Photograph by May Truong

Photograph by May Truong

As the decade comes to a close and music magazines and blogs publish their “Best Albums of the Decade” lists, we here at Ca Va Cool decided to take a different direction. Sure, we could tell you that Kid A or Is This It is the greatest album of the last ten years, but you’ve already heard that. Instead, we’ve decided to make a list of something we hold very close to our hearts, Canadian music. By counting down the 20 best albums of the decade, we hope to pay respect to truly classic albums and shine a light on some underappreciated gems which can be enjoyed no matter where you come from. From regional hits to international sensations, our list showcases the best albums that music scenes all over Canada, from Vancouver to the Maritimes, have released this past decade. Here, in all its glory, is Ca Va Cool’s Best Canadian Albums of the 2000s.

Photograph by Chris Smith

Photograph by Chris Smith

20. Joel Plaskett EmergencyTruthfully Truthfully (MapleMusic, 2003)

When thinking of the greatest Canadian music genres/scenes of this past decade, it’s seemingly impossible to forget the influence of East Coast pop music. We begin our list with Nova Scotia’s best indie musical export, Joel Plaskett. Carrying the torch from ’90s legends Sloan, Joel Plaskett maintained the chugging electric guitar of 70’s power pop, incorporating the lyrical romanticism of his father’s folk idols, all from his hometown Halifax. On the Emergency’s second album, Truthfully Truthfully, Plaskett’s showcases the best of his charmingly witty lyrics and hook-ridden guitar work. As lovably awkward as Jonathan Richman, Plaskett nonetheless seemed as comfortable rocking out as Angus Young. Following the release, Joel Plaskett became a household name to Canadian music fans. He has been nominated twice for the Polaris Music Prize for his later work, produced countless albums for young East Coast bands, including the wonderful Little Jabs by Two Hours Traffic, and he still lives in Nova Scotia. — Daniel Hernandez

The Organ

19. The OrganGrab That Gun (Mint, 2004)

The Organ was an indie pop quintet based out of Vancouver essentially acting as the brooding Canadian response to Interpol – give or take an x-chromosome. The full female cast fronted by Katie Sketch released Grab That Gun, an album lush with ’80s wistfulness and delicately arranged melodies that focus on guitar and bass interplay. Sketch’s contagious lyrics flow seamlessly on ‘Basement Band Song’ as she sings, “We should go down to the mall, look at people judge them all, judge them before they judge us, and leave there feeling bad.” The album takes a conservative approach to relay a tone of weariness laced with punchy hooks and apathetic gloom in the form of Sketch’s songwriting. As the Organ’s only release, Grab That Gun amends melancholic chords opposite mesmerizing baritone vocals to form a cohesive record – unfortunately the recommended glass of red wine to complement the experience is sold separately. — Jan Kucic-Riker

Tegan and Sara

18. Tegan and SaraThe Con (Sire, 2007)

The Con is chock-full of pop/rock gems. Under the helm of producer Chris Walla, the fourteen songs that Tegan and Sara brought to the Alberta Court were the finest and most experimental they had written to date. Songs like ‘Relief Next to Me’ and ‘Are You Ten Years Ago’ find the Quinn sisters in new territory they hadn’t yet explored. With half of Death Cab for Cutie working on the album, including Jason McGerr on drums, that pop/rock feeling that they are known for shines through. ‘Back in Your Head’ is a prime example of Tegan and Sara keeping the radio friendly sound they already had, while adding textures and depth to the music. While I find that most albums with scattered ideas thrown around the album don’t usually work, Tegan and Sara somehow make it work. While keeping half the songs under 3 minutes, it all blends together and moves along fluidly. The Con moved Tegan and Sara into “critically acclaimed” territory. — Kyle Sikorski

Photograph by May Truong

Photograph by May Truong

17. Miracle FortressFive Roses (Secret City, 2007)

Few bands can successfully pull off the Wall of Sound density that Phil Spector always aimed for, especially when the band consists of only one eager, musically-nostalgic lad. Graham Van Pelt’s Miracle Fortress, which emerged as a solo project with the help of friends for some exceptionally beautiful live performances, met Phil’s challenge and threw some more keyboard on top. A psychedelic journey delving into a world of lush melodies and simple-but-soulbearing lyrics, Five Roses emerged as a surprise gem of 2007 and was shortlisted for the Polaris Prize that year. Van Pelt’s voice timbre and the delicately assembled melodies mixed with fuzzy instrumentation had nearly every listener shouting Brian Wilson comparisons. SMiLE resemblance aside, Miracle Fortress’ use of watery distortion, wavering keyboard, hushed vocals, slow-yet-jangling guitar, and surprise transitions into chaotic sequences brought forth an album worthy of comparison with a slew of other genres, and at the same time producing something unique and accessible. — Sabrina Diemert

Junior Boys

16. Junior BoysSo This Is Goodbye (Domino, 2006)

Created by Jeremy Greenspan and Matthew Didemus, Junior Boys’ So This Is Goodbye captures the snares and synthesizers of electronica while combining them with melodic pop arrangements. The album’s grace lies in the ominous vocals blanketing the thematically dark storyline. The duos knack for creating an ambient introspective atmosphere is paralleled by their clever use of instrumentation prompting routine repeats revealing hidden sounds upon each spin. So This Is Goodbye mixes textured layers into an 8-bit Nintendo flurry with beautiful drops ringing throughout Mushroom Kingdom and snares that could make Princess Toadstool swoon on ‘In the Morning’. Junior Boys charm is undeniable on So This Is Goodbye, carrying with it a late-nineties blend of tweaked keyboards and breathlessly gasped hooks. The seamless record incites drowned out whispers amidst its effortlessly subliminal characteristics to entrance and mesmerize the heartiest 8-bit hero. The album composes an irrefutable ease pairing simplicity with elegance, the only difficulty remaining to be seen is the parting goodbye. The pair from Hamilton have since released a remix EP and their third full-length effort Begone Dull Care earlier this year. — Jan Kucic-Riker


15. MetricOld World Underground, Where Are You Now? (Last Gang, 2003)

With Metric garnering fame at home and abroad these days through stints opening for The Rolling Stones and stints on MuchMusic, one forgets the irony of the band’s rise. The band’s first offering, Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, which pushed them from small scale club act to national recognition, is a eulogy for the kind of subversive, urban, underground culture that has become homogenized by your friendly neighborhood Urban Outfitters. Emily Haine’s commanding vocals are enveloped in jangly guitar, crisp drums and analog synths to create a sound that occupies a comfortable space between early 2000s dance punk and garage rock. Lyrically, the album also is able to walk a comfortable middle ground, evoking both indie romanticism (‘Calculation Theme’ and ‘Love Is a Place’) and jaded ironic parody (‘Succexy’ and ‘Dead Disco’). In singing goodbye to an underground that may have never existed beyond their own imaginations, Metric crafted a truly original record that propelled them to the big time. Irony’s a bitch. — David Kelusky


14. FeistThe Reminder (Arts&Crafts, 2007)

Before ‘1234’ sold a million iPods, ‘I Feel It All’ sold gaggles of three-ply toilet paper, ‘Honey Honey’ sold urns full of Bumble Bee, ‘The Water’ sold leagues of Evian, and ‘How My Heart Behaves’ created a “winning” pacemaker for Glaxosmith Kline, there was just a girl called Leslie Feist and just an album’s worth of deeply personal accounts in love, heartbreak, growth, stagnation, loss and gain called The ReminderFollowing her breakthrough album Let It Die, Feist returned to the two influences which gave that album its character and sound: Paris and Gonzales. The result was an album that, within a month of its release, grew from another indie triumph to a Starbucks staple. By June 2007, everyone had heard The Reminder – a testament to the universality and shared emotional experience Feist was able to tap into with her lyrics. For fans of her original work, the most comforting thing about her new found success was that nothing had visibly changed in her approach and musical aesthetic. Instead, it seemed that what had changed was the ears of the listening public who, over the course of the years between Let It Die and The Reminder, were being exposed to independent music through a series of new channels. Indie was going mainstream, and the first symbol of this movement was probably ‘1234’ in all its technicolor loveliness. Feist gently and uniquely crept into the hearts of a world of people with The Reminder and despite its international triumphs, the deeply personal experiences she translated continue to hold an unprecedented level of intimacy. — Sal Patel

Photograph by Ryan Pfluger

Photograph by Ryan Pfluger

13. Final FantasyHas a Good Home (Blocks Recording Club, 2005)

In Fall 2007, Owen Pallett managed to put on one of the greatest live shows I have ever seen. A blend of visual art and music gave way to a world of wonder. His stage name is an homage to a video game series that conjures up images of magic, epic battles, and Sephiroth. It’s a fitting moniker, to be sure. Has a Good Home is a shining debut that showed us how enthralling a man armed with a violin and a loop pedal in lieu of a sword and shield can be. Managing at times to be both heartbreaking and heartwarming, Pallett wears his heart on his sleeve throughout the album’s sixteen tracks. It’s difficult to pick out the best tracks from an album full of highlights. ‘This is the Dream of Win and Regine’ is a tribute to his Arcade Fire bandmates, but my favourite track, ‘The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead’, presents a haunting image of Toronto. The strings on ‘Better than Worse’, in combination with Owen’s passionate voice, bring an emotional end to a great album. — Kevin Kania


12. The UnicornsWho Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? (Alien8, 2003)

When I first saw The Unicorns opening for Hot Hot Heat back in 2003, during a surprising cover of 50 Cent’s ‘In da Club’, bassist and singer Nick Diamonds responded to a heckler by yelling “I have the mic now, shut the fuck up or I will use this chord in ways you wouldn’t like.” What I realized long after that night was that everything I hated about The Unicorns back then is everything I now love about their sole album Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?. It demands your attention like a child. It’s immature and annoying like a little brother who won’t move his hand from in front of your face because he’s not really touching you, but it’s also one of the most inventive and fun Canadian albums I’ve ever heard. What could be more appealing than a garage record with electronic tendencies that sings about kissing “all kinds of girls” and believing in unicorns? The band eventually spun off into the group Islands, but no one involved has yet to recapture the youthful energy overflowing from this album. — Daniel Hernandez

Born Ruffians

11. Born RuffiansRed, Yellow & Blue (Warp, 2008)

Born Ruffians combine unorthodox vocals, harmonies, and jangly guitars to create some of the catchiest tunes you’ve ever heard from a three-piece. The most recent release on our list, their debut album Red, Yellow & Blue is pure unadulterated joy from start to finish. From the whistling in the title track to the wordless melodies on ‘Little Garçon’, they’ve created an album you can sing-along to without knowing the lyrics. The unfailing optimism that permeates the record, even on the slower tracks, makes for a refreshing change from the typical gloom of the indie rock world. The band is clearly having a blast writing, recording and performing, and that energy flows directly to the listener. — Kevin Kania

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— , December 7, 2009    7 Comments


— dona, December 8, 2009

I’m proud that Canada can lay claim to great bands and singers like Metric, Feist, Born Ruffians, and Joel Plaskett Emergency! Glad to see those albums on your list!

— Devin, December 8, 2009

Ooh the suspense of #10-#1! No Little Jabs yet in your list. It made the top 10?!

— el Gaupo, December 8, 2009

I hope to see “You Forgot It In People” at number one!

— Julie, December 9, 2009

Oh wait, Funeral…..

So many great choices!

— Julie, December 9, 2009

Great list so far. I’m glad you included Born Ruffians.

— ishmael daro, December 9, 2009

Get excited, the top ten are coming up soon!

Jan, December 9, 2009