So Palmer and I talk music, quite a little bit. This list is actually from my current playlist – teased out and edited down severely. At any given time I’m listening to music from the 1970’s through to songs not yet released publicly (oh yeah, having a music podcast has its perks baby!) and it is constantly changing. Little known fact about me, I don’t use any song generating apps and never really have. I’ve checked them out but prefer to be a bit more of an explorer, de Champlain-style if you will, when it comes to discovering what I like.
These songs range from what I need to wake up in the morning to what I work out to, but everything in between exists because there is never really a moment I don’t have music playing.
I prefer it to TV, movies, even conversation save a few people on earth, haha… This list will change in a day, a week, a year. Some will always stay on it (Dolly, I’m looking at you) and some will probably not appear again.
Getting to do the podcast I do, I’ve been exposed to more new music in the last 2 years than the last 10 combined and the level of talent arising in Canada right now is astounding. To make it here is so much more difficult than in the USA, we simply don’t have the numbers up here – these bands travel for YEARS before making a real buck. To watch some of these people rise to notoriety is nothing short of inspiring. I hope some of these songs are new to you, I hope some are familiar but most of all, I hope they make you feel something. That, to me, is what music is all ‘aboot.’
A – Angela by The Lumineers
On constant rotation this entire album by the Lumineers brought them from folksy-indie to main stage BIG TIME. I cannot get past the languid piano solos on this song in particular. They are so infectious I find myself humming them over and over without a lick of recognition until the bridge.
B – Bow & Arrow by Reuben & The Dark
One of the most classic Canadian sounds right now is coming from one Reuben & The Dark and this is a perfect example of the brooding, harrowing, slow high whine of beauty slinging down upon us from skies illuminated by the Northern Lights. It sets you into a time and place both tragic and eerily delightful.
C – Culdesac Sadness by Paper Lights Band
Meeting Dan Snyder of Paper Lights I would never have imagine such a bubbly and downright hilarious dude would be producing music of this heavy sadness and provocative essence. He’s truly creating new and unique soundscapes in his music with lyrics at once touching and thought provoking. Culdesac Sadness is aptly named and equally comforting.
D – Dancing On My Own by Robyn
Just stop the presses if you don’t love this tune. It has been covered by so many people it was a class in its own right before we ever even caught a glimpse of Robyn dancing to it. The video for this will blow your mind if the song hasn’t done so already, several times over. One of the best modern love songs I know. Just brilliant and so toe-tapping even those who claim they don’t dance are simply left with no choice in the matter.
E – Evelyn by Hannah Georgas
Not well known yet but well on her way, Hannah Georgas’ Evelyn will put her on the map for sounding like a dance hall background with soaring lovely notes above. She brings together electronic and indie vibes lending an immediacy to her sound. She is the face of music right now in Canada and on the Indie scene is as beloved as a person as an artist. Evelyn as one of the strongest EP’s on the same-named album, doesn’t disappoint. Take a trip down a beautiful lonely road with Hannah today.
F – From The Beginning by Emerson, Lake & Palmer 🙂
If you aren’t familiar with this song its just cause you aren’t old. Don’t fear. Delve in and you will absolutely adore the marriage of well written lyrics, soaring bridges and deep bass line. A true classic rock song for the ages, all of them.
G – Groovy Kind of Love by Phil Collins
My parent’s wedding song, no joke. And its pretty damned true in their case to boot. You cannot listen to Phil Collins and have a bad day. Its categorically impossible and Groovy Kind of Love has withstood the test of time and overplay in spades.
H – Holocene by Bon Iver
If you’ve ever wanted to unplug from the world and take your family to the wilds, live off the land and keep your feet planted firmly in real life, this is your anthem to do so. The way this song makes me feel is almost beyond words. Catch me walking down a wooded path alone, arms to the sky, headphones in and know then what’s in these ears: Holocene. The video is also incredibly powerful but I am not a music video-lover and never have been. I like to build my own rooms and worlds listening to a song, but Bon Iver makes a compelling argument with this mini-movie. One of the best songs of our generation, there – I said it.
I – I Knew You Were Waiting by Aretha Franklin & George Michael
A life changer. The background on this duo producing this version together is heart wrenching and cannot be done justice here. Look it up babies. Suffice it to say people have suffered for their art for generations and George Michael is no exception to the rule. One of the best songs of the last 100 years, hands down.
J – Jolene by Dolly Parton
If Dolly Parton walked into my house one day singing this song I could die happy right then and there. This has been in my top 5 for decades and despite all the depressingly bad covers (Miley I’m looking at you and immediately looking away in shame and horror) this song too has stood the test of time and degradation to the art of songwriting. Dolly started as a lyricist despite those pipes and wound up one of the top grossing artists of our time. Well ahead of her time in both sound and marketing this song did help put her career over the top. Its catchy, its longingly beautiful and in a word, its Jolene.
K – Kids Wanna Know by Dear Rouge
Slap on your dance shoes and grab a drink because this song is going to keep you jumping. Dear Rouge never disappoints in their ability to bring meaningful words to outstanding bass lines and drum beats, its musical perfection and this song is a splendid example of that kind of perfect marriage. Pun intended, cause these kids ARE married to each other and are kicking out some of the best indie rock in Canada and beyond. See them live, I beg you.
L – Life Of A Better Man by Slow Leaves
Grant Davidson is Slow Leaves, one of the most stunningly talented musicians in the world who is quietly and evocatively making his music known. Pairing with such powerhouse producers as Rusty Matyas, Slow Leaves brings a twang of country to an indie lyric dreamscape and lets you at once wallow in the sudden beauty of an Albertan drive so long and unending you’d better have good tunes along the way. And with Grant at the helm, you sure as hell do. This is one of my all time favourite songs.
M – Molotov Girls by The Zolas
The Zolas are going to be famous and huge. This is a fact of nature and music and if there is a musical god that can transverse borders and allow a Canadian band this talented to make it – please let it be the Zolas who get there. The writing is incredibly moving and well thought out. He is not just looking for a rhyme but indeed a reason for things and he brings it together so effortlessly its hard to give enough credit to this level of talent. It sounds poppy, I’ll say it. It sounds like pop-rock or alt-rock coming out of your speakers but its indie all the way in the combination of good writing and honest bridges. This is a regular in my rotation and I don’t see it going away anytime soon.
N – New York City Blues by Sun K
These kids are the best versions of west coast rock I can find right now in Canada. They are dancy, well versed in writing something worthwhile and able to play it in such a way you remember them even if the lyrics are lost on most. Great dance song, great rock song. Truly great sound.
O – Ophelia by The Lumineers
Again making it on this list twice tells you something and there isn’t a music lover out there right now who would deny the talent level of this band. They disappeared together for about 6 months to write this album and wherever they went, they brought back a kind of magic I cannot accurately describe except to say this: The Lumineers are one of the most talented bands on the planet currently. Other bands might get more hype but even the best in the world, when they pop in their headphones, have the Lumineers singing Ophelia on there. The piano riff on this is the stuff of legends.
P – Put On, Cologne by Donovan Woods
Get your headphones and sit down for this one. You need to be holding still and concentrating when this voice hits you full on at the top of this song. A more perfect union of god-given talent and damned hard work could not exist beyond Donovan Woods. This kid works his ever loving ass off to produce a sound so perfect, so beautiful it could move you to tears. A voice beyond what most bands who make it to the top have to offer, hearing it at its best on this EP will set your heart ablaze whether you want it to or not. His voice is clear, with massive range and no bravado whatsoever, a true Canadian sound that will last for generations to find and love.
Q – Quiet Houses by Fleet Foxes
I mean, really – who doesn’t love Fleet Foxes? I feel they are at their best on Quiet Houses though it wasn’t their most-played song on this album. Both chilling and pretty this song brings to mind camping with your best friend in the wilds of suburban backyards. It is adrift from my usual formula of non-repetitive stances, but they somehow pull it off here and its possible the continuous drum beat which I would normally despise wins the audience over as a call to arms for all summer living.
R – Rideback by Hanna Georgas
This song is haunting. A tribute to all manner of human regret set to such a beautiful rhythm its almost worth making such mistakes just to have an anthem for it that pulls your chest to the floor in a loving tribute to lost youth and misspent emotion. Simply stunning.
S – Sweet Annie by Zac Brown Band
Did I know I liked country before Zac Brown Band? No, not unless you were reducing my beloved Dolly Parton to a single genre which only a fool would do. But Zac Brown Band can put a song together with deft hands and voices so adept at producing beauty they damned near do it in their sleep. Its perfect this song, it has everything a song should have and makes you feel everything a song should. Almost a perfect song and that is a rarity these days, all pop junk aside, a truly rare beauty of a song.
T – Tell Me by BROS
Okay, so BROS is the Sheepdogs side project because these guys weren’t busy enough I guess but hot holy damn its fun! So many horns man… just, so many. I cannot stop pressing play on this and have even listened to it back to back on more than once occasion because while its not a particularly short song, I cannot get enough it one time around. Same with the Sheepdogs which is why I unapologetic-ally interview them every chance I get. Tell Me is 1975 pulling up in a cafe racer to sweep you away to the southern California beach of your choice for an afternoon of dancing in the sand and falling asleep under the stars.
U – Under The Tide by Chvrches
This was the song that turned me on to CHVRCHES in a big way. I’d heard of them and their mainstream stuff just didn’t wow me enough but oh, then this little ditty caught my attention and I suddenly ‘got it’. The undulating verse over perfect bass is something to not only admire but be swept out to sea by. Under The Tide is my fav by this band but I look forward to seeing how their sound matures, I feel there is ample room for growth in the writing and execution. Not that they are behind in any way, I honestly just feel they are capable to true greatness.
V – Valtari by Sigur Ros
This is an anthem for landscape of human emotive want. What Sigur Ros is doing on ANY indie scene is beyond me when they produce a wounded cry so universal, so evocative of the time and place they write from (Iceland if I’m not mistaken, picture cold barren wastelands of perfect frozen time) and should be considered required listening for all photographers and cinematic music producers. They are making landscapes into music and doing it well. Who else is capable of this?
W – Weighty Ghost by Wintersleep
This song has been a movement for me. An anchor to set a time and place into and its shown up in my life at peak times so often I attribute real memories to it upon listening anew each time. Its one of the those tunes you have playing in the background when a friend will stop the conversation to ask “But what is this amazing song?” and you happily let them in on the not-so-little secret that Wintersleep is one of the greatest bands on earth. You’re welcome world!
X – X-Offender by Blondie
As if this list was going to be published WITHOUT a Blondie nod. Who do you take me for? Please let’s all take a collective moment to recognize that this band, with one of the most iconic lead singers of all time, was also one of the first bands to have rapping included in a non hip-hop forum. Great debate material here on the origin of rap in mainstream ahead of hip-hop finally making it mid 1980s… but I digress, Blondie’s X-Offender is an absolute MONSTER of a classic and having it on vinyl means you are a true music aficionado. cough cough… no names
Y – Yankee Bayonet by The Decemberists
I remember having this album before anyone cool did and while it may not have made me cool because I kept it selfishly to myself for a few months, it certainly hit the airwaves in a BIG way and never looked back. Beloved by hipsters and hoodlums alike somehow this band bridges the divide of indie rock and classic rock without every nodding off to cheesy lyrics to do it. Yankee Bayonet is at once perfectly bridged (coincidence?) and incredibly catchy. You can hear this song once and sing to it the next time, not often found outside of pop. But it works for them, mustaches and all.
Z – Zebulon by Rufus Wainwright
Oh Rufus, while I greatly prefer the styling’s of your sister Martha I have to give a proper nod to just plain gorgeous writing on Zebulon. This kid is a performer through and through and while it is not always captured well on his albums, they are challenging to listen to all the way through simply due to the tone of his voice which is excellent but nasal-based enough to have a time limit for me. Yet Zebulon is the perfect stage for such a presence, sweeping, longing pulls of piano riffs set atop (rather than under as is his normal approach) his high winding voice. Notions of space travel and long journey’s from home ride this storm of a song and bring us lovingly back to earth with a chorus so well crafted it seems otherworldly.
Agent LadyPants is host of “Tell Me Stories Podcast,” and a true lover of music. She’s a mother, wife, and writer.