Top 10 Canadian albums of the decade

Maclean’s writers pick the records they never got sick of hearing


10. Feist – The Reminder (2007)
For all the excitement and self-congratulation that defined the decade in Canadian music, these 10 years may ultimately be remembered for two records (Arcade Fire’s Funeral and Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot It In People) and one star (Feist). The potential for stardom was clearly there when Leslie Feist emerged with Let It Die. But she surpassed all imagination with The Reminder, a seductive pop record that was at once charming and eccentric, of the iPod moment and timeless. (Aaron Wherry)

9. The Constantines – Shine A Light (2003)
With a burst of frantic, jagged guitar on opening stomper “National Hum,” The Constantines leave no doubt they’re intent on making a racket. And what a glorious racket it turns out to be. Shine A Light is that exceptional album that’s as smart as it is intense. From the brooding menace of “Nightime/Anytime (It’s Alright)” to the rumbling, Springsteen-esque “On to You,” there’s a rare depth to the urgency of their music. It’s soulful rock ‘n roll that proves loud doesn’t have to mean dumb. (Philippe Gohier)

8. Sam Roberts – The Inhuman Condition (2002)
Sam Roberts kick-started the summer of 2002 with the bongo-heavy single “Brother Down.” Soon after, Roberts was shuttled into the studio with major label money—and it’s been a jam-band, epic, psychedelic, anthemic rock party ever since. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But the first EP, featuring six straight-ahead infectious pop-laced rock ditties, heralded one of the most exciting—and unabashedly Canadian—new voices of the decade. (Shanda Deziel)

7. Tangiers – Hot New Spirits (2003)
For awhile there, Toronto was a pretty weird place to live: SARS, a garbage-strewn civic strike, the final days of Mel Lastman, a blackout that became an excuse to party. All the while, the city’s music was starting to reassert itself. Hot New Spirits is the lost gem of that time—an anxious, nervy, joyous announcement to the world. Other bands would come to define the scene and the decade, but this is what it sounded like before we knew where we were going. (Aaron Wherry)

6. Sarah Harmer – You Were Here (2000)
Sarah Harmer’s “Lodestar” is like a Tom Thomson painting set to music, a gorgeous portrait of a “great black night” and a fateful canoe trip. For that alone, You Were Here deserves to be one of the best Canadian albums of at least the last decade. But Harmer also proved that both her singing and songwriting shine through no matter the subject or genre, whether it’s jaunty pop, swinging jazz, guitar rock or bluegrass. She’s likely the only performer who’s covered both the Beastie Boys and Dolly Parton in her live set, and she deserves an MVP award for her generous spirit with artists both greater and smaller than herself. You Were Here shows off all her good sides; it’s hard to imagine there’s anything else. (Michael Barclay)

5. Wolf Parade – Apologies To The Queen Mary (2005)
This Montreal band’s debut album revealed an obsession with ghosts and a penchant for danceable indie rock. The two songwriters, guitarist Dan Boeckner and keyboardist Spencer Krug, laid themselves bare, whether on the daddy-issues track, “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father’s Son,” or the ecstatic closer “This Heart’s on Fire.” Four years later, all 12 tracks sound just as poignant and powerful as the first time you heard them. (Shanda Deziel)

4. New Pornographers – Mass Romantic (2000)
The word ‘supergroup’ usually conjures up images of Crobsy, Stills, Nash and Young, or for the truly-depraved, Asia. Yet this Vancouver octet—pieced together from local scenesters including Dan Bejar (Destroyer) Carl (A.C.) Newman and Neko Case—definitely qualifies. Their 2000 debut, Mass Romantic, blends power pop, Beach Boys-style harmonies, and some wickedly catchy tunes. Bonus points: The Fubar-themed video for “My Slow Descent in Alcoholism.”  (Jonathon Gatehouse)

3. Black Mountain – Black Mountain (2005)
It’s entirely possible the members of Black Mountain have never heeded Bob Dylan’s clarion call from “Rainy Day Women” (“Everybody must get stoned!”), but you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise based on their self-titled debut. That said, unlike all too many of their psychedelic, stoner-rock brethren, what makes Black Mountain stand out is their willingness to exercise restraint. The album is heavy and heady, but never gets weighed down by its proggy leanings. Standouts “Modern Music,” with its catchy “1-2-3, another pop explosion” chorus, “No Satisfaction,” with its blissed-out campfire vibe, and the swaggering, bluesy “Druganaut” show a band with impressive range—and the good sense not to overindulge it. (Philippe Gohier)

2. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People (2002)
This is family values. This is it all coming together. The result is a seminal indie rock record. And in that achievement it became clear just how much was possible, launching a mid-decade renaissance for the Canadian music scene. The sight and sound of these friends and lovers crowding on stage together to make music defined the messy rush of wonderment that followed. (Aaron Wherry)

1. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)
Every song on Funeral is imbued with an optimism, whether tentative or triumphant, that comes from enduring tumultuous times, from channelling confusion and despair into musically bold statements of hope. The songs are the product of a tall Texan and the daughter of a Haitian refugee who commandeered a small local army to sing golden hymns of lost innocence, rousing calls to action, and chants of “lies, lies” at the height of a war started under false pretence. Most pop culture blindly ignored the tumultuous zeitgeist of the past decade; Arcade Fire embraced the epic and delivered bombast with majestic melodies, not sensational pyrotechnics. Their budget was cheap; the sentiment, and the effect, was not. Its meteoric rise to international acclaim, rather than languishing in Canadian indie obscurity, is a story unto itself. What matters most, though, is that albums like Funeral come around once in a lifetime. (Michael Barclay)

Honourable mention:

Nickelback – Silver Side Up (2001)
Yes, it’s stupid arena rock, but they own that stuff. So make fun of them if you want, but they’re way more famous than Arcade Fire will ever be. And they accomplished it with a lead singer sporting a woman’s haircut and a goatee. (Colin Campbell)


Top 10 Canadian albums of the decade

  1. Metric – Fantasies.

  2. Love the music reviewer. Contantines are one of my favorite bands and they certainly deserve some acclaim. Well done.

  3. This is all lame hipster music. I’m assuming you were riding a trak bike and drinking a pabst blue ribbon when you came up with this list.

    • Wow. It's like he was spying on us.

  4. The Hidden Cameras- The Smell Of Our Own

  5. K-OS – Joyful Rebellion

    • Agreed!!!!!!!!!

  6. Never mind these guys – did Inkless get a pick?

  7. Absurd to pick Inhuman Condition instead of We Were Born In A Flame.

  8. i love this music. but it's totally a taste issue. what about people who like country? LOL these lists are craaaaaaazy! what's the best dessert ever made? chocolate cake! but i hate chocolate. peanut butter cookies. i'm allergic to peanut butter! poor country fans. poor jazz fans. poor jazz artists or francophones etc. etc. etc.

    • Also agreed.

  9. Some good choices, but definitely missing some much needed Metric. Fantasies is such a strong well-rounded record, not to forget their first couple albums too.

  10. I think Death From Above 1979 should have gotten a mention for its unapologetic dedication to experimental basement style rock out riffs.

    • What those two guys did with a bass, drum kit, synthesizer and screams was incredible. Wish they were still around. Check out Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains… but if you're a fan you likely already have. Cheers…

  11. I'd also like to add The Weakerthans – Reunion Tour

    • That was their worst album of the decade! Still a pretty good album, of course, but it's a pretty distant third to Left and Leaving and Reconstruction Site…

  12. Patrick Watson! Besnard Lakes! Martin Tielli! Christine Fellowes! Woodhands! This decade was my education in indie rock excellence! Nice pick with The New Pornographers! Corb Lund makes some very catchy country music. Laura Barrett made the Kalymba sing! K-os is my boyfriend ;-).

  13. Funeral was a terrible album. The song were garbage. Yes, that's only my opinion but I suspect it's a widely shared one. Good call on Feist however, like a fine wine her craft has only gotten better with age.

  14. The omission of Tegan & Sara is unforgivable.

  15. Hipster music? Who would you rather have – made for radio top 40 crap? Perhaps some Nickelback?

    Regardless of its chiqueness, this guy made some dang fine pics. I would put #2 BSS YFIIP way ahead the arcade fire. I would also consider Plants & Animals debut but it's probably more of a top 20. Good call on Shine a Light and Apologies for Queen Mary!

    Disagree with Feist – it doesn't age well.

  16. I love Metric, but best of the decade? Really people?

  17. Fred Eaglesmith – Tinderbox

  18. Harry Manx – any of the half dozen or so he's put out over the decade

  19. So, are we just writing 2010 off completely, or has everyone already forgotten that we spent most of 1999 figuring out that a decade actually ends at the END of a sequence of 10, not at the number 9. I suppose we're just continuing the common error of pretending the most recent decade began in 2000, and not 2001, but it's still kinda annoying. The decade we're in started on January 1st, 2001 and will end December 31st 2010.

    Please. This knowledge is the one and only useful thing that came out of the Y2K scare. Let's not abandon it!

    • 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. thats ten years. 10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19. 10 years. geddit yet?

      • Glad you can count but you have forgotten, or never knew, that there was no year 0. "0" was the starting point of the "race" and not the first completed lap. Decades end after 10 completed years (i.e., December 31 of a year ending with a zero. Centuries end December 31 of years ending in "00". Millenia end December 31 of a year ending in "000".

    • Agree! I have read some of the other replies who disagree. The key to counting the decades is to remember that the starting point of our calendar is a point in time and not a year. "0" was the point at the beginning of the first decade. There was no year "0".

  20. True enough that we're using a calendar that started at Year 1. But I think the common use of refering to decades as "the nineties, the sixties, etc." – particularly for historical and cultural references – trumps numerical logic in this case.

    • I agree, but then this should properly be "Top ten albums of the aughts", not "of the decade". Best of the 80's is fine. Best of the "decade" from 1980-1989 just seems wrong to me.

      • A decade can be any span of 10 years. If you start counting at 1980, for example, you could look at a decade from 1980-1989. You could also look at 1964-1973. It's any span of 10 years. For pop culture lists, people tend to group the ten years that had the same prefix.
        Also, the "Aughts" is a terrible name.

  21. Any list that doesn't have any of Joel Plaskett's incredible (and incredibly Canadian) albums is incorrect.

  22. I made the following comment to the Globe's recent best Canadian fiction list. Seems to me that the same argument applies here:

    So "the best Canadian fiction" is all written in English? Coincidence or were non-anglophone books not even considered? Surely the latter, which is why this is yet another example of us English Canadians sending the message to those Canadians who write in French or aboriginal languages that they're not really Canadian. The English used to do this, i.e., assume that their nation was equivalent to the whole country of Great Britain, thus excluding the minority nations (Scots, Irish, Welsh). But they learned their lesson over a century ago. What's our excuse for not even having begun to learn ours? "Canada's National Newspaper"? For shame!

  23. no Rush who picked this list?

  24. why is there no AC/DC for this list? black ice was amazing!

    • They are not Canadian, that is why

      • hilarious that ur name is intellectual but u didnt know that ACDC is Australian!!!

  25. What about Rush's 2007 album, Snakes and Arrows? They're one of the most important bands in Canadian music history, and it was a truly fantastic album.
    Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot that music critics are only allowed to pick trendy indie albums people will have forgotten about in a few years.

  26. Should have been called "best english-Canadian pop music" of the decade list. Anything more than that, you're being a bit of an ass.


  28. Quicksilver Meat Dream by I Mother Earth (2003)…top 3 FOR SURE

  29. Why is Serena Ryder not on here? theres an artist who has the talent to be one here. Her Album was amazing, and a breath of fresh air in the almost dead Canadian music charts. She won a Juno for best new female artist, and another one this year! In my opinion I think this list is rather biased to sales over talent.