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)