Top 50 Canadian Albums Of The Decade, 4-1
4. Arcade Fire – Funeral
An obvious game-changer album, Arcade Fire‘s 2004 debut blew up the Montreal music scene, made orchestral rock the music of the moment for…a moment, reintroduced social awareness to indie rock (…ignoring Radiohead, that is…) and was just really, really awesome. On a side-note, it definitely gave Owen Pallett‘s profile a bit of a boost once everyone found out he was playing with the group live and helping out with those insane arrangements. But all that only serves to distract from what a great album Funeral is. It’s an album that many had a hard time getting into (see: me) but once they did, they found something amazing. Win and Regine Butler were writing these amazingly simple and at the same time intricately detailed songs about love, fear, age, politics and technology that could appeal to hard-edged hipsters just as easily as they could to some hipper parents. And it was so big and bright, one would think it would be harder to ignore than to love. Maybe us latecomers just weren’t ready for it, though the rest of the musical world sure was.
3. Wolf Parade – Apologies To Queen Mary
Wolf Parade‘s success was kind of tied to the Arcade Fire‘s back in the day since they were both from Montreal, had shared members in the past, played shows together and were both socially conscious bands. Difference was Wolf Parade was weirder, more paranoid, druggier, definitely less accessible and a lot rougher. And for my money, they made the better album. Apologies... captures perfectly the feeling of the Bush era, of being overwhelmed by a world being increasingly dominated by technology and at a rapid rate; technology that could change our lives for better just as easily as infinitely worse, especially living under something like The Patriot Act. (Shudders). And yet the hope Wolf Parade offered, though meager, was made all the more precious by the apparent futility of everything, as presented in songs like “Shine A Light” and Spencer Krug‘s masterpiece, “I’ll Believe In Anything”. These days, socially conscious music seems to be something of a rarity – maybe everyone’s just happy that Obama’s in office, but go back to this album and just remember that the world isn’t quite all peaches and cream even if the Bush-era is technically over.
2. The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse
One of my favorite albums of all time, The Besnard Lakes are... is, I believe, the modern day Dark Side Of The Moon. It’s an album that requires time, but when given, its eight tracks reward endlessly. This album got it all so right. It’s got orchestration, synths, shoegaze, ambiance, pop, explosive guitar solos, experimentation – everything you could want…except for a hit single. It’s just too grandiose, too big and ambient – but sit back and blast “Devastation” and it will devastate your eardrums with awesomeness; and who the fuck else writes music as gentle, haunting and unpredictable as songs like “Because Tonight” or “For Agent 13″. Nobody. That’s who. And it’s got “And You Lied To Me”, which is just an orgasmic slow-burner. The Besnard Lakes are… is so tight and diverse that it just feels like a classic album.
1. Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene
What happens when you take a community of some of the best musicians in Canada and get them to all make an album together under the benevolent leadership of Kevin Drew? You get the best album to come out of Canada in the last ten years. Maybe ever. I don’t know how people could not like this or prefer You Forgot It In People; BSS perfectly straddles the line between experimental freak-out and pop song perfectionism. And it has everything. All kinds of instruments, sounds, styles, voices, ideas: everything. But especially heart. A whole lot of heart. You can’t build songs as majestic as “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)”, “It’s All Gonna Break” or “Superconnected” without a lot of heart. And though I’m tempted to give a lot of credit for all that heart to Kevin Drew, it’s obvious that this is the sound of an entire scene of songwriters and artists each lending the album something. Whether it’s some gorgeous vocal parts via Feist, Amy Milan and Emily Haines, some kick-ass guitar work from Andrew Whitman, an amazing tour-de-force production job by David Newfeld or just some solid rhythm work from Brendan Canning and Justin Peroff, everyone brought something special to the table to deliver a very special album. This is the sound of an entire social scene, one made up of incredibly talented individuals all working together. The result speaks for itself.