21 past and present Canadian summer songs

by Mark Teo

August 29, 2013






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The summer's almost over, but it'll live on forever through these songs.

I’ll fess up to something that’ll earn me haters forever: I never truly liked the Tragically Hip. Sacrilege, I know. People try to convince me to change my opinion all the time, and I’m generally unfazed—Gord Downie just never did it for me. Still, the most convincing argument in favour of The Hip was told to me years ago by a cottage-dwelling pal.

“You don’t understand The Hip,” argued, “because you haven’t spent enough time at a cottage. It’s classic summer Ontario cottage-country music, and if that’s not an experience you have, then I don’t blame you for not getting it.”

It wasn’t an argument I bought at the time, but I buy it now. Somehow, “Bobcaygeon” sounds a zillion times better on a 30 degree summer night, sitting on a body of water somewhere on Lake Huron. It’s a Canadian summer song, through and through. There are many others like it, so here are a few of our favourites from eras past and present, just in time for the final days of summer 2013.


1. Blue Rodeo—“Hasn’t Hit Me Yet”

Like The Hip, Blue Rodeo—despite their ties to Toronto’s classic punk and country scenes—are pure, uncut summer. “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet,” despite referencing cold fall nights, was built for an acoustic guitar and a campfire somewhere in the sticks of Egypt, Ontario.


2. Cold Warps—”I’m With You”

Ottawa / Halifax surf outfit Cold Warps are one of my favourite current Canadian bands, and while they’ve dipped into darker territories since the release of “I’m With You,” this track is the musical equivalent of the sunglasses emoji.


3. Rusty—“Wake Me”

Because sometimes, summer doesn’t mean sitting on a beach or camping around a bougie-ass lake. It can be about getting high in the ‘burbs, skipping the mall, and sitting around your best pal’s outdoor pool eating Michelina microwave dinners.


4. Feel Alright—“Oahu Ohio”

“Oahu Ohio” is a balmy, waltzing number by Pittsburgh / Calgary artist Feel Alright, who, as his name suggest, dabbles with some feelgood shit every now and again. This track’s on the band’s recent-released Mammoth Cave 7-inch, which is available for order now.


5. Treble Charger—“Red”

Mock Treble Charger all you want for getting into fuzzy wristbands and eyebrow rings late in the game. We get it. They tried, and failed, to be Sum 41. Get over that pretense, though, and you’ll realize that Bill Priddle is a guitar legend, and that “Red” is one of Canada’s best summertime ballads. That Priddle-led solo is all fucking summer flings and widescreen Ontario sunsets, and if that doesn’t do it for you, we don’t know what to tell you.


6. Makeout Videotape—“Island Groovies”

Canada’s reigning loboto king, Mac DeMarco, is obviously perfect summer listening. We’ve dug a little further back into his archives, though, to bring you this warped, humid track from Makeout Videotape, DeMarco’s former band with Alex Calder.


7.Neil Young—“Heart of Gold”

OK, Neil Young might have the seventh song on our list, but he’s the most obvious entry for a list about Canadian summer songs. We chose “Heart of Gold,” but any song on Harvest would be just as fitting.


8. Monomyth—“Feeling”

This jangling slow-burner by Halifax’s Monomyth, with its gorgeous howling backups, sounds like a day spent drinking Growlers by the water at Chocolate Beach. “I want this feeling to stay,” they sing on the track, and we want this song to stay on our playlists forever.


9. Tragically Hip—“Ahead by a Century”

Here, the song that made me a believer in Gord Downie’s summerific power. “Ahead by a Century” sounds like the rural summers we never had, spent listlessly wandering around sprawling cornfields and hanging out in the tree fort clubhouses of our dreams.


10. The Courtneys—”90210″

We absolutely adore The Courtneys, not only because they pen infectiously stripped-down pop songs, but because they deliver solid advice on “90210,” where they beg us to “slow down, chill out, breathe in, breathe out.” It’s the aural equivalent of popping a Xanax.


11. Gandharvas—“First Day of Spring”

We know that it’s called “The First Day of Spring,” but the Gandharvas’ hippied-out ’90s anthem is lethargic, tripped out, and mega lush, and accordingly, it’s the perfect lazy-day summer jam.


12. Weed—“Even Black”

Vancouver’s Weed write guitar-driven tracks covered in layers of sonic muck, but beneath it all, they have a penchant for J. Mascis-owing college-rock melodies that meander happily, if aimlessly, before lodging their way into our skulls permanently.


13. Gordon Lightfoot—”Summertime Dream”

Before Neil and Gord, Gordon Lightfoot—the folk legend—was the summer jam king. “If You Could Read My Mind” is a more likely campfire cover, but “Summertime Dream”‘s lyrics perfectly describe the Canadian outdoors in late August.


14. Johnny de Courcy—“Andrea’s Song”

I can’t put a finger on why I like Johnny de Courcy, the ex-guitarist of Vancouver’s Black Wizard, so much. His songs are scatterbrained opuses, which veer from country to post-metal, and offer little in the way of consistency. (In that way, he’s reminiscent of Mikal Cronin, who’s similarly unfocused and equally enjoyable.) “Andrea’s Song” is a de Courcy standout, and it basically sounds like it belongs on every teen movie soundtrack ever made.


15. White Poppy—“Daydreaming”

Yet another Vancouver band makes our list. Maybe B.C. writes so many summer-ready songs because they’re drenched in lush, perpetual greenery. (Also, fuck you guys for that. The rest of us are jelly as heck.) Either way, White Poppy have described their ambient compositions as “therapeutic,” and we agree—”Daydreaming” is a blissfully calming track that feels like drifting through a July day on the grass, not caring that the sun’s essentially giving you third-degree burns.


16. Gob—“Soda”

“Soda”‘s chorus is “I want to jump in a lake / sun shining down on a beach in the summer.” So, obviously, it’s on our summer playlists. (It also made our list of cottage country pop-punk songs.)


17. How Sad—“Indian Summer”

Because sometimes, all you need to hear is a carefree, falsetto-driven slab of reductionist synth pop. At that, Montreal’s How Sad deliver.


18. Limblifter—“Wake Up to the Sun”

OK, guys, we know this sounds like late-game U2 (gross), but this song essentially feels like snoozing in a hammock.


19. Sean Nicholas Savage—”Other Life”

Sean Nicholas Savage writes some of the most ludicrous, pastel-hued, mirrored coffee-table soft rock around. And while his excellent 2013 LP, Other Life, was rimmed with existential tristesse, his stripped-down songs still manage to feel absurdly opulent.


20. Constantines—“Young Lions”

But then again, Canadian summers don’t need to be about, like, kayaking down some poor-ass excuse for a Canadian Shield river. Because the Constantines remind us that neon pink sunsets (made even more beautiful by a haze of smog), beers on a concrete Kensington Market patio, and the ripe stench of garbage are just as gorgeous, and summery, as anything north of whatever city you live in. When the guitar explosion hits prior to the first verse on “Young Lions,” it’s hard not to be all, “screw your stupid bougie cottage.”


21. Diana—”Perpetual Surrender”

Diana is one of our favourite bands in Toronto now, because they sound exactly like the combination of mint green polo shirts, cuffed-up linen pants, and Sperry Topsider boat shoes. No socks, duh.

Tags: Music, Cancon, Lists, News, Blue Rodeo, canrock, cold warps, Constantines, GOB, Gordon Lightfoot, Johnny de Courcy, Limblifter, Makeout Videotape, neil young, rusty, sean nicholas savage, Tragically Hip, Treble Charger






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