Top 150 Canadian Songs Of All Time (Part 3)

VOTE FOR THE BEST CANADIAN SONG OF ALL TIME FROM THE TOP 150.

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 are handing it over to you, our readers and listeners to help us determine the greatest Canadian song of all-time. So read, listen, and select up to five songs that you would like to see in the running for the greatest Canadian cut.

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, get in here, vote, share, and debate!

Vote for your top five below and scroll down to read what makes each song worthy of this list.

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