madness-spreading politicians. Quebec’s Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, and Public Health Lucie Charlebois said she was scared weed is laced with fentanyl while Conservative MP Peter Kent one-upped her by claiming cannabis is “just as deadly” as fentanyl. Not to be outdone, fellow Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu read aloud an anti-weed poem in the House of Commons. This is the best stanza:

“The Grits will allow four pot plants in each dwelling,
Regardless of how bad each place will be smelling,
With mold, ventilation as issues unplanned,
This bill will not keep pot from our children's hand.”
—Manisha Krishnan

Hatecopy - Trust No Aunty
25-year-old artist Maria Qamar, best known as Hatecopy, has built a cult following around her pointed pop art meets Bollywood prints. Both skewering and honouring the legend of the Desi "aunty," Qamar's work takes on a slice of life inhabited by South Asian women featuring poisoned chai, burnt rotis and the daily drama of living. The bright, poppy paintings have found big fans in the likes of Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham. Her book Trust No Aunty pulls together her collection of aunties with recipes and practical advice on surviving womanhood, regardless of race. —Amil Niazi

This insane investigation into a Quebec chef's totally made up life aka Apollocalypse

With several restaurants, his own line of pasta products and a fan base consisting of all of Quebec's aunts and grandmas, celebrity chef Giovanni Apollo was on top of the world. Alas, 2017 was really not his year. First, there were the sexual misconduct allegations, followed by a massive, jaw-dropping investigation into the web of lies he'd spent his life weaving. For one, it was revealed that Giovanni —whose entire brand was built around his Italian heritage— was actually a French dude named Jean-Claude. This fine fibber had also pretended he’d trained under master chef Paul Bocuse, lied about working at the Élysée Palace and apparently once served horse steak passed off as exotic (and illegal) wildebeast meat, to name but a few of the many untruths outlined in this insane saga. Inexplicably, grandmas and aunts all over the province continue to stand by him. —Brigitte Noël