Canada Day is a time to reflect on the creation of this country, including the colonial legacies that remain. We’ve picked songs by Indigenous musicians to celebrate Indigenous arts and facilitate a deeper awareness of the complexities of this holiday.
This should have been the first Canadian Music Picks playlist.
Back in 2018 when we started this segment with the “Canadian Music Starter Pack”, we shared top picks from musicians across the country, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to mark Canada Day.
But despite the celebrations every July 1, Canada Day is a painful reminder to many – of the trauma of forced removals, residential schools, the outlawing of cultural practices, and the other instruments of colonialism that were used in an effort to control and assimilate Indigenous peoples who have been here on the land long before European colonists arrived. The fact is that cultural genocide took place in Canada to achieve the Confederation of 1867 that many still celebrate today.
Yes, Canada became a nation 153 years ago today. But at what cost to Indigenous peoples, the rightful occupants of this land? If you’re uncomfortable thinking about this today, imagine feeling uncomfortable or unsafe every day, or living in a place that has been hostile to your very existence here.
In this year’s Canada Day playlist, we honour Indigenous peoples who have lived on this land since time immemorial. We celebrate Indigenous musicians from diverse nations and cultures, each with their own stories to tell, whose talents weave tales of resilience, love, suffering, strength, retribution, compassion, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
On Canada Day, you may feel proud and grateful, you may feel uncomfortable or sad; you may feel any or all of these things and beyond. Take a listen to our playlist – and in so doing, take a moment to acknowledge the complexities of Canadian history and listen to the perspectives of these Indigenous artists. The Mindful Rambler is pleased to share the playlist here and on Spotify.
Canadian Music Picks: Indigenous
The Virus – A Tribe Called Red, Saul Williams, Chippewa Travellers Toothsayer – Tanya Tagaq I Can’t Remember My Name – Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Kimmortal Healers – iskwē Someone Call An Angel Down – Derek Miller Takugiursugit – Beatrice Deer Generation – Buffy Sainte-Marie Big Crow – DJ Shub ft. Black Lodge Singers Havava – The Jerry Cans Evil Memory – Crystal Shawanda Oqiton – Jeremy Dutcher Mixed Blood Lullaby – Jani Lauzon Arnaq – Elisapie Warpath – Drezus Tiny Hands – Quantum Tangle Remembrance – Robbie Robertson Stay Strong – Kelly Fraser Pieces – Leonard Sumner All Night – Digging Roots Soul Angel – Tom Jackson Tavva – Riit Better Place – Winnipeg Boyz Spirit Child – Willie Thrasher Nutarâsuk – Deantha Edmunds Suffer in Silence – Susan Aglukark I Pity the Country – Willie Dunn Hay in the Loft / Six Nations Reel – Métis Fiddler Quartet Bring the Thunder – Northern Cree copper – nêhiyawak Modern Rock – Saddle Lake Drifting Cowboys Proud Métis – Arlette Alcock Halfbreed Blues – Andrea Menard Jungle Night – Joey Stylez, Carsen Gray Rolling Thunder – Leela Gilday ALie Nation – A Tribe Called Red, John Trudell, Tanya Tagaq, Lido Pimienta, Northern Voice
Hey readers! Happy Canada Day. If you’ve either been reading The Mindful Rambler or spoken to me for more than a sec, you’ll know I’m obsessed with music, especially in the alternative rock/indie/punk genres. Last year I broke down some of my top Canadian music picks, both contemporary and classic. This Canada Day, I’ve created a new list of tracks for your summer – all by Canadian artists.
I thought it’d be nice to revel in the present and look to the future this time around, so I’ve got a strictly contemporary playlist for your listening pleasure. Without further ado, here’s the latest curated #CanCon playlist, courtesy of The Mindful Rambler.
CanCon: Contemporary 🍁
Just Here With My Friends – The Darcys & Leah Fay You Already Know – Arcade Fire Map Of The World – City and Colour Afraid Of Heights – Billy Talent It’s Alright – Mother Mother Bathed In Light – The Dirty Nil There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back – Shawn Mendes Saturday Night – Arkells Side Walk When She Walks – Alexisonfire If You Want It – Sam Roberts You Want It Darker – Leonard Cohen Forest Fire – Wintersleep How I Feel – A Tribe Called Red, Shad, Leonard Sumner, Northern Voice Johnny + Mary – July Talk Who’s With Me – Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker Rhythms – Sum 41 Icebreaker – Tanya Tagaq Get Over It – Hollerado NVR 4EVR – Death From Above Trust – Half Moon Run Don’t Matter to Me (feat. Michael Jackson) – Drake Ballad of a Poet – Our Lady Peace Want What You Got – The Beaches Everything is Alright – The Glorious Sons All I Need – Shad, Yukon Blonde Gold Guns Girls – Metric I Feel It All – Feist I Don’t Know – The Sheepdogs Ultestakon – Jeremy Dutcher The Lion – Monster Truck Boujee Natives – Snotty Nose Rez Kids Pressure – Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs Saved By A Waif – Alvvays The High Road – Three Days Grace
Let me know what you think of this year’s selections!
I didn’t come up with the title for this post myself – it’s a slogan coined by Dine Alone Records, the Canadian independent record label based here in Toronto.
We can take some pointers from its message, as Canadian art is often dismissed – from literature, to visual arts, to music, and more. It’d be interesting to see what percentage of music in our libraries is Canadian – I’d wager most Canadians have 15% or less. But the fact is that there is so much Canadian music out there – and it’s good.
What is it about being Canadian that automatically garners less attention? We even have poorer-quality versions of American reality TV shows, and a terrible Netflix selection compared to our southern neighbours to show for it.
In our current political climate, feat. a tariff war with the United States (which, let’s be honest, flares up every so often like a chronic wound), why not support Canadian musicians and invest in some local talent?
Here are some concise, but by no means comprehensive, top picks for quintessential Canadian listening. Enjoy my quick recs below.
A Tribe Called Red: Essential Indigenous electronic/hip-hop; mandatory listening. Songs to Start With: “R.E.D.,” “How I Feel”, “Bread & Cheese”
Billy Talent: Political commentary & punk rock all in one. Crisp guitars; crisper lyrics. Songs to Start With: “Try Honesty”, “Devil in a Midnight Mass”, “White Sparrows”
July Talk: Jarring juxtaposition of vocals – guttural/masculine vs. soft/feminine. Songs to Start With: “Headsick”, “Blood + Honey”, “Picturing Love”
Alexisonfire: “The sound of two Catholic high-school girls mid-knife-fight”.* Songs to Start With: “Boiled Frogs”, “Get Fighted”, “Midnight Regulations”
*I can’t describe it any better than they already have…
City and Colour: Mournful lamentations nursed by Dallas Green’s voice. Songs to Start With: “Casey’s Song”, “Waiting…”, “The Lonely Life”
Arkells: Anthemic, buoyant daytime rock with a touch of motown. Songs to Start With: “Where U Goin”, “Cynical Bastards”, “John Lennon”
Death From Above: Industrious duo at the junction of bass & drums. Songs to Start With: “All I C is U and Me”, “Crystal Ball”, “Romantic Rights”
Tanya Tagaq: Daring, innovative, and traditional Inuit throat-singing. Songs to Start With: “Uja”, “Sila”, “Retribution”
Mother Mother: Three-layered high-pitched vocals on a base of synth and strings. Songs to Start With: “Ghosting”, “The Stand”, “Infinitesimal”
Sum 41: Sprawling spitfire of classic punk rock with heavyweight choruses. Songs to Start With: “Still Waiting”, “Open Your Eyes”, “With Me”
USS (Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker): Lucid, lively electronica fuelled by lyrical emotion. Songs to Start With: “Damini”, “Vulcan”, “Freakquency”
Arcade Fire: A convergence of 6+ hipsters producing indie rock with accordion and keyboard at the fore. Songs to Start With: “Ready to Start”, “The Suburbs”, “No Cars Go”
Monster Truck: 70s style blues rock backed by organs. Long hair & denim required. Songs to Start With: “Don’t Tell Me How to Live”, “Old Train”, “For the People”
Hollerado: Personable indie rock with a genuine sound and hard-hitting beats. Songs to Start With: “Too Much to Handle”, “So It Goes”, “Got to Lose”
Drake: No description needed for Toronto’s resident rapper… Songs to Start With: “Passionfruit”, “Over”, “God’s Plan”
Our Lady Peace: Low, crooning vocals replete with reassuring lyrics. Songs to Start With: “Innocent”, “All You Did Was Save My Life”, “Angels/Losing/Sleep”
Avril Lavigne: Do I even need to explain this? Songs to Start With: “Complicated”, “Sk8er Boi”, “I’m With You”
Cancer Bats: Gritty underground metal; shredding, cymbal-smashing oblivion. Songs to Start With: “Hail Destroyer”, “Beelzebub”, “Gatekeeper”
Three Days Grace: Bass-heavy garage-rock with brutally honest insights. Songs to Start With: “Just Like You”, “Never Too Late”, “Last to Know”
Sam Roberts Band: Even-paced alternative rock with laid-back guitars. Songs to Start With: “Brother Down”, “Them Kids”, “If You Want It”
Half Moon Run: Serene assertions on the human condition, featuring folksy acoustics. Songs to Start With: “Nerve”, “Trust”, “Narrow Margins”
Wintersleep: Guitars, synth, and experimental riffs with a sprightly rhythm. Songs to Start With: “Lifting Cure”, “Metropolis”, “Santa Fe”
Of course, there are also the Canadian classics, which you might consider revisiting for the long weekend. I’ve created a track-by-track vignette of essential Canadiana:
Rush – “YYZ”
Buffy Sainte-Marie – “Working for the Government”
Bryan Adams – “Summer of ’69”
The Guess Who – “American Woman”
Gordon Lightfoot – “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”
Shania Twain – “Man! I Feel Like A Woman”
Alanis Morissette – “Thank U”
Sarah McLachlan – “Building A Mystery”
Great Big Sea – “The Chemical Worker’s Song”
Neil Young – “Heart of Gold”
Joni Mitchell – “Big Yellow Taxi”
Leonard Cohen – “Treaty”
k.d. lang – “Constant Craving”
Celine Dion – “My Heart Will Go On”
Barenaked Ladies – “Canada Dry”
The Tragically Hip – “Bobcaygeon”
Obviously I omitted a bunch of bands/artists, mainly because I don’t listen to them enough to consider myself worthy of making thoughtful recommendations. Other Canadian artists are included below.
Shad, Lights, The Dirty Nil, Anne Murray, The Jerry Cans, Shawn Mendes, Sloan, Tegan and Sara, Michael Buble, Metric, Simple Plan, Young Empires, Joni Mitchell, Nelly Furtado, Bruce Cockburn, Jann Arden, The Trews, Corey Hart, Alessia Cara, Ron Sexsmith, Diana Krall, Stan Rogers, BROS, Feist, The Beaches, Moneen, The Darcys, The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Said the Whale, Constantines, Marianas Trench, Silverstein, Broken Social Scene, Big Wreck, Nickelback, PUP, Dear Rouge, Blue Rodeo, Hedley, Fucked Up, Toronto, Great Lake Swimmers, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Teenage Head, Down With Webster, Thousand Foot Krutch, Matt Good Band, The Tea Party, The Sheepdogs, Hey Rosetta!, The Elwins, IllScarlett, Prism, I Mother Earth, Black Lungs, Chromeo, Japandroids, Whitehorse, Protest the Hero, The New Pornographers, Joel Plaskett, Northern Voice, Serena Ryder, Lost Cousins, Moist, Neverending White Lights, Platinum Blonde, Stabilo, Saint Asonia, Finger Eleven, Templar, Theory of a Deadman, Wolf Parade, Yukon Blonde, Born Ruffians, Black Bear.
Over the years, so much of Canadian identity has been built on what we’re not (namely, American). Let’s talk about what we are, for a change. It’s something Canadian music does well, if we only listen.