The Top 150 Canadian Songs of All-Time

So many Canadian artists to celebrate

We love Canadian music. In fact, we spend a fair bit our days here at Indie88 listening to Canadian bands, working with Canadian artists, and searching for the next big Canadian thing. This is why when it came to Canada’s 150th birthday we wanted to do something special.

We the staff at Indie88 pored over hundreds of the best Canadian songs of all-time and came up with 150 from across all genres. We handed it over to you, our readers and listeners to help us determine the greatest Canadian song of all-time. In the end, it was the Tragically Hip’s “Bobcaygeon” from their 1998 record Phantom Power that you elected the greatest Canadian song of all-time.

Remember, it’s about having fun. The write-ups accompanying the songs were not in all cases written by the people who selected them. That’s it, thanks for voting, sharing, and continuing to carry on the debate!
 

54-40 – “One Gun”

Outside of The Tragically Hip, it’s hard to name a more quintessentially Canadian band from the 80s and early 90s than 54-40. Their unique sound was largely due to Neil Osborne’s distinct vocal timbre and their music was often politically charged, tackling tough issues in a way that never felt pedantic. “One Gun’s” simplicity and poetic treatment is the perfect example of this ability. – Paul Moran

54-40 – “She La”

54-40’s 1992 record Dear Dear was a massive success in Canada, and it also featured a cheeky runtime of 54:40. The album’s opener “She La” stands as one of the Vancouver-based band’s biggest hits and remains a crowd pleaser today. – Scott Lewis

Alanis Morissette – “Ironic”

To sum up this song in one word: Iconic. The video, the lyrics, and the artist behind it all. Alanis Morissette’s rebrand from teen pop star to scorned alternative icon was a revelation and “Ironic” was the simple yet powerful song that marked this turning point. – PM

Alanis Morissette – “You Oughta Know”

1995 saw Morissette breakthrough on the international scene with her widely celebrated and critically acclaimed record Jagged Little Pill. Its lead single “You Oughta Know” earned two Grammy Awards in 1996 for Best Rock Song and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. – SL

Alexisonfire – “This Could be Anywhere in the World”

The blistering drama of “This Could Be Anywhere In The World” helped St. Catharine’s post-hardcore darlings Alexisonfire to their first hit single on the Canadian charts. Even more than the amped-up distortion, it’s Dallas Green’s crystal clear clean vocals against George Pettit’s wild, guttural yells that provides the tune’s heavy tension. – Matt Williams

Alvvays – “Adult Diversion”

“Adult Diversion” kicks off with a promising bass rumble and swirling, clean guitar that gives way to a driving verse and subsequently a hazy, blissful chorus. The melodic six-string lines sparkle all the way throughout, diving in and out of left-of-the-dial pop that bounces along with jangly tambourine. -MW

Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me”

Alvvays made a major first impression with the sugary, throwback alt-pop of “Archie, Marry Me.” Their lush guitars build an ocean of noise for Molly Rankin’s gorgeous, rising vocals—a mix of dreaminess and wistful yearning. Hooks like this don’t come along very often. – MW

Anne Murray – “Snowbird”

Written by Canadian Gene MacLellan, “Snowbird” has been performed by the likes of Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley, but it’s best known for Anne Murray’s rendition on her 1969 record This Way Is My Way. Murray became the first Canadian solo female artist to earn an American Gold record certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. – SL

April Wine – “You Could Have Been a Lady”

April Wine have released upwards of 20 albums since bursting onto the scene in the early 1970s. Their second album, On Record, featured what would go on to become one of their biggest hits and a staple on Canadian classic rock stations for decades, “You Could Have Been a Lady.” – SL

Arcade Fire – “Ready to Start”

Arcade Fire’s outstanding 2010 record The Suburbs launched the band into another stratosphere in terms of popularity. Its third single, “Ready to Start,” is a helluva album opener, not to mention the song a certain Liberty Village-based radio station used as its introduction to the airwaves in 2013. – SL

Arcade Fire – “Rebellion (Lies)”

When Arcade Fire dropped Funeral in 2004, it landed like a bomb, and “Rebellion (Lies)” was one of its most life-affirming songs—a relentless indie rock tune that railed against the dying of the light, insisting to the kids that, “sleeping in is giving in.” Its final, wordless coda fuels a massive crescendo that has inspired entire arenas to rise up and sing out. – MW

Arcade Fire – “Wake Up”

Arcade Fire is known for its big, booming songs, and “Wake Up” may still be the heaviest they’ve ever written. When Win Butler yells, “Children, wake up! Hold your mistake up!” it’s impossible to avoid the heart-swell that comes along with it. Funeral was a record that demanded we fight to keep every beautiful, leaving a lasting intensity that bursts inside our chests, and “Wake Up” was its thesis statement. – MW

A Tribe Called Red – “R.E.D”

A mission statement of sorts to one of the greatest Canadian records of all time by one of the best groups working today. This is exhilarating music. – PM

A Tribe Called Red – “SILA”

This isn’t just music. It’s experience. To quote the top comment on ATCR’s YouTube channel: “I’m a punk rock bass player in a metal band so I don’t really like electronic music, I love Tribe Called Red. I love indigenous music from all over the world but I hate it when they decorate it with electronic backgrounds, I love the way this band decorates indigenous music with electricity. To me this is not music, it’s more than that, It’s magic.” – PM

Avril Lavigne – “Complicated”

Prior to a brief marriage to Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger, and long before ridiculous rumours that she was actually dead and had been replaced by a body double, Avril Lavigne was massive pop star. Her debut record Let Go was a mashup of highly polished pop stylings and Lavigne’s cultivated skater girl aesthetic. “Complicated” became one of the biggest hits of 2002 and earned the Ontario native two Grammy nominations. – SL

Bachman-Turner Overdrive – “Takin’ Care of Business”

From their 1973 album Bachman–Turner Overdrive II, Randy Bachman and Co. secured what stands as one their biggest hits with “Takin’ Care of Business.” Originally titled “White Collar Worker,” “Takin’ Care of Business” was once slated to be performed by The Guess Who before Bachman and Burton Cummings pulled the plug over worries it was too similar to The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer.” – SL

Bachman-Turner Overdrive – “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”

BTO landed their first and only No. 1 U.S. single with “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” from their 1974 record Not Fragile. Surprisingly, the song almost didn’t make the cut as Bachman felt it was more of a joke than a serious song. It was a late addition to the album’s arrangement, and the rest is history. – SL

The Band – “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”

Another cut from The Band’s second album, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is a classic in the sense that it’s often in the discussion among the greatest rock songs of all-time. Levon Helm once again took lead vocals on this Robbie Robertson-written song.

The Band – “The Weight”

Arguably one of the greatest rock outfits of the 60s and 70s, The Band fronted the likes of Dylan and Hawkins but didn’t truly emerge beyond their industry cred into the public consciousness until they were their own thing. At close to five minutes “The Weight” is an imposing song with amazing songwriting, vocal harmonies, and great storytelling, brought to life by one of the most talented set of musicians to form a popular rock group. – PM

The Band – “Up On Cripple Creek”

Written by Robbie Robertson and lead vocals sung by drummer Levon Helm, this single from The Band’s self-titled second studio album peaked at No. 10 in Canada and No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. – SL

Barenaked Ladies – “Brian Wilson”

Steven Page takes on mental health issues in this dark, beautiful number that ranks high in BNL’s impressive discography. – PM

Barenaked Ladies – “One Week”

Their best performing single of all-time in the U.S. and U.K., the Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 upon its 1998 release, claiming the No. 1 spot two weeks later, where it would ironically spend one week as the No. 1 single. – SL

Bedouin Soundclash – “When the Night Feels My Song”

The first single off their second album, Sounding a Mosaic, Bedouin Soundclash landed a breakthrough in 2004 with the release of “When the Night Feels My Song.” The video for the song reached No. 1 on the MuchMusic Countdown in November of 2004. – SL

Big Sugar – “Turn the Lights On”

Big Sugar’s fourth album, Heated, earned certified Platinum status in Canada thanks to a strong run of singles, which included one of their most celebrated tracks, “Turn the Lights On.” – SL

Blue Rodeo – “5 Days in May”

After cranking out iconic records and hits that have become ingrained in Canadian culture for nearly 20 years, Blue Rodeo scored their biggest commercial success with 1993’s Five Days in July. Singer-guitarist Jim Cuddy has said the album opener, “5 Days in May,” was inspired by the sound engineer’s penchant for writing his wife’s name in the sand when he visits beaches. – SL

Blue Rodeo – “Lost Together”

Listening to “Lost Together,” is a religious experience under the right circumstances (live at Massey Hall for example). This is a Greg Keelor song, and when his opening vocals float on top of Bob Wiseman’s organ, you are compelled to listen. The subsequent rise and falls married with swelling strings and the vocal pairings of Keelor and Cuddy provide all the drama and joy of a truly compelling song. – PM

Blue Rodeo – “Rose Coloured Glasses”

Blue Rodeo’s 1987 debut album Outskirts is certified 4x Platinum in Canada. It featured several songs that became hits for the band, one of them being “Rose Coloured Glasses,” which stands as a fan favourite to this day. – SL

Blue Rodeo – “Try”

The second single from Blue Rodeo’s debut record Outskirts remains one of their most recognizable hits. “Try” took home two Juno Awards in 1989 for Single of the Year and Video of the Year. – SL

Born Ruffians – “Hummingbird”

Ontario-born indie rockers Born Ruffians scored a critical success with their 2008 debut Red, Yellow & Blue. It’s tough to highlight just one standout track, but the album’s first single “Hummingbird” remains a modern Canadian classic. – SL

Bran Van 3000 – “Drinking in L.A.”

“Hi, my name is Stereo Mike.” Bran Van 3000 are certainly a one-hit wonder, but it’s a hit that continues to hit the airwaves 20 years after its release. “Drinking in L.A.” was a massive hit in this country, as well as in the U.K. and in pockets across Europe and Scandinavia. – SL

Brave Belt – “Dunrobin’s Gone”

After leaving The Guess Who, Randy Bachman formed Brave Belt with former The Guess Who bandmate Chad Allan and others. They scored a couple of hits, including “Dunrobin’s Gone” before being persuaded to change their name to Bachman-Turner Overdrive. – SL

Broken Social Scene – “Almost Crimes”

What a jagged, non-stop, gorgeous mess of energy this song is. It speeds along through frenetic noise, the entire time threatening to either explode or disintegrate or fall apart, and it does all those things in a way that somehow makes total sense. After a din of guitar stabs and saxophone blasts, Leslie Feist declares, “we’ve got love and hate—it’s the only way,” with Kevin Drew eventually joining forces for its wild finale. – MW

Broken Social Scene – “Anthems for a 17-Year-Old Girl”

You’d be hard-pressed to find a millennial Canadian who didn’t hear this song in high school and feel like someone had dove inside their chest and figured out how to make everything they felt into blissful music. Emily Haines’ star vocal turn here is one of Social Scene’s most distinctive moments, rising gently over a weeping violin, calling out, “park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.” – MW

Broken Social Scene – “Cause=Time”

Few anthems are as askew and cryptic as “Cause=Time,” blending a coiled first half built on driving rhythms and wispy guitar lines with a second half that explodes abruptly out of its confines. By the time it reaches its finale, after Kevin Drew sings the chorus one final time, it becomes a full-on crash of sparkling guitar lines and feral noise. – MW

Bruce Cockburn – “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”

“Lovers in a Dangerous Time” first appeared on Bruce Cockburn’s 1984 album Stealing Fire, where it reached as high as No. 25 on Canadian charts. The song was famously covered by the Barenaked Ladies on a 1991 Cockburn tribute album. – SL

Bruce Cockburn – “Wondering Where The Lions Are”

Cockburn’s only single to crack the Top 40 south of the border was “Wondering Where the Lions Are” off his 1979 album Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws. – SL

Bryan Adams – “Summer of ‘69”

Reckless sold upwards of 12 million copies worldwide, five million in the United States, and was upon its release in 1984 the highest-selling record in Canada of all-time. Adams released six singles off of Reckless, including “Summer of ‘69.” It climbed as high as No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and it hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. – SL

Buffy Sainte-Marie – “Universal Soldier”

Although “Universal Soldier” originally appeared on Buffy Sainte-Marie’s debut album It’s My Way! in 1964, it wouldn’t become a hit until 1965 when it was covered by Donovan. Sainte-Marie has said the song is about accepting responsibility for war and the archaic way of thinking that causes conflict. – SL

Buffy Sainte-Marie – “Up Where We Belong”

“Up Where We Belong” is a Platinum-certified hit that was written by Buffy Sainte-Marie in collaboration with artists Jack Nitzsche and Will Jennings. The Grammy-winning song was originally sung by Joe Crocker and Jennifer Warnes, though Buffy Sainte-Marie often performs it. It was originally written for the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman. – Danielle Subject

Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe”

British Columbia native Carly Rae Jepsen can lay claim to one of the best-selling songs by a female artist this century. “Call Me Maybe” stands as the fourth best-selling digital single of all-time, and its place in the pop culture lexicon is undisputed. – SL

Chad VanGaalen – “Willow Tree”

Calgary, Alberta native Chad VanGaalen channels Neil Young’s vocals in this outstanding quiet number from his 2008 album Soft Airplane. “Willow Tree” helped VanGaalen land a Juno Award nomination for Alternative Album of the Year and was also shortlisted for the 2009 Polaris Music Prize. – SL

City and Colour – “Save Your Scissors”

Dallas Green’s debut single as City and Colour is a heartbreaker of a tune that showcases his powerful voice over lush acoustic guitar. It’s a poignant ode to an on-again, off-again relationship, as Green sings, “so save your scissors for someone else’s skin, my surface is so tough I don’t think the blade will dig in.” – MW

Constantines – “Nighttime/Anytime (It’s Alright)”

No one does muscled-up punk like the Constantines. “Nighttime/Anytime (It’s Alright)” is a jagged rager that starts at 11, goes for the throat, and then suddenly lets up halfway through. But it’s all a trick—the band collects itself and storms back with even greater intensity, as drummer Doug MacGregor pounds the skins relentlessly. – MW

Constantines – “Young Lions”

“Young Lions” is an anthem dedicated to the wild hurricane of youth—a fight song that barrels forward with its fists raised to the sky. Bry Webb growls over reckless guitar like he’s about to be torn apart, as he yells, “make your love too wild for words/stumblin’ through the city with the ordinary birds.” It’s a song built for back alleys and endless nights. Remember, Young Lions: “this is your kingdom.” – MW

Corey Hart – “Sunglasses At Night”

The mid-eighties in Canadian pop belonged to Corey Hart, and “Sunglasses at Night” was at the centre of it all. Hart’s bad-ass meets heartthrob persona, paired with slick music videos was the total package that housed great song-writing, excellent vocals, and pop hooks. – PM

Death From Above 1979 – “Romantic Rights”

Death From Above’s first single (when they still had the ‘1979’ at the end of their name) is a skittering, vicious dance-punk tune with an overdriven guitar riff and dark vocal hook that immediately grabs you and pulls you down into its dark, frenetic world. – MW

The Dears – “Lost in the Plot”

Originally released in 2003, The Dears’ second full-length record No Cities was such a success for the band that an extended version was released in 2005. One of its standout tracks, “Lost in the Plot” is arguably the Montreal band’s finest work. – SL

Drake – “Hold On, We’re Going Home”

The second single from his third studio album, Nothing Was the Same, Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” not only was massive success on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B/Hip-Hop charts, it was also designated as the best song of 2013 by Pitchfork. – SL

Dream Warriors – “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style”

Toronto hip hop pioneers Dream Warriors sampled Quincy Jones’ “Soul Bossa Nova” on their 1991 hit “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style.” The single captured a Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year in 1992. – SL

Edward Bear – “Last Song”

Toronto-based trio Edward Bear hit No. 1 in Canada in 1972 with their best-known cut “Last Song” from their self-titled third record. It also reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and No. 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. – SL

Feist – “1234”

Good luck getting this one out of your head. The second single from Feist’s third record, The Reminder, launched the Broken Social Scene alumnus into mega stardom and landed her an iPod nano commercial. Its rollicking piano, bright horns, and irresistible vocal melody is the perfect storm for an indie-pop smash, and it still holds up. You’ll be humming it long into next week. – MW

Feist – “I Feel It All”

“I Feel It All” rambles along with a bouncy, ramshackle acoustic guitar, melodic piano, and a shuffling tambourine, as Leslie Feist admits she’ll be the one who’ll break her own heart in her rich and raspy voice. As the rhythm mostly drops away, she comes to the forefront for a gorgeous, hushed bridge that showcases how nimble she can be. – MW

Feist – “Mushaboom”

The jaunty toe-tapper “Mushaboom” was the song that introduced many people to Feist. It’s a breezy tune about small-town life (specifically the titular Nova Scotia community not too far from Leslie Feist’s birthplace of Amherst) that ticks along joyfully with a wistful vocal melody. Mushaboom also happens to be Feist’s pet name for her pubic hair: the word likely comes from the Mi’kmaq word moosaboon-elagwaak, which means, “pile of hair.” – MW

Glass Tiger – “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone”

Bryan Adams lent some backing vocals to Glass Tiger for the first single off their 1986 debut record The Thin Red Line. “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone” was a major hit for the Newmarket, Ontario-born rock group, hitting No. 1 in Canada and reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. – SL

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Storm”

Montreal-based collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor are hardly a conventional outfit. Regardless, there’s no denying the beauty of “Storm,” which is effectively a movement comprised of four individual songs off their sprawling 2000 masterpiece Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. – SL

Gordon Lightfoot – “Cotton Jenny”

“Cotton Jenny” was originally recorded by Gordon Lightfoot on his 1971 album Summer Side of Life. It was later recorded by Anne Murray for her 1972 record Talk It Over in the Morning. – SL

Gordon Lightfoot – “If You Could Read My Mind”

First released Lightfoot’s 1970 album Sit Down Young Stranger, “If You Could Read My Mind” was such a success that it led to the record adopting its name shortly after the initial release. – SL

Gordon Lightfoot – “Sundown”

“Sundown,” the title track from Lightfoot’s tenth album, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. It ranks among the Canadian folk artist’s most popular songs and has been covered too many times to count, not to mention it’s been used in television shows like Blacklist and Supernatural. – SL

Gordon Lightfoot – “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

Written as a nod to the sinking of the bulk carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975, Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” has been heralded as the folk singer’s greatest work by none other than the man himself. – SL

The Guess Who – “American Woman”

The title track from The Guess Who`s sixth studio album was certified gold in the U.S. It hit No. 1 in Canada and on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970. “American Woman” inspired cover versions by Krokus, Butthole Surfers, and Lenny Kravitz. – SL

The Guess Who – “These Eyes”

Co-written by Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings, “These Eyes” also featured backing vocal efforts from Gordon Lightfoot. It has been covered by artists ranging from Michael Bolton to Maestro, and was even sampled by noted mashup DJ Girl Talk. – SL

The Grapes of Wrath – “The Time is Here”

1989’s Now and Again was The Grapes of Wrath’s biggest commercial success, and it featured “All the Things I Wasn’t,” which stands as one of their biggest hits. Still, many fans widely consider “The Time is Here,” the record’s penultimate track as their finest work. – SL

Handsome Furs – “All We Want Baby is Everything”

As Dan Boeckner’s first big project outside of Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs—a duo with his now ex-wife Alexei Perry—conjured the indie rock heroes’ same frenetic energy along with a bigger electronic bite. “All We Want Baby is Everything” is a rise-up anthem that buzzes and vibrates as Boeckner channels Springsteen. – MW

Hayden – “Bad As they Seem”

Hayden burst on the scene with this track in 1995 and it was a revelation to many disenfranchised 90s kids who were coming down from the bombastic-ness of grunge. His monotone drawl and lo-fi folk aesthetic was the antithesis of the music of the day, and it was exactly what was needed. “Bad as they Seem” stands out as one of several noteworthy moments in his career as one of Canada’s best talents. – PM

Hayden – “Dynamite Walls”

“Dynamite Walls” starts with a pastoral, almost hypnotic vibe that conjures that feeling of escaping the city for nature, built on a dreamy chord progression and Hayden Desser’s lethargic vocal delivery. But it soon turns into something much less restrained, pumping a feral six-string solo into cymbal splashes and crunchy distortion. – MW

Hot Hot Heat – “Goodnight Goodnight”

If you gotta dance, there are much worse songs to get your groove on to than “Goodnight Goodnight,” which encapsulates the bouncy indie rock vibe that was so prominent in the mid-’00s. Steve Bays’ youthful, ‘tude-heavy vocals recall a less slurry Julian Casablancas as he sings over punchy guitar hooks about a breakup. – MW

The Inbreds – “Any Sense of Time”

The Inbreds were merely bass and drums. The duo of Mike O’Neill and drummer Dave Ullrich spun songs with undeniable hooks and great harmonies. Their sad jam single, “Any Sense of Time,” off of 1994’s Kombinator earned the band a nomination for a MuchMusic Video Award for Best Alternative Video. – SL

Jann Arden – “Insensitive”

It’s ok, we love Jann Arden too. What is not too love? Her AMAZING voice, vulnerability, humour, and flat out fantastic songs. “Insensitive” stands out in the crowd as a Canadian classic forever more, from one of our most beloved talents. – PM

Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built”

“The House That Heaven Built” is the definitive Japandroids song, which also makes it the definitive endless night song. If Japandroids are good at anything, it’s the ability to make you feel like you could live forever, and somehow always stay 23, and drink a thousand beers, and fall in love with everyone and everything at every moment. And do it every night. Which is a pretty special talent. Sing along. And sing loud. – MW

Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Drunk Teenagers”

Nothing quite gets at what it’s like to get trashed in high school with your pals than the Duke of Dartmouth’s “Drunk Teenagers.” From his concept record, Ashtray Rock, the song lays out a night of pre-adult debauchery on the weekend in the Halifax suburbs, nailing the feeling of being young and dumb and raising hell with lines like, “you can pick your poison—the city or the country, we just wanna make some noise.” – MW

Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Love This Town”

“Love This Town” is almost certainly the sweetest song ever written about Halifax, capturing the gorgeous, vibrant port city’s friendly nature and laid back attitude as Plaskett sings, “there’ll be drinks on the house, if your house burns down—there’s a reason why I love this town.” This tune is a bit infamous for taking a shot at a certain hippie bro haven in B.C.: “I played a show in Kelowna last year/said, ‘pick it up Joel, we’re dyin’ in here”/picture one hand clapping, then picture half that sound/there’s a reason why I hate that town.” Plaskett and Kelowna have since made up. But if you’ve ever played a show there, you know his line wasn’t off the mark. – MW

Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Through and Through and Through”

It’s not like you’ve never heard of a double record. But a triple record? That’s what Joel Plaskett did with Three in 2009. “Through & Through & Through” is one of its choicest cuts, buoyed by honking horns and the beauty backup vocals of Ana Egge and Rose Cousins, with Plaskett playing the call-and-response game with his two guests. – MW

Joel Plaskett Emergency- “True Patriot Love”

One of the tunes most cherished by Plaskett’s fans, this is certainly a love song—but it’s not necessarily about a country. Despite its rollicking nature, complete with a righteous organ and a chorus that begs to be sung along to, “True Patriot Love” is a pretty melancholy piece of work, with Plaskett mourning a lost love with some sentiments we can all relate to, like “getting into bed seemed easy enough, getting out’s a little harder to do.” Truer words ain’t never been spoken. – MW

Joni Mitchell – “A Case of You”

Joni Mitchell’s 1971 record Blue is widely regarded as one of the best albums ever. Her song “A Case of You” is believed to be one of many songs about her breakup with English singer-songwriter Graham Nash. It’s been covered by the likes of Prince, James Blake, and Sloan. – SL

Joni Mitchell – “Both Sides, Now”

One of Mitchell’s best known songs, “Both Sides, Now” has been featured in films like Love Actually. Mitchell recorded various versions of the songs over the years, and it has been recorded and/or performed by artists like Frank Sinatra, Dolly Parton, and Hole. – SL

Joni Mitchell – “Carey”

Another song from Blue, “Carey” is often cited as an autobiographical account of a fling with James Taylor. – SL

Joni Mitchell – “Big Yellow Taxi”

Arguably Mitchell’s most popular song, thanks in large part to covers over the years courtesy of Amy Grant, Counting Crows, and others, “Big Yellow Taxi” first appeared on her 1970 album Ladies of the Canyon. – SL

July Talk – “Push and Pull”

Push and Pull can be seen as the thesis statement for one of the most interesting alternative bands in the last 5 years, Canada or otherwise. The dichotomy inherent in July Talk’s music – whether it’s the stark contrast between vocal leads, the loud-quiet dynamic, or their black and white visual aesthetic – is all present in Push and Pull. It’s a banger. – PM

Kardinal Offishall – “Dangerous ft. Akon”

With close to 100 million views on YouTube, this is one of the most popular songs in Canadian hip-hop history and it stands up today as a beyond solid track. – PM

Kim Mitchell – “Patio Lanterns”

A moderate hit on both sides of the border, Kim Mitchell struck gold with “Patio Lanterns,” which was initially a single and later released on his 1986 album Shakin’ Like a Human Being. – SL

K’Naan – Wavin flag

Few Canadian songs have seeped into the public consciousness like Waving Flag did. The song became a global smash when it was chosen as Coke’ anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The song was later covered by a group of Canadian artists, including Avril Lavigne, Justin Bieber, and Drake, in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. – PM

K-Os – “Superstarr, Pt. Zero”

Showcasing his ability to straight up rhyme, “Superstarr, Pt. Zero” melds smooth rhythms and production. The best of K-Os right here. – PM

Land of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”

Land of Talk’s 2008 debut album was produced by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame. The record’s title track, “Some Are Lakes,” helped the Montreal-based outfit gain some traction behind its indie rock stylings and frontwoman Elizabeth Powell’s raw vocals. Powell’s influence can be heard in rising artists like Hop Along, Angel Olsen, and others. – SL

Leonard Cohen – “Hallelujah”

Often imitated, “Hallelujah” first appeared on Cohen’s 1984 record Various Positions. Renditions by John Cale, Jeff Buckley, K.D. Lang, and Rufus Wainwright, and appearances in films and shows over the years have kept the song relevant. Cohen’s version entered the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time following his death in November of 2016. – SL

Leonard Cohen – “Suzanne”

Originally a poem and first recorded as a song by Judy Collins, Cohen later released “Suzanne” as the lead single off his 1967 record Songs of Leonard Cohen. The song was inspired by Cohen’s friendship with Suzanne Verdal, a former partner of artist and sculptor Armand Vaillancourt. – SL

Loverboy – “Working for the Weekend”

One of the most celebrated songs of the 1980s, Loverboy released “Working for the Weekend” as the second single off their 1981 record Get Lucky. It climbed as high as No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has been featured in various films, TV shows, and video games over the years. Comedian Will Ferrell even performed the song on Conan in 2013. – SL

Mac DeMarco – “Salad Days”

Mac DeMarco might have made a name for himself by being King Goof, but “Salad Days” is a pretty low down tune. Its dreamy haze and slinky melody matches the lethargy in Mac’s words and delivery as he laments growing older and feeling like his best days are behind him. Still, despite lines like, “oh, mama, actin’ like my life’s already over,” it’s a summery ride. – MW

Maestro Fresh Wes – “Let Your Backbone Slide”

The Godfather of Canadian hip hop had a Top 40 and U.S. Billboard hit with this 1989 banger, spitting bars with boundless energy and agility over samples from The Mohawks, James Brown, Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick, and Public Enemy. CBC News anchor Dwight Drummond even appears in the video as a cameraman. It’d be tough to overstate the pioneering influence Maestro Fresh Wes had with this tune, which manages to remain a timeless-sounding classic almost 30 years later. – MW

Matthew Good – “Apparitions”

There’s something about the natural quaver in Matthew Good’s inimitable voice that so easily expresses devastating sadness. “Apparitions” is one of his most stunning recorded performances, as he rises high above its dramatic, grungy guitar to deliver grand choruses that address isolation and loneliness. It’s been unavoidable on Canadian radio since the moment it was released. – MW

Matthew Good – “Everything is Automatic”

“Everything is Automatic” kicks off with a furious energy and never lets up, while Matthew Good sneers through its lyrics with a palpable anger. Anger is the central emotion at hand for a tune that lambastes consumerism with biting lines like, “Do you miss your La-Z-Boy? Do you miss your TV? Do you miss yourself?” The video, which featured billboards saying things like, “think of your future, prepare for the disaster” (sic) was nominated for Best Video at the 1998 JUNO Awards. – MW

Men Without Hats – “The Safety Dance”

Released as the second single off their 1983 record Rhythm of Youth, once “The Safety Dance” gained some momentum domestically it went on to climb the charts all over the world. – SL

Metric – “Gimme Sympathy”

Not only is “Gimme Sympathy” an dark and driving, stadium-sized indie rock single, it also brings up one of rock ‘n’ roll history’s biggest rivalries in its chorus, as Emily Haines sings, “who would you rather be, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?” It references the former’s optimistic ditty “Here Comes The Sun” in its following lines, but the title alludes to the latter’s “Gimme Sympathy,” a song that’s fraught with impending disaster. So: who would you rather be? – MW

Metric – “Help, I’m Alive”

Metric’s first massive single, “Help, I’m Alive” helped transform the band from underground darlings into an alternative rock powerhouse. Emily Haines walks a tightrope between vulnerable and powerful as she summons courage in an atmosphere of anxiety, singing, “can you hear my heart beating like a hammer?” – MW

Michie Mee & L.A. Luv – “Jamaican Funk Canadian Style”

The best song from Canada’s first successful female emcee, Michie Mee easily deserves a spot on this list. – PM

Murray McLauchlan – “Down By The Henry Moore”

“Down By The Henry Moore,” the fourth single from Murray McLauchlan’s 1984 album Sweeping the Spotlight Away, hit No. 1 on Canadian country charts. In addition to referencing the statue of its namesake, the song also contains nods to Toronto’s Kensington Market, the now defunct Silver Dollar Room, and Nathan Phillips Square. – SL

Neil Young – “Harvest Moon”

Neil Young’s breezy front-porch tune has maybe one of the most appropriate videos in music history—Neil and the band playing this swaying melody as scores of hippies and hicks and general good-timers dance around an old country bar. Pretty much all you have to know about the song is that that environment is where it’s most perfect. Find someone to slow dance with and throw it on. – MW

Neil Young – “Heart of Gold”

This seekin’ and yearnin’ song has a low down and beat vibe to it that conjures visions of a drifter goin’ down the road. It remains Neil Young’s only U.S. No. 1 single, and features backing vocals from folk royalty James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. You can hear an early version of it, before the song was ever recorded in studio, on Live at Massey Hall 1971. – MW

Neil Young – “Helpless”

There’s an infamous story that involves this gorgeous ode to a, “town in north Ontario” (actually revealed to be a “couple of towns,” including Omemee, which is considered south). When Young got up on stage at The Last Waltz to celebrate fellow (mostly) Canadian boys The Band, he had a big cocaine booger in his nostril, and his manager demanded that it be edited out with special effects if the song was to stay in the film. Joni Mitchell provides some backing vocals from backstage in the same performance. – MW

Neil Young – “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”

There’s a few reasons Neil Young is considered the Godfather of Grunge, and this track, filled out by his ferocious band, Crazy Horse, is one of those. There is a dangerous amount of crunch on the guitars here, as Young invokes the name of legendary Sex Pistols mouthpiece Johnny Rotten. Most importantly, he reminds us all of that One True Thing: “rock ‘n’ roll will never die.” – MW

Neil Young – “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”

Man, way to get to the point. It says it all in the title, of course. This dreamy folk tune, elevated by a serene piano, is a melancholy trip that sounds a little happier than it actually is. Young wrote it for CSNY bandmate Graham Nash after Nash and Joni Mitchell broke up. – MW

Nelly Furtado – “I’m Like a Bird”

“I’m Like a Bird” was Nelly Furtado’s breakout hit off her debut album Woah, Nelly!. The song peaked at number one on the Canadian Singles Chart in 2001, won a  Juno Award for Single of the Year, and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Song of the Year. “I’m Like a Bird” also won the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, making Furtado the last Canadian woman to win in that category since. – DS

The New Pornographers – “Letter From an Occupant”

This Neko Case number effectively put The New Pornographers on the map way back in late-2000. “It’s got a big drum beat,” Newman told Pitchfork in a 2001 interview. “Female vocals. That’s all you need. That was the theory behind that song. Big drum beat, female vocals, people just dig it.” – SL

The New Pornographers – “Use It”

The New Pornographers’ third record arrived in August of 2005 and would later be shortlisted for the inaugural Polaris Music Prize in 2006. “Use It” sees Newman treading in familiar pop territory and stands as one of his catchiest tunes. – SL

Paul Anka – “Diana”

Paul Anka’s 1957 hit “Diana” hit No. 1 in Canada, Australia, and in the U.K. It hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Anka even recorded an Italian version of the song a year after its initial release, with lyrics written by Mario Panzeri. – SL

Paul Anka – “My Way”

Probably best known performed by Frank Sinatra in 1969, Paul Anka wrote the lyrics. It was later recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley and The Sex Pistols. – SL

PUP – “DVP”

PUP’s sophomore album, The Dream Is Over, is an unrelenting thrash of punk rock ‘n’ roll, and “DVP”—named after Toronto’s Don Valley Parkway—is one of its most blistering moments. It tells the story of an over-boozed, immature, aimless dirtbag whose girlfriend is fed up with his shit. With singer Stefan Babcock screaming lines like, “I’d rather be dead!,” it’s pretty damn dark, but it’s also really, really fun. – MW


 

Pursuit of Happiness – “I’m an Adult Now”

Moe Berg was tackling the problems of adulting well before it was a meme in this Canadian classic. – PM

Rascalz – “Northern Touch”

West vs. East coast doesn’t have the same history in Canada as it does in the USA, but Rascalz “Northern Touch” put the Canada’s west coast on the hip-hop map with this national anthem. – PM

Rheostatics – “Legal Age Life at Variety Store”

“Legal Age Life at Variety Store” is one of several standout tracks from Rheostatics’ 1992 record Whale Music, which stands among the best Canadian rock records ever released. – SL

The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Stamp”

From their second record Departing, “Stamp” is ‘The RAA’ at their frenetic best. “Stamp” proves how much energy can be generated from three people playing their hearts out. The song takes a break two-thirds in, only to step it up another gear for a big, pounding finale.

Rush – “2112”

The side-long title track from Rush’s 1976 record is prog-rock exemplified. It remains a staple in the band`s live performances and checks in with a run-time in excess of 21 minutes. – SL

Rush – “The Spirit of Radio”

“The Spirit of Radio” from Rush`s 1980 album Permanent Waves is one of their best-performing songs in terms of popularity in the U.K. It’s also one of five songs the band had inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and it was named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. – SL

Sam Roberts – “Brother Down”

There is an addictive rhythm on Montreal rocker Sam Roberts’ “Brother Down” that sets the vibe for the song’s world-weary subject matter. It’s simultaneously introspective and impossible not to nod your head to, as Roberts attacks the broken promises of capitalism, singing, “rich man’s crying ‘cause money’s time/poor man’s smiling ‘cause he knows he ain’t blind.” – MW


 

Sam Roberts – “Hard Road”

On “Hard Road,” Sam Roberts gets that life is tough, but it’s tough for everyone. That certainly doesn’t stop the song from rocking, though, and it’s one of Roberts’ most memorable melodies, laid atop some very CanRock guitar riffs and bluesy solos. It even throws out a little reference to the Trans-Canada: “you try to find a love that’ll see you through your darkest days/and her soft brown hair is as long as the Canadian highway.” – MW

Sarah Harmer – “Basement Apartment”

The song that propelled Harmer into the spotlight in 1996 from her stunning and heartbreaking release “You Were Here”. Harmer’s distinct vocals and expert songcraft made her the rightful it-girl of late 90s Canadian alt-folk. Swelling chorus’ married with heartbreaking lyrics made it impossible for us to not develop a serious case of ‘the feels’. – PM

Sarah McLachlan – “Sweet Surrender”

Sarah McLachlan’s 1997 record, Surfacing, was a massive success that spawned five singles. The second single was “Sweet Surrender,” which helped the Halifax, Nova Scotia native take home a Juno Award for Album of the Year. – SL

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet – “Having an Average Weekend”

This instrumental number is probably best known for its use as the theme song from the iconic Canadian sketch show Kids In The Hall. – SL

Shania Twain – “That Don’t Impress Me Much”

The sixth single from her third studio album, Come On Over, Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much” found a home in the top 10 in 15 different countries. – SL

Shania Twain – “Man! I Feel Like A Woman”

Come On Over was a big album for Shania Twain. “Man I Feel Like A Woman” is the first track on the hit album and reached the top-ten in six countries, top 20 in Canada, and number 23 on the US Billboard Hot 100 upon its release. The song also won a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. – DS

The Sheepdogs – “I Don’t Know”

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-born rock band The Sheepdogs won the Juno Award for Single of the Year in 2012 for “I Don’t Know” a single from their third studio record Learn & Burn. – SL

Sloan – “Coax Me”

“Coax Me” happens to be the first single from what is considered one of the greatest Canadian albums of all time, Twice Removed. It’s a nuanced rock tune, employing some heavy pop sensibilities inside a dark, guitar-driven sound that features the band’s signature harmonies. It also delivered us one of CanRock’s best-ever lines: “it’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans.” – MW


 

Sloan – “Deeper Than Beauty”

The ramshackle, DIY energy of “Deeper Than Beauty” recalls Sloan’s East Coast roots, with a jangly, repetitive guitar and simple beat providing pretty much all of the music. It’s a weird and charming song with left-of-the-dial heart, as Chris Murphy addresses a crush he seems a bit too lethargic to really go after. – MW

Sloan – “Money City Maniacs”

Have you ever been to a hockey game? Like, any hockey game? You’ve heard this song, then. (But it slayed way before it was a staple in every arena). – MW

Sloan – “The Rest of My Life”

Look no further than this ‘60s-indebted pop gem for the clearest endorsement of the Great White North on this list: “One thing I know about the rest of my life,” Chris Murphy sings, “I know that I’ll be livin’ it in Canada.” – MW

Snow – “Informer”

Written about the person who informed on Darrin Kenneth O’Brien (a.k.a Snow), the song details the story of the attempted murder charges placed on O’Brien. The song was an anthem of the nineties and international hit. – PM

Spirit of the West – “Political”

Perhaps one of the most underrated Canadian songs of all time, “Political” is basically perfect. With great hooks, sing-along chorus’, and of course the celtic folk influences the Vancouver band was known for, “Political” is timeless. – PM

Stars – “Ageless Beauty”

Stars’ breakthrough single is a lush, uplifting ride that often feels as cosmic as the moniker of the band it was written by. Amy Milan’s voice, as always, is a mesmerizing dream, clear-eyed and melting into the rest of the song’s dense pop sound. – MW

Stars – “Elevator Love Letter”

There is a major chance that this song ended up on a mixtape you gave or received from your crush in high school, and damn, did it work. You probably fell in love, and it was probably really beautiful, as long as it lasted. Now when you listen to this song you’ll think about them and feel nice and warm. That’s how magical this song is. Torquil Campbell and Amy Milan playing off each other over those sparkling soundscapes is oh, so sweet. – MW

Stompin’ Tom Connors – “The Hockey Song”

As Canadian as a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee, Stompin’ Tom Connors “The Hockey Song” first appeared on the 1973 album, Stompin’ Tom and the Hockey Song. It`s been playing in hockey rinks across North America ever since. – SL

Tanya Tagaq – “Uja”

Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq has played an integral role in awareness to the consistent mistreatment of the Indigenous population. Her song “Uja” is a full aural experience and more than anything, it’s extremely powerful. You may have to take a deep breath after. – Ryan Parker


 

Tegan & Sara – “Walking With A Ghost”

The White Stripes liked this song so much that they covered it and made it the title track of an EP they put out. It’s a punchy, bare bones indie rock tune filled out by bright synths about leaving someone behind. Tegan & Sara’s original is way better than the White Stripes version, by the way. The White Stripes didn’t even put synths on theirs. – MW

Tegan & Sara – “Hell”

With the backdrop of a Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, deemed “four blocks of hell” by a local newspaper, Tegan Quin made a metaphor for unrequited love in this rollicking song, with a swirling, hooky chorus and dangerous sounding guitars. Thankfully, she ended up getting the girl. Unfortunately, the Downtown Eastside still has problems, many of them brand new. – MW

Thrush Hermit – “From the Back of the Film”

When Halifax was briefly viewed as the next Seattle, Joel Plaskett-fronted outfit Thrush Hermit were at the forefront with the likes of Sloan. “From the Back of the Film,” the opening cut from their 1999 record Clayton Park is commonly still performed by Plaskett to this day while touring his solo work. – SL

Tokyo Police Club – “Your English Is Good”

With an irresistible, bass-heavy drive and a Strokes-esque groove, “Your English Is Good” is a party from start to finish. It’s an indie rock dance party, with David Monks lending a gritty, cool energy with his loose vocal performance. And the gang vocals add the perfect touch to an already impossibly fun track. – MW

Tom Cochrane – “Life is a Highway”

One of the biggest Canadian songs of the nineties period. Tom Cochrane’s 1991 album Mad Mad World was a complete smash with “Life is a Highway” leading the way. – PM

The Tragically Hip – “Blow at High Dough”

The first single off of the debut studio album Up To Here, “Blow at High Dough” really got the momentum going for one of Canada’s greatest bands ever. Downie’s vocals are powerful and the rest of the band provide is revving engine that propels the music. – PM

The Tragically Hip – “Bobcaygeon”

With the lyrics “That night in Toronto…” a legendary song was born. One of the best, most sing-along worthy tracks off The Hip’s incredible 1998 record Phantom Power. Another example of the perfect mix of artistry, narrative, and folksy warmth from Canada’s favourite band. – PM


 

The Tragically Hip – “Fireworks”

“You said you didn’t give a fuck about hockey, I never saw someone say that before”, could be easily reduced to jock-rock. However, this song has a lot more going on – the idea that love can be so consuming that it can make you forget about everything else. Is there a more Canadian way to describe the moment of sexual awaking in a teenage boy than the words: “You held my hand and we walked home the long way. You were loosening my grip on Bobby Orr”? – PM

The Tragically Hip – “Grace Too”

The last song the band ever played live closing out this summer’s farewell tour in Kingston. “Grace Too” immediately calls to memory Gord Downie’s trademark theatrical performance style. One of their best. – PM

The Tragically Hip – “Nautical Disaster”

At their storytelling best, “Nautical Disaster” is suspenseful and exciting with a tense musical buildup that complements the The Tragically Hip’s lyrical genius. A completely unique song that could be made by no one else.  – PM

The Tragically Hip – “Wheat Kings”

The Tragically Hip is undoubtedly one of the most unique Canadian artists in our rich history. Replete with references from across our great land, this is perhaps the Hip’s most anthemic slow jam. To put it simply, it just sounds like the Canada we’ve come to know and love, as defined by the musical stylings of The Tragically Hip. – PM


 

Treble Charger – “Red”

A classic Canadian alternative track from the nineties by a band gone but never forgotten. With “Red” Treble Charger reached great heights and the song still stands up to this day – PM

Weakerthans – “A Plea For a Cat Named Virtue”

The Weakerthans enjoyed a spike in popularity upon the release of their fantastic 2003 record Reconstruction Site. Frontman John K. Samson wrote “A Plea For a Cat Named Virtue” in the voice of a depressed cat, which is rather awesome. – SL

The Weakerthans – “Left and Leaving”

The title track from The Weakerthans’ 2000 record is an ode to Winnipeg. It’s a song that captures a vibe familiar to residents of the city, perseverance in the face of bitter cold defeat. – SL

The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face”

The second single from The Weeknd’s 2015 record Beauty Behind the Madness, “Can’t Feel My Face” earned the Toronto artist a pair of Grammy nominations, not to mention a spot in Best of 2015 lists across the universe and even comparisons to Michael Jackson. – SL

Wintersleep – “Amerika”

Based off the Walt Whitman poem of the same name (minus the “k”), Wintersleep reinterpret Whitman’s positive imagery 100 years later and the result is amazing. Paul Murphy’s vocals are effortlessly powerful and the rest of the band deliver a pure banger, proving that Wintersleep is still one of Canada’s greatest alternative bands. – PM


 

Wintersleep – “Weighty Ghost”

With this folksy stomp, Halifax’s Wintersleep had a bona fide hit. And it’s all built on simplicity; a killer, major-key chord progression, an uplifting melody, wordless sing-alongs, and a pulsing organ filling out the background. – MW

Wolf Parade – “I’ll Believe in Anything”

When Wolf Parade unleashed this song on Apologies to the Queen Mary in 2005, it felt like something no one had heard before—a lethally vibrant crash of jagged, anthemic indie rock, all sinew and sweat. Twelve years on, it makes no less of an impression, rising into its crescendo like an unstoppable collision, as Spencer Krug sings, “and now I’ll believe in anything, and you’ll believe in anything, because nobody knows you, and nobody gives a damn, anyway.” – MW


 

Wolf Parade – “Shine a Light”

Dan Boeckner takes the lead on this heart-pumping early Wolf Parade rocker yelling, “you know our hearts beat time/they’re waiting for something that’ll never arrive.” It’s a brawny, jagged slice of youthful rock ‘n’ roll that beats as hard as any hard-pumping heart. – MW