Photograph by Meqo Sam Cecil

Welcome back to Ca Va Cool’s countdown of the 20 Best Canadian Albums of the 2000s. By now you’ve read the first half of our list which included everything from cult favourites to mainstream hits which truly answered the question “Old world underground, where are you now?”. The conclusion of our list offers you ten undeniable, bonafide, outright classics of Canadian indie. These albums showed that Canada was host to some of the most vibrant musical movements on the planet and for the first time, instead of borrowed nostalgia from our parents’ record collections, this was the music we lived. These are the albums which made us sing, dance, rock out, think, love, and pick up instruments to do it all again. It’s been one hell of the decade, here are the Best Canadian Albums of the 2000s.

Death from Above 1979

10. Death from Above 1979You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine (Last Gang, 2004)

When I first listened to You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, I wasn’t sure what it was. It was kind of like metal and kind of like dance music, but it was surely like nothing I had heard before. It was a breath of fresh air in the Toronto scene which captured such a diverse group of listeners. You could dig this album if you liked rock, punk, dance, metal, just about anything that could be sold in an alternative section of a mainstream music store. ‘Romantic Rights’ even got its fair share of play on MuchMusic. I was hopeful to see what would come next from the duo, which unfortunately would be a statement from bass player Jesse Keeler saying that they’ve called it quits. The two members now have their own separate projects, where appropriately one makes dance music (MSTRKRFT), and one makes rock music (Sebastien Grainger and The Mountains). — Kyle Sikorsi

Photograph by Annette Aurrel

Photograph by Annette Aurrel

09. FeistLet It Die (Arts&Crafts, 2004)

Let It Die established Feist in Canada’s mainstream music scene and demonstrated how amazing she is at both expressing her own individual style and reinterpreting the music of others. Her rendition of Ron Sexsmith’s ‘Secret Heart’ gives an already phenomenal song a whole new life, and her interpretation of ‘When I Was a Young Girl’, which was inspired by Texas Gladden’s 1930s recording of the traditional American folk song, is completely revamped and made wonderful for new generations. The unique tonal qualities of her voice are the main emphasis and are complimented beautifully with artful instrumentation. Her own lyrics denote her pragmatic sense of realism, but despite her maturity and experience are still sweet and playful. One gets the sense that she doesn’t love easily, but when she does she loves well. Leslie Feist’s Let It Die has the rare privilege of being the type of album we haven’t heard the likes of for a long time or since. I’m confident in saying that Leslie Feist established the bar for Canadian women in music a little higher and has made our enjoyment as listeners a little greater. — Megan Krause

The New Pornographers

08. The New PornographersTwin Cinema (Mint, 2005)

In the thick of the mid-2000s power pop surge, The New Pornographers played right into the genre, defined it, and surpassed it. How? Because they weren’t just a throw-away indie band. For starters, they were drawing from a pool of solid musical talent including A.C. Newman, Dan Bejar of Destroyer and Swan Lake, Kurt Dahle of Limblifter and Age of Electric, Kathryn Calder of Immaculate Machine, and the ever-ensnaring Neko Case. Also, they had already released two acclaimed albums – Mass Romantic and The Electric Version – and expectations ran high. Many questions arose with the release of Twin Cinema. Who knew that a band could continue to overlay interesting guitar rhythms and piano work with punchy vocals, without sounding overdone or like art house music jumbled with radio rock? Who expected the slower-tempo introspective moments (‘These Are the Fables’, ‘The Bleeding Heart Show’) could still ooze with passion and energy, while the lighter upbeat tracks (‘Falling Through Your Clothes’, ‘Sing Me Spanish Techno’) could still contain cyclical intricacies and intelligent lyrics as well as catchy licks? Who would imagine that Bejar’s idiosyncratic vocals could harmonize so nicely with Case’s crooning? Who thought that you could layer all this over dynamite drum work by Kurt Dahle, a rarity in your basic indie pop formula? The New Pornographers knew. And out of that knowledge came a polished collection of tracks – dense and satisfying but never too self-indulgent – and fit to be not just one of the best releases of the year, but one of Canada’s pop treasures. — Sabrina Diemert

Arcade Fire

07. Arcade FireNeon Bible (Merge, 2007)

The awesome strength of Neon Bible has a few elements to it. The first is Arcades Fire’s undeniable skill as musicians; not only are their abilities as songwriters miles ahead of the pack, but they have the grace and know-how to perform what they’ve written with the unfettered and unabashed feeling their music requires. The second element is the numerous layers of instrumentation that the band brought in, including a full pipe organ, a professional orchestra and a military men’s choir that they went to Budapest to record with. The third element is Petite Église, the church in Farnham where most of the music was recorded. The acoustics of the building cause some interesting natural reverb that gives the impression of the music being slightly distant but also adds to the sensation of its immense grandeur. Neon Bible is both the name of the album and the subject of the very cool image on its album cover, which tie in appropriately to the existential and religious discussions of its lyrics and the nature of the entire nature of the album’s music and production process. The size of the album isn’t only its sound; it’s in its deep philosophical complexities, making it most definitely one of the best Canadian albums of the last decade. — Megan Krause

The Stills

06. The StillsLogic Will Break Your Heart (Vice, 2003)

After the success of ‘Still in Love Song’ from their Rememberese EP, The Stills had high expectations for their proper debut. Logic Will Break Your Heat met and exceeded these expectations. Hailing from Montreal, The Stills brought a fresh sound to a Canadian rock radio landscape overrun by the likes of Nickelback, Theory of a Deadman and legions of other forgettable bands. The album kicks off with ‘Lola Stars and Stripes’, a song whose apocalyptic message is contrasted by the joyous tremolo that you can’t help but be affected by. The duality continues on ‘Love and Death’ where melange of lethargy, paranoia, and depression is disguised as a kickass rock song.  True to the title of the collection, The Stills do break your heart on numerous occasions, most notably on ‘Of Montreal’, where the band’s elements coalesce into something beautiful. The plaintive vocals, the soaring guitars, the backing drums and driving bass combine to form a song that oozes nostalgia and timelessness. The post-punk revival was strong in the early ’00s, and the Stills emerged as one of the most memorable bands of the movement. — Kevin Kania

Photograph by Meqo Sam Cecil

Photograph by Meqo Sam Cecil

05. Wolf ParadeApologies to the Queen Mary (Sub Pop, 2005)

Extracting obscure references from Buddhist mythology, spastic bouts of yelping and a healthy dose of handclaps Apologies to the Queen Mary paired Handsome Furs’ Dan Boeckner and Sunset Rubdown’s Spencer Krug on guitar and keyboard respectively, and splits vocals between the two – a match made in indie heaven. Apologies to the Queen Mary is built to fit comfortably within Montreal’s scripted recipe for indie rock, using blossoming synthesizers, grungy bass lines, and shrill vocals. Wolf Parade shines at untangling the intricately layered package of noise into something effortless and captivating. The keyboard interlude of ‘Dinner Bells’ crystalizes the concept of minimalism on the album with the fading Krug composing another fairytale alongside Boeckner’s muted chords drawing a conclusion with a glimmering piano medley. Apologies demands attention to niceties through sheer energy in vocal delivery, each listen reveals a clever arrangement designed impeccably with cheerful hooks, instrumentation, and excitement in the blissful realization that this Canadian monarchy inspires a belief in anything. — Jan Kucic-Riker

Broken Social Scene

04. Broken Social SceneBroken Social Scene (Arts&Crafts, 2005)

The year was 2005, and the Toronto music collective Broken Social Scene had finished work on the hotly anticipated follow-up to the anthemic You Forgot It in People. You Forget was the exclamation mark at the end of over a decade of false starts, chance encounters and evolving musical styles for troupe-leaders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. It was the record they had spent a lifetime trying to record and an expression of where music could be through a collaborative spirit to making and playing. In addition, it was a record which suddenly thrust the collective into Canada’s indie spotlight, from which the somewhat murky and identity-less scene derived self-definition and “a sound”. Where does a band go after this? In the mix of all of the new found acclaim, a tumultuous touring schedule, torn and severed relationships, and an arrest, their self-titled album was born. Dave Newfeld was behind the boards again, and this time was probably the central influence behind the record’s sound. Pulling bits and pieces from various studio sessions, this record was a broken consortium and yet it all sort of fit. The disconnected and fragmented lyrics, instrumentation and background voices heard over each other through the record are completely reflective of a band on the state of breaking. A worthy follow-up to one of the most important albums in Canadian music history, Broken Social Scene captured a phase in most bands’ lives that is usually shied away from. It also gave us anthems like ‘7/4 Shoreline’ and ‘It’s All Gonna Break’ and represented the last time this decade – and potentially, ever – that the entire collective would be heard on record together. It’s all gonna break, and there’s beauty in the breakdown. — Sal Patel

Photograph by Autumn de Wilde

Photograph by Autumn de Wilde

03. StarsSet Yourself on Fire (Arts&Crafts, 2004)

Stars hate rock journalism. On more than one occasion, they have railed against the superficial, self indulgent, and truly pointless practice of liberal arts majors in thick rimmed glasses and skinny jeans arguing over which Pavement record is best. Stars have bigger worries – love, death and war. The band’s astonishing Set Yourself on Fire is their grand statement – 13 epic tracks, alternately belted by the grandstanding Torquil Campbell or sweetly crooned by Amy Milan. The record’s aesthetic perfectly captures the Arts&Crafts scene, with soaring strings, fuzzy synths, and driving guitars. Lyrically, Stars put their hearts on their sleeves, confronting former flames, the war in Iraq, growing up, and getting down with equal urgency. Stars have crafted nothing less than a classic with this release. On Set Yourself on Fire, Stars created a quintessential indie rock record by making a statement, a lesson that many long-banged indie bandwagoners could take to heart. — David Kelusky

Broken Social Scene

02. Broken Social SceneYou Forgot It in People (Arts&Crafts, 2002)

Claiming You Forgot It in People-era Broken Social Scene as your favourite band is a cop-out, but I mean that in a good way. Less of a band than an artistic coalition, Broken Social Scene in 2002 consisted of around 14 people. Not that any of the unnamed are less important, but some of the “recognizables” included Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Andrew Whiteman, Emily Haines, Leslie Feist, and Amy Milan. People marked a transition in the band’s sound from instrumental ambience to something fairly uncategorizable. The tunes switch from minimalist to dense, experimental to radio-friendly rock, often building symphonically or careening into kaleidoscopic jumbles of beautiful noise by the end, and usually within the same song. Keeping true to their post-rock origins, a few stellar vocal-free tracks are scattered throughout the record. Despite the array of styles, the album flows. Listening in entirety, you meander seamlessly through raw edgy licks to polished string arrangements; musings of teenage angst to homoerotic confessions; Haines’ whispers to Drew’s yelps. It just works, and its creative pop hasn’t faded at all in the past seven years. — Sabrina Diemert

Arcade Fire

01. Arcade FireFuneral (Merge, 2004)

With the release of Funeral, Arcade Fire were propelled the top of the independent music scene, even reaching the international spotlight with massive amounts of online hype prior to its release and universal acclaim following its release. Since then, it’s earned the accolades of legends such as David Bowie and David Byrne, seemingly an act of passing the torch to a new generation of musicians. Funeral was recorded in the midst of a lot of death occurring. Somehow that emotion was channeled into ten truly awesome songs of orchestral rock. From the opening crescendo of ‘Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)’ and the chaos of ‘Neighbourhood #2 (Laika)’ to the waltz of ‘Crown of Love’ and the quiet passion of ‘In the Backseat’, Funeral takes us on an emotional, heart-wrenching, sonic journey that we have not heard since. When this list was compiled, there was one album near the top of everyone’s contributions. Too obvious? Perhaps. But really, what jumps out in your mind when you think of recent great Canadian albums? Sure, the Butlers are from Texas, and Regine originally from Haiti, but this album was born in Montreal, and will likely go down as a reference point for future Canadian artists to look up to as a masterpiece. — Kevin Kania

Ca Va Cool’s Best Canadian Albums of the 2000s

20. Joel Plaskett Emergency – Truthfully Truthfully
19. The Organ – Grab That Gun
18. Tegan and Sara – The Con
17. Miracle Fortress – Five Roses
16. Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye
15. Metric – Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?
14. Feist – The Reminder
13. Final Fantasy – Has a Good Home
12. The Unicorns – Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?
11. Born Ruffians – Red, Yellow & Blue
10. Death from Above 1979 – You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine
09. Feist – Let It Die
08. The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
07. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
06. The Stills – Logic Will Break Your Heart
05. Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary
04. Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene
03. Stars – Set Yourself on Fire
02. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It in People
01. Arcade Fire – Funeral

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— , December 11, 2009    22 Comments
Comments:

Where is The Weakerthans or The Constantines?

— Alfred, December 11, 2009

The Weakerthans were the sad victim of a split between Left and Leaving and Reconstruction Site. I feel your pain.

Kevin Kania, December 11, 2009

k-os? The handful of other alternative artists that spurred the Canadian hip-hop breakthrough of the 2000s?!?!

I know these rankings are simply a reflection of editorial taste and you can’t include everyone, but this list is really, really, really white. Like completely white, with Metric’s bassist being the only exception.

I am the last person to nit-pick about issues like this. I like to think that many of us are beyond it. I like to think we have a very cosmopolitan approach to music and culture. And dear God do I love Arcade Fire. But in such an ethnically and culturally diverse country, with such broad-ranging and successful independent music (including hip hop and electronic), this list denigrates our multiculturalism.

Seriously guys, wtf.

— Kii, December 11, 2009

Uh… why was I JUST NOW made aware of your existence! Wonderful list! Much love! VIA CANADA!!!!

Tsuru, December 11, 2009

Kii, I don’t speak for all the writers at CVC, but you must understand that our list was as you mentioned, a reflection of ‘editorial taste’. Good music is good music regardless of your ethnicity, sexual orientation, or race.

I’m sorry you disagree with our choices, but to take our musical tastes as a reflection of our cultural values seems dramatic.

Jan, December 11, 2009

where is this ‘diversity’ you speak of? In my mind it’s primarily a marketing gimmick by Tourism Canada to brand our country as something that it only strives to be but mostly isn’t. Granted the three big cities, and the 4 mid-sized ones are ‘consmoplitan’ or increasingly reaching this end, but let’s be honest, when was the last time you saw a family of ‘browns’ eating the Festive Special and a Swiss Chalet in Red Deer, or a possee of ‘blacks’ having a little St. Hubert in Goose Bay Labrador. The reality is that the majority of people in this country are still ethnically white, and this is the second decade only where this majority has even been slightly challenged in numbers. Statistically speaking then, the output of albums coming from non-minorities in Canada will therefore be far fewer, particularly in a niche genre like ‘Indie’ (which this list clearly has as its theme) – a genre which has traditionally found its roots in White-America. It’s not about culture or ethnicity – it don’t matter if you’re black or white.

Oh, and by the way k-Os is on this list. He was part of the collective which produced ‘Broken Social Scene’.

— Kheaven, December 11, 2009

You Forgot It In People deserved to be top, but it’s hard to argue with good ol’ Arcade Fire (though I would have left out Neon Bible, honestly).

— Devin, December 11, 2009

@Jan: Not taking this as a reflection of your cultural values. I’m certain you have wonderful values which I’m not commenting on. I was more so reflecting on how this list (not intentionally, as I implied above) presents quite a limited view of Canadian independent music by relying largely on indie pop/rock/folk acts.

@Kheaven: I understand your point, although Canada is very much an urban place and becoming ever more so. And this list is largely a reflection of Canadian urban culture, many of the artists based in the big cities you spoke of. This absolutely isn’t about ethnicity, it’s about the exclusion of popular indie genres (i.e. hip hop) that tend to be the home of non-white artists. I’m not saying include them because they’re not white, I’m saying include them because they’ve influenced the Canadian independent scene as much, if not more so, than some of the artists above. Also, yes, I’m aware that k-os was involved in some of Broken Social Scene’s content — hardly counts as an inclusion of his genre.

As a limited example, the majority of Polaris Prize shotlists have included at least one hip hop album. Obviously the long lists have included more, with many repeat artists such as k-os, K’naan, Cadence Weapon, etc. My point is simply that this shows the genre (and others not limited to rock/pop/folk) deserves at least a passing mention in these lists, and that excluding them is presenting a selective view of Canadian music that happens to be very white.

Not trying to be the PC police. Just hope that in the future these lists will consider a broader vision of Canadian independent music.

— Kii, December 11, 2009

Yeah where is your love for the brown and Chinese contribution to Canadian music culture?

— el Guapo, December 11, 2009

You forgot about Drake.

— el Guapo, December 11, 2009

el Guapo, thank you for knocking some sense into this thread.

Daniel, December 11, 2009

Who knew the villain from Three Amigos! could be so wise?

Kevin Kania, December 11, 2009

I might be wise, but as the people of Santo Poco showed us, those with strong hearts win in the end.

I know that the ca va cool writers share their musical treasures with us from the heart, and that a key component of multiculturalism is for everyone to do just that.

— el Guapo, December 11, 2009

Why does this website h8 hip hop???!!!

— emcee, December 12, 2009

Great list, cvc!

Your list shows what a fortunate environment Canada is for music: some of the artists on your list are not well-known even to the indie blogger cognoscenti, yet have much support in Canada; and then those that are known are REALLY known (check out how high your top acts rank in the pitchfork 2000s list). This bodes well for Ca Va Cool’s 2010s list.

— Victor, December 12, 2009

Martha & Rufus Wainwright?
The Cansecos debut?
CARIBOU-MANITOBA?????
Godspeed you black emperor??

Andrew, February 28, 2010

The omission of both the Constantines’ Tournament of Hearts and Shine A Light, as well as Controller.Controller’s History is indeed a tragedy, especially considering the number of repeat artists on the list.

I’ve yet to see an editorial staff brave enough to omit either Arcade Fire album from their best of lists.

— Michael Horvath, March 27, 2010

I like the list, but I still dream of the day when someone making a list of best Canadian albums switches numbers 1 and 2.

Nice call on The Organ. Their presence is missed.

— mark, May 8, 2010

In addition to the others already listed:
Malajube? Wintersleep?

Theres too much of the same bands….

— cccc, June 4, 2010

Buck 65
Neko Case
Elliot Brood
NQ Arbuckle
………….I could keep going. Good list but doesnt stray to far from pop

— Travis Youngman, July 13, 2010

A-HA!
Neko Case is American! Take that!

— Kevin, July 23, 2010

kii: you are being the PC police. and your virtuous, self-appointed crusading on behalf of those poor unrepresented minorities is utterly noxious: you’re suggesting that the tokenism in the polaris nominations is a good thing, that an indie-rock website should put some hip-hop on there just to satisfy white guilt, and, worst of all you’re perpetuating a particularly noxious, persistent stereotype: that hip-hop is the music of black people, and that indie-rock is the music of white people. how would you have complained if, say, buck 65 and the dears were on here?

(ps: list-making dudes: no destroyer? aka: the-greatest-canadian-music-in-the-history-of-humankind? really? and no sunset rubdown and handsome furs, who are infinitely superior to wolf parade’s safe middle-ground? feel ashamed. for all eternity.)

— i wanted to pack my bags on the morning i left., September 3, 2010
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