Last year I nearly killed myself trying to write about what I thought were the 60 best CanRock songs between 1993 and 1999. It was stupid of me. So stupid, in fact, that it kinda crashed the site because 60 embedded YouTube videos one page is, well, stupid. So the editors divided it up into a Part One and a Part Two, because they're obviously smarter than me. (I imagine they'll do the same for this thing too.) Well, I am clearly a glutton for punishment, because almost immediately afterwards I pitched a similar feature that picked up right where that one left off. "What about a completely biased list of the best Canadian indie rock songs from the last decade?" I stupidly wrote to my editors.
As I wrote in that CanRock piece, Canadian music is probably at its best ever right now. I probably still think that, but I also wonder what the state of Canmusic would be if it weren't for all those great indie bands that put Canada on the map back in the early 2000s? Well, I'm sure Drake would still be objectively better than Eminem, Carly Rae Jepsen would still be inexplicably neglected by her label for making A+ pop music, and Shawn Mendes would still be every nine-year-old's idea of a talented musician. But without a band like, oh, let's say Arcade Fire, who would America have complained about in 2011? Without Death From Above 1979, who would Kelly Osbourne have taken as her date to the 2004 AMAs? And would Feist have scored that lifetime supply of iPod Nanos?
What I'm getting at is Canada ruled at producing indie rock in the 2000s. Our country became famous for it. Like, TIME magazine cover famous for it. Okay, that was actually just the Canadian edition of TIME, but it was still TIME. Here's a definitive yet biased list of what are the 60 best Canadian indie rock songs from 2000 to 2009, along with the artist's history of Polaris Music Prize nominations. Because nothing validates Canadian indie rock better than a Polaris Music Prize nomination.
This is Part two of the 60 best Canadian indie rock songs from 2000 to 2009.
30. Germans "Nature's Mouth"
First of all, big thanks to former Germans Leon Taheny and Aidan Koper of Germans for uploading this track to YouTube for me. For some reason, no one had illegally posted it before I asked them to do it. Of course, now Taheny is a big shot Toronto record producer who has worked with Owen Pallett, Fucked Up, Austra, Dilly Dally and DFA79, and also co-runs the Candle Recording Studio. Koper, on the other hand, records synth-pop as No Terrain, but is best known for appearing on Ellen to chop lettuce with lawnmower balancing on his chin AND on David Letterman's "Stupid Human Tricks" for juggling while fitting himself through a tennis racket IN FRONT OF NATALIE PORTMAN. (Seriously, click on this hyperlinks people.) Anywho, Germans were an awesome band that made feel-good, throwback '90s U.S. indie rock (think a Pavement-Sebadoh-Halo Benders hybrid) before everyone started to do that a decade later. Their debut album, Cape Fear, was great from start to finish, but "Nature's Mouth" was the slackeriest slacker anthem Canada ever saw in the post-slacker rock era.
Polaris nomination? Nope. What was up with that??
29. Southpacific "Alamo"
You are forgiven if the name Southpacific never crossed your path. It's likely the most obscure name on this list, but the Ottawa trio were responsible for making some of my favourite music of the decade. (They do have a Wikipedia page, so maybe they aren't that obscure.) Maybe it's because I went to uni in the capital city that makes them so endearing to me, but all of this time later and I've never stopped playing their two releases - 1998's 33 EP, and 2000's constance LP. Not long after the album's release, Southpacific called it a day, and that's a shame because they're style of shoegaze/post-rock/space-rock has never really fallen out of fashion. "Alamo" is just one of the highlights on constance, but it stands out for the hypnotic of its rhythm and those shimmering, effects-laden guitar squalls.
Polaris nomination? Nope, they were way too early.
28. Malajube "Étienne d'Août"
I am not proud of how few Francophone acts are on this list. In fact, Malajube are the only French language band. But there is quite a great divide between English and French music in Canada, and Malajube bridged that gap significantly in 2006 with the release of their second album, Trompe-l'œil. A loopy hybrid of psych, prog, indie pop, and space rock, Malajube were fun, weird, unpredictable and as "Étienne d'Août" demonstrates, able to flip a switch and get all soft and emotive on us. One of the highlights of the inaugural Polaris Music Prize for me was seeing them perform this song. That might even be why I chose it.
Polaris nomination? Two shortlists - 2006 and 2009. I honestly thought they legit chance to win in 2006 (they lost to Owen Pallett, aka Final Fantasy), but it's pretty easy to admit that Malajube blazed a trail for the first Francophone winner of the prize, Karkwa in 2010.
27. Born Ruffians "Little Garçon"
I should preface this by saying that I think Born Ruffians have become a much better band in the current decade, but when the first showed their handsome faces in 2006, they just seemed so odd. Here was a band that could write hooky pop songs, but then they threw in all of these quirks like celebratory call and response yelling, bizarre time signatures and bare-bum arrangements. Turns out all that weird shit is what made them so cool. I'm going with "Little Garçon" from their debut LP, Red, Yellow & Blue. It's just so unexpected, from the opening collection of "oohs and aahs" to the country-fied harmonica and acoustic combo to it completely changing direction, bringing in an accordion, a rickety rimshot and a multi-layered chorus and handclaps that are so twee it all makes me blush.
Polaris nomination? Yup, the longlist for Red, Yellow & Blue in 2008. But like I said, this band keeps getting better and everything after that - especially 2013's most excellent Birthmarks - sure deserved to.
26. The Dears "Lost in the Plot"
Here is another band that tasted international acclaim before Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire. Montreal's The Dears have always thrown everything and the kitchen sink at their idealistic rock music, and the proof is in the liner notes. Check out the credits for my fav album, 2003's No Cities Left, and they've got a clavinet, a couple different saxophones, a French horn, strings, melodica, and every kind of organ and piano you could imagine. But that is what the Dears do: they build grandiose pop songs for Murray Lightburn to add his poetic crooning to. "Lost in the Plot" isn't quite five minutes, but it's such a sprawling opus full of such elegant melodies that I wish they'd made it twice as long.
Polaris nomination? Yup, the shortlist in 2007 and the longlist in 2011.
25. Tegan & Sara "Walking With A Ghost"
It's always easy to forget that Tegan & Sara were DIY AF when they began as teenage folkies in the late '90s. Their evolution is one of pop music's best little-told stories. Listen to their catalogue in chronological order and man, what a journey. It's hard not to pick "Walking With A Ghost" as the favourite. It's so damn catchy and succinct: in just 150 seconds they fill every nook and cranny with an abundance of hooks, and yet it's remarkably simple in its arrangement. No wonder the White Stripes honoured the song with a faithful cover that certainly gave the twin sisters both cred and the kind of publicity no money could buy.
Polaris nomination? Oh yeah. They made the shortlist in 2010 and 2013. They also made the longlist in 2008.
24. Godspeed You! Black Emperor "Storm"
Originally I had the entire version of "Storm," but at 22 minutes and 33 seconds in length, it really jeopardizes the potential to convert these 60 tracks into a tidy playlist. But the first part in this four-part suite is just so unbelievably heartening. I get the sense that maybe the producers of Friday Night Lights originally reached out to GY!BE to use their music, and were maybe turned down because Godspeed don't play that. Because really, "Storm" makes me want to go back to high school, try out for my football team and blast this through the stadium speakers. No disrespect to Explosions in the Sky, but this is the most epically, riveting, climax-worthy high school football drama music I can think of off the top of my head.
Polaris nomination? Lol! They won in 2013 for Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! but they said no thanks.
23. The Flashing Lights "Highschool"
Fans of '90s East Coast rock went from one good thing to another overnight when Matt Murphy ended the Super Friendz and quickly launched the Flashing Lights. It was hard for anyone to be too upset about the move seeing as he continued to write melodically blessed power pop. The Flashing Lights, however, were more of an all-in rock band without the quirks, all riffs aplenty. I'd say with that swooping hook, "Highschool" is Murphy's catchiest song, which might be why he still plays it with TUNS. The real star of the song though is drummer Steve Pitkin and that rolling drum intro. Why don't new rock bands ever pull that classic move nowadays?
Polaris nomination? Nope, they didn't last long enough.
22. Peaches "Fuck The Pain Away"
Damn, this song is so dangerous. Not just because Peaches is such a transgressive bad-ass, but because I've had to stop myself from singing the words to "Fuck The Pain Away" in public a few times when this song pops up in my brain's random playlist. It's a miracle that someone could turn a song that begins with "Suckin' on my titties like you wanted me…" into an earworm, but with that hypnotic, clickity-clack beat and Peaches' DGAF nonchalance, the lyrics just slide right in. I know she's a hero to many, but this song is the only defence you'd need to try and convince someone that doesn't think so.
Polaris nomination? Nope, but she did win a Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize in 2015 for The Teaches of Peaches.
21. The Unicorns "Sea Ghost"
Should an Adventure Time movie ever hit the big screen, I hope Pendleton Ward and Cartoon Network either try and lure the Unicorns back out of retirement or just simply pay for the rights to use all of Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? for the score, because no two things are more alike than that show and that album. The flute riff at the beginning of "Sea Ghost" is just too perfect to not have Finn playing it in some big climactic finale. Or maybe someone can just dub this song over this clip from episode 25 of season seven for me? I should point out that the flute isn't even the best part of the song, it's that drumbeat they nick straight outta ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down."
Polaris nomination? Nope.
20. Destroyer "The Sublimation Hour"
Dan Bejar has always faced Bowie comparisons in his career, and most often it's been said as sincere flattery. I'm not stating this as a hot take but if you hold up their albums side by side, I might give Bejar the edge as the better lyricist. Of course, Bejar might not even be a musician without David Bowie, but give Streethawk: A Seduction a listen and you'll start reading his lyric sheets aloud like the ingenious poems like they are. From the title alone, "The Sublimation Hour" just sounds like the original lyric sheet should be hanging up in the National Gallery. But Bejar takes a winding arrangement recalling Ziggy Stardust and meticulously wraps it around his words like a gift from Harrods.
Polaris nomination? Yup, he was shortlisted in 2011 (and should have won for Kaputt). He was also longlisted in 2008 and 2016.
19. The Sadies "Flash"
Selecting one song from the Sadies in a decade where they just couldn't stop making records is no easy task, so I just went for one of their total scorchers. I mean, even just narrowing it down to "total scorchers" leaves you with a tall list, but since "Flash" has an official music video, well, there's the winner! The band's punk roots were well-covered in a recent Noisey interview, and on the two-minute "Flash" they let that side rip, adding some heavy twang, garage and surf tones in there because the Sadies.
Polaris nomination? Yup, a shortlist in 2010 and two longlists in 2008 and 2014.
18. The Deadly Snakes "Oh My Bride"
Toronto's Deadly Snakes were undeniably the city's greatest garage rock band, hell, possibly ever. Their cult spans the entire globe, but in their local scene they were worshipped like gods. Ask any fan of theirs to explain why and you'll get the equivalent of an honours thesis as their answer. And they had the international cred to back up the praise, releasing records on garage institutions like Sympathy for the Record Industry and In the Red. Their 2003 album, Ode To Joy, was named so for a reason: it is music that brings unbridled jubilation. And no song did this better than "Oh My Bride," a feverish hoedown of claps and stomps that if I had another opportunity to get married again, would easily be the first dance.
Polaris nomination? Yup, they made the shortlist in 2006 for Porcella.
17. Feist "I Feel It All"
One thing Feist doesn't get enough credit for is her axemanship. Leslie Feist is an insanely talented guitarist, and that's strangely what I listen to most in her music. It isn't always something she pushes to the forefront, but even her best known song, "1234," has some cool-ass, understated riffs - both on guitar, banjo and especially piano. But I always enjoy the way she shreds on "I Feel It All" the most. It feels as though she's fighting the urge to let loose one of those garish barn-burners that has made Jack White's music so intolerable. And that's another reason to love Feist: she knows that less is more.
Polaris nomination? Yup. She's been shortlisted twice, and won in 2012.
16. Royal City "Bad Luck"
In 2001, I don't think there was a bad in Southern Ontario as revered as Guelph's Royal City. A year after their critically acclaimed 2000 debut, At Rush Hour The Cars, they dropped Alone At The Microphone, an album that seems to get better each year it ages. I suppose it's a feast for all the Neil Young stans out there. The influence was pretty obvious in Jim Guthrie's ragged, glorious country rock riffs, Aaron Riches's rusty yelp and the album's title, a presumable nod to the eponymous track from Young's On The Beach. But Neil never got as dark with his lyrics as Riches did with this album. Lead cut "Bad Luck" is not only a foot-stomper, it's got the lyrics of a Clive Barker novel: "I've met you in the alley / All covered in maggots / And I have seen you in the chambers / Of the silent sea / Bad luck you are a terrible laughing god."
Polaris nomination? Nope. Before their time.
15. Fucked Up "Police"
I know the argument with Fucked Up is that they've become less of a hardcore band and more palatable over time, but you listen to "Police," a single they released in 2003 and tell me that isn't a banger. These guys have been doing it for years. And yeah, I'm calling them indie rock.
Polaris nomination? Yup. In fact, Fucked Up shocked the shit out of people when they won in 2009. Just watching the mainstream media squirm to announce it was the best part. They were also shortlisted in 2012.
14. Stars "Elevator Love Letter"
Both critics and fans seem to prefer 2004's Set Yourself On Fire but for me 2003's Heart was Stars' best album. I don't know why their second album is so forgotten, but to me it was a whimsical and literary blend of twee and new romantic pop with heart-melting choruses. And its sequencing off the top was so bang on, with the charming "What the Snowman Learned About Love" segueing right into "Elevator Love Letter" like inseparable mates. I love how the latter's sets up the verses to be a girl-boy tag team event, which best exemplifies the magic of having both Amy Millan and Torquil Campbell as vocalists.
Polaris nomination? Yup, shortlisted in 2008 and longlisted in 2011.
13. The Russian Futurists "The Matador's Theme"
Before he became a popular radio morning host in Toronto, Matthew Hart was Canadian indie rock's King of Bedroom Pop. As the Russian Futurists, Hart wrote mini symphonies with his secondhand Casio keyboards and samplers; what they lacked in fidelity they made up big time in the ambitious arrangements and succulent hooks. Dude never made an album that wasn't awesome (check his score on Pitchfork - he averages an 8.0!), but my favourite is "The Matador's Theme" from 2003's Let's Get Ready To Crumble. Hart is a hip-hop head and it often shows in his beat-making; normally he uses crisp, snapping beats, but I love how he waits until the mid-point to drop this massive, marching drumbeat. And yet, no matter how dominant it is in the mix, nothing can overtake his maple syrupy vocals.
Polaris nomination? Nope, and I'm a little pissed off about that. But he did win something called the Shadow Polaris Music Prize in 2010.
12. Miracle Fortress "Hold Your Secrets to Your Heart"
Miracle Fortress' Five Roses is a top ten album of the decade for me. It's something I've come to realize years after its release in 2007, but I'm a little disappointed in myself that I found this to be a grower. Graham Van Pelt wrote, played and produced everything himself, and every time I listen to it I find something new I love about it. Even though I also have crushes on "Have You Seen In Your Dreams" and "Poetaster," the stand out for me is "Hold Your Secrets to Your Heart," a shoegazer's odyssey built from layers of fluttering guitar loops and piano.
Polaris nomination? Yeah, in 2007 Five Roses made the shortlist. I may have been a juror that year too. And I also may hate myself because this didn't win.
11. Tokyo Police Club "Your English Is Good"
Tokyo Police Club will always be the fresh-faced kids from Newmarket eating the seven-layer sandwich and waving around a big red flag to some people. But since their debut, 2006's A Lesson In Crime, they've gone on to write some truly great pop tunes. I still believe and will argue to the death that their first full-length, 2008's Elephant Shell, is the most underrated album of that year. I'm not sure what people's expectations were for that album, but I loved every minute of it. "Your English Is Good" was a nice bridge between those two releases, and it provided that more seriously browed album with a moment of jubilation. I suppose you might think I purely voted for this because the gang shouts, "Give us your vote! If you know what's good for you!" And you'd be wrong. I don't take kindly to blackmail threats.
Polaris nomination? Nope. Well, they made the 2016 longer list.
10. Think About Life "Sweet Sixteen"
Montreal's Think About Life should've been huge! Their second album Family was basically an all-night, raging kegger of a party album that had banger after banger, and yet not enough people crashed it. Maybe Alien8 didn't send out enough flyers or maybe people just expected more of the noisy, experimental pop of their self-titled debut, but Family was way more accessible and inclusive than it needed to be. To be honest, I could include every track and just do the album, but "Sweet Sixteen" has big chorus and a lovely teenage narrative to it, but man, hearing Martin Cesar sing "radio DJs play my song all day long" has some truly heartbreaking irony to it. If only!
Polaris nomination? Nope. Ridiculousness.
9. Final Fantasy "The CN Tower Belongs To The Dead"
Owen Pallett is quite easily the most accomplished musician on this list. I didn't crunch any numbers, but my guess is he's either on at least 1/3 of these songs or has worked with that many of these artists. Dude is a machine. And yet he's as decorated for his own solo work (see Polaris history below). His transformation from the early stages of his solo work to today is awe-inspiring, but I'm still a huge fan of the sparse recordings he did in the beginning as Final Fantasy. His debut album, Has A Good Home, was written mostly with his violin and loop pedals, but Pallett used such limitations to compose these humble pocket symphonies. I could have gotten a little meta with his tune, "This Is The Dream Of Win & Regine," an obvious ode to his friends in Arcade Fire, but I've always loved the plucky piano riff of "The CN Tower Belongs To The Dead" and how his vocals feel as though they're building towards this big moment… that instead lays to rest with a warm stringed exit.
Polaris nomination? Yup. Pallett is the OG winner! He won in 2006 for He Poos Clouds. How awesome is that? He was also shortlisted in 2010 and 2014.
8. Sloan "Witch's Wand"
If you aren't familiar with Sloan's work in the previous decade, well, you're missing out. Although they're most remembered for '90s albums like Twice Removed and One Chord To Another, Sloan had plenty to offer in the '00s. I'm not big on Action Pact, but the rest of the albums are all worth a listen, especially the songwriting clinic they held with 2006's Never Hear The End Of It (30 songs!). But I'm going with one from the next album, 2008's Parallel Play. In my opinion, this is Jay Ferguson's album. All three of his songs are exquisite soft pop gems, but "Witch's Wand" is frankly one of his best songs, period. The lyrics have this wintry nostalgia to them that is just so damn, wonderfully Canadian (see also the video), but Ferguson, an honours student of '60s pop, adds all of the little things that make this such a faithful throwback (can't get enough handclaps). Polaris nomination? Like Peaches, Sloan won a Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize in 2015 for Twice Removed. But no other nominations. I know. SMH.
7. Wolf Parade "I'll Believe in Anything"
Apologies to the Queen Mary was my fav Canadian indie rock album of 2005, and it's a struggle to go with only one song. As awesome as Dan Boeckner's "Shine a Light" is with its muscular, Springsteen-y rockness, Spencer Krug's weirdo pop anthem "I'll Believe in Anything" is the showstopper. The slow-building ascension, those squeaky keyboards, Krug's ghoulish voice howling "nooooobody loves you and nooobody gives a damn," and the way it accelerates towards the climax – it's just too good.
Polaris nomination? Yup. A shortlist in 2006, and a longlist in 2009 for At Mount Zoomer.
6. Broken Social Scene "Almost Crimes"
Broken Social Scene are Canadian indie rock's Wu-Tang Clan. They occasionally release albums and play shows together, but you don't really need all of them to do either. Just a few of the key members. And they can all go their separate ways and make solo records that are just as good as the band's records. I'm not gonna put too much thought into this and just say that Kevin Drew is Ol' Dirty Bastard (the one with the personality), Brendan Canning is Method Man (most identifiable member IMO), Leslie Feist is obviously Ghostface (she is the best solo artist), Justin Peroff is RZA (beatmaker, obvs), Andrew Whiteman is GZA (unsung hero), Evan Cranley is Cappadonna (because someone has to be), Amy Millan is Masta Killa (just sounds cool), Jason Collett is Inspectah Deck (because their first names are both Jason), Charles Spearin is U-God (because he plays bass sometimes and U-God has a bass-heavy voice), and Emily Haines is Raekwon (only because the one time I interviewed her she was out for sushi). But I digress. BSS are the band that made the world take notice of Canadian indie rock™. Their second album, You Forgot It In People, is crammed with hits, but I'll take "Almost Crimes" because it's the best one, it has a skronking sax solo and I love the playful exchange between Drew and Feist, especially in the silhouetted video.
Polaris nomination? They've only released two albums in the Polaris era, and they were both shortlisted.
5. Japandroids "Young Hearts Spark Fire"
I'd probably argue Japandroids' "The House That Heaven Built" is the best Canadian indie rock song of the millennium, but that's for another list (check back in three years). There was a brief moment in time when Japandroids were just another Vancouver garage band that played local gig after local gig without any notice. Their first two EPs were released in limited quantities of 500 not because they wanted them to be collector's items, but because no one cared. Luckily for them (and us) that they caught a break with their debut album, 2009's Post-Nothing. The duo were about ready to split up and get real jobs before the album took off like a wildfire doused in gasoline. "Young Hearts Spark Fire" was likely the first song by Japandroids anyone really, and immediately established a generation of noisy indie rock that wasn't afraid of wearing its wistfulness on its beer-stained band tee with the sleeves rolled up. But more than anything it introduced a band that - perhaps more than any other in the last decade - pumps out fiercely impassioned rock jams.
Polaris nomination? Yup. A shortlist in 2012 and a longlist in 2009.
4. The Hidden Cameras "Smells Like Happiness"
I know in the '00s the Hidden Cameras were heavily praised by the music press and experienced some worldwide success (thanks a deal with Rough Trade), but damn, if I had to pick a songwriter to win all the Junos and sing at the Vancouver Olympics it would have been Joel Gibb. With the exception of maybe Carl Newman, nobody wrote a catchier tune than this Mississauga native. But Gibb is far more than just a fine popsmith, he is also a master subverter and a fearless spokesperson for the LGBTQ community. Coining the genre "gay folk church music," his songs are as rooted in religious sing-alongs as they are the melodies of his pop heroes like Morrissey, Stephen Merritt and Calvin Johnson. And so a song like, "Golden Streams," which is structured like a church hymn and begins with a pumping cathedral organ, yields to a cheeky lyric like "Two golden streams / Run down my cheeks / When buns are deprived / Of my dreams of men." Of course, Gibb's lifestyle often overshadowed just how adept he was (and still is, mind you) at writing earworm after earworm. In "Smells Like Happiness" he may rejoice about the scent of a "bathroom stall with a friend or a man with a hard on," but goddammit, this is celebration music with or without mentioning the "smell of the cum on the rug."
Polaris nomination? Nope. Whaaaat?
3. Arcade Fire "Wake Up"
No one really does catharsis as well as Arcade Fire. From the very beginning they instilled that feeling with their music. Gang chanting, pounding polyrhythms, lyrics that encourage rising above something, and a fucking accordion! Who knew an accordion could be such a cathartic tool? Any song from Funeral could fill this spot, but "Wake Up" is just such a monster jam, from start to finish. That fuzzy opening bass riff, that whomping drum beat, the "whoa-oh, ohhhhhhhh" rallying call, and Win Butler's life-coaching vocal – I imagine it's great to chop firewood to. And that bit at the end where it begins to unfold and turn into a shuffle - which 9/10 other bands would not have done to such a big rock song - is as good as defence as any that Arcade Fire are unlike any other band. For added poignancy, check out the version they did with David Bowie back in 2005.
Polaris nomination? Nope. J/K. They've been shortlisted every time (2007, 2011, 2014) and won in 2011. They also won one of those Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prizes in 2016 for Funeral, which totes would have won a Polaris in its day.
2. Constantines "Young Lions"
Based on what I know about sports (which is a lot), every athlete listens to Aloe Blacc's "The Man" on his/her Beats By Dre headphones before a big game. And while that song is pretty motivating, if I were an athlete, be it linebacker, pro tennis guy or the skip of a curling team, I would adopt "Young Lions" as my pre-game hype song. That whole Shine A Light album has that motivational effect on me, but "Young Lions" is a real fist-pumper's delight, with that walloping rhythm and Bry Webb's managerial vocal (he's kind of how I imagine Aaron Rodgers is in the huddle). People like to say the Cons evoke Springsteen's brawny, anthemic side, and I'd say this is a perfect demonstration of their Boss-iness. The best part though is that guitar work by Webb and Steve Lambke, mixing feedback with a very understated yet commanding riff. I wish I could isolate that guitar work the way that genius isolated David Lee Roth on "Running With The Devil." Damn, I feel inspired just thinking about it.
Polaris nomination? Yup. They were longlisted in 2008.
1. The New Pornographers "Letter From An Occupant"
A few years before both Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire made Canada an indie rock destination, Vancouver supergroup the New Pornographers actually made some realize there was more to Canada than just Shania and Celine. They were a supergroup because they had three of the country's best songwriters, Carl Newman, Dan Bejar and Neko Case (technically American, but an honorary Canadian), not to mention an assortment of BC's best musicians. Together they made intricate songwriting sound simple and accessible. Their story is doozie, and well told in the book Have Not Been The Same, but basically Newman was considered "box office poison," like a pre- Deadpool Ryan Reynolds, after his band Zumpano failed to do anything with their two Sub Pop albums (fickle grunge fans wanted Big Muff over Bacharach). But his next band, the New Pornographers, scored a worldwide deal with Matador Records (Mint in Canada) and his career was revived. And it's really all thanks to Neko's 2000 powerhouse single "Letter From An Occupant," a zippy slapshot of soaring harmonies and ridiculous falsetto that should always be remembered as the shot in the arm that made Canadian indie music so great in the aughties.
Polaris nomination? Yup. They were shortlisted in 2006 and 2015, and longlisted in 2008 and 2010.
Read Part One here.
Cam Lindsay is a writer based in Toronto where he wrote this list surprisingly without being harmed. Follow him on Twitter.