canada day playlist

Like any kid growing up, the music my parents played had a profound effect on me. My mom was (and is) a huge lover of jazz, the British Invasion and Motown. My father’s taste, however, isn’t defined so much about genre as it is by location.

Dad grew up in Manitoba and is, in my mind anyways, the walking definition of a “Canadian” person. The man is a walking billboard of canuck clichés – he adores hockey, maple syrup, coffee from Tim Hortons, plaid, fishing and CBC Radio 2. Actually.

Where this is most evident is his musical taste. Yes, my Dad loves him some Dire Straits and Eric Clapton, but on road trips his Winnipeg roots came shining through. We grew up singing in the back of my parent’s station wagon to acts like The Guess Who, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot...and yes, even a little Rush.

In the last few years, Canadian acts have blown up around the world in every genre. From Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen and Deadmau5 to Alanis Morrisette and Sarah McLachlan, Canada keeps pumping out hitmakers. Maybe it’s because of the music programs offered in schools…or maybe it’s that it is too cold to do anything else. Either way, we’re into getting our groove on north of the 49th Parallel. Download our Canada Day Playlist to kick off the long weekend right.

happy canada day playlist

tragically hip – my music at work
Kind of like Midnight Oil in Australia, Tragically Hip is HUGE in Canada…and kind of medium everywhere else. I’m talking Phish-Grateful Dead levels of fanaticism. Warning: this song may cause you to put lager instead of beer in your water bottle and increase your desire to go camping.

metric – stadium love
Metric has consistently been one of Canada’s favourite live acts of the last 5+ years. Their lead singer Emily Haines has a delicate-sounding voice…until they turn up the amp and start getting buck wild on stage. From ballads to bangers, every album of theirs is gem-filled.

arcade fire – the suburbs
Obviously these kids don’t need a huge introduction, what with their eight billion Grammys and magazine covers. What DOES need to be said is how unbelievable their output over the last five years has been. In my opinion, “Suburbs” is the best front-to-back album of the last decade.

grimes – oblivion
This young chanteuse just exploded onto the scene and if the Kate Bush-esque “Oblivion” is any indication, we’ll be hearing from her a lot more. Born in Vancouver, Grimes first started making tunes in the prolific music scene in Montreal when she was at university.  Check out the music video for this…it’s at a monster truck show. Exactly.

wintersleep – nothing is anything (without you)
Kind of like a mini-Tragically Hip, Wintersleep has been a favourite of Canadians from Victoria to Truro for the last seven years. It’s perfect music for everything from run training to long weekend campfires (or both…use your imagination).

loverboy – turn me loose
Mike Reno and the boys exploded onto the rock scene in the early 80’s and, well...that’s kind of where they stayed, leather pants and all. I asked my spin instructor to put this on a playlist and consequently fist pumped through the entire class. Get into it.

crystal castles – good time
This electro act from Montreal might seem crazy…because they kind of are. I saw Alice Glass perform last year injured from a car accident, and instead of calling in sick she performed like a woman possessed. Pro tip: check out their song “Not In Love” featuring Cure frontman Robert Smith - it's an instant classic.

drake – headlines
One minute, Canadians were watching Drake on the classic teen show “Degrassi High: The Next Generation”…and the next minute he was rapping with Lil Wayne. Huh? Turns out he’d been making mix tapes the whole time he was growing up on our TV sets. This is my current favourite.

MSTRKRFT – heartbreaker (featuring john legend)
These DJs are big in Canada and absolutely HUGE in Europe (no, I’m not just saying that). I put at least one of their songs on every one of my workout playlists with good reason…they churn out some of the most catchy beats in the business.

chromeo – when the night falls
Another act of Montreal, another set of dudes up to cool stuff. They have found a cool way to bridge the electro dance movement while still showing their reverence for old school funk samples – no group has used a talk box this aggressively since Zapp (google “Computer Love” and you’ll see).

the arkells – michigan left
Straight out of Hamilton, Ontario, The Arkells are one of Canada’s hottest indie bands going. Their wandering ballads and melodic guitar licks pay homage to more than a few acts from the past (I’m looking at you, Neil).

feist – i feel it all
Leslie Feist is carrying on the grand tradition of female singer-songwriters in a glorious way. Poignant, distinct, curious, uplifting, prolific…her music just pierces my heart. I saw her perform with Burton Cummings on British Columbia’s 150th anniversary on the steps of the parliament buildings in Victoria and tried not to cry the whole time.

neil young – cinnamon girl
What do you say about the guy who has been in Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills Nash and Young and also had a completely badass career on his own? He beats to his own drummer, is worshipped by multiple rock gods (just ask Eddie Vedder) and still namedrops his Winnipeg roots in songs. Neil Young is a national treasure, end of story.

bryan adams – it’s only love (featuring tina turner)
No Canada Day playlist would be complete without a little bit of Bryan Adams in the mix. Not only did he start a fashion movement, this dude is still selling out stadiums with his accessible working man rock and ballads. This little ditty with Tina Turner still sends my heart a flutter every time I turn on the AM dial.

hey ocean! – big blue wave
This band from Vancouver has been blowing up recently – we love them so much that we invited them to play with FUN. at our SeaWheeze party on August 11th. I’ve been playing this on repeat on summer runs - the thrusting beat makes me want to keep putting one foot in front of the other. For an extra dose of Canadiana, go on YouTube and find the Hey Ocean! cover of Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II”…it will make your day, mark my words.

Happy Canada Day everyone – get out to your favourite lakes, oceans and parks and celebrate what makes this place so special.

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Great list! After all, what is a Canadian playlist without Loverboy!

Comment by Dustin — June 28, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

WIN! This ex-pat will be hitting The Hip and Chromeo HARD this weekend!

Comment by Dione — June 28, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

Thanks for the mix! In Poland this weekend. Loving this little piece of home.

Comment by Jen — June 29, 2012 @ 6:21 am

Awesome! I will be rocking this playlist in Chicago!

Comment by Kate — June 29, 2012 @ 10:41 am

Where in the ISSSSH is the Anne Murray!!!

Comment by Kramer — June 29, 2012 @ 11:37 am

I discovered Wintersleep at Canadian Music Week, I went to see the Nova Scotia show as I’m from there. I also saw SOHO Ghetto there and highly recommend them too.

Comment by Ayngelina — June 30, 2012 @ 7:08 am

Lex, I love this!!! I made a Canada Day mix CD for my buds out here in an effort to educate them on the Canadian music goldmine. (Funny. We actually chose a number of the same songs.) I tried to explain The Hip to them. I think I failed. You did not. Bravo on an awesome post!!! I for the record, just because I married an aussie doesn’t mean I like Midnight Oil. Eww.

Comment by Elissa Joy — July 2, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

*And, not I ;)

Comment by Elissa Joy — July 2, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

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