Essential Summer Cottage Albums


Cottage country brings with it a few certainties: sun, lake water, big skies, and you’re probably about to spend a weekend with a limited radio dial and no wifi. So if you’re planning a weekend in the Kawarthas or Muskoka, don’t leave things to chance and bring some music you can rely on. These are 10 summer cottage records that won’t leave you up the creek without a paddle.

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Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country

Full of swampy mysticism and deep, wiry roots, CCR’s sophomore release is all about locking into a good rhythm and riding it into the distance. Whether you have a paddle in hand or not, you’ll be rollin’ down the river in no time.

The Big Chill OST

This revue of the Motown school of soul brought precious levity to so many interactions between old friends sharing the same roof in Lawrence Kasdan’s boomer flick, and it’ll do the same for you and your pals. Throw it on when you’re all making that big brunch and watch what happens.

The Tragically Hip – Up to Here

Let’s get this out of the way. The Hip and cottage country just go hand in hand, and their debut full-length is backwoods gold. Sure, Phantom Power literally ventures into the Kawarthas (“Bobcaygeon”) while interrogating ivory tower syndrome (“Poets”), but the tall tales and scorched jams that comprise Up to Here are made for bonfires and dockside reprieves. And any station worth their salt on the local FM dial will have that other stuff anyway.

Big Brother and the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills

Cheap Thrills isn’t the best-produced release in Big Brother’s catalogue, but it’s summer all over, bottling the raw energy of their live performances, Joplin’s searing belt piercing the bluesy psychedelic landscape from which it rose.

Neil Young – Harvest

Can’t get the city out of your mind? Let Neil slow things down for you. Just don’t forget to pack your Pono or whatever.

Patti Smith – Horses

Holing up on the lake tends to provoke some rockist appetites, but the genre’s bloated with misogyny, and Horses cuts through it all with surrealist entries that expertly expose it for what it is, all while operating within its more questionably rationalized conventions – not easy listening by any means, but a potent dose of realness. Best reserved for a thinky afternoon in a Muskoka chair, it’s not an obvious choice, but Horses should be mandatory cottage listening.

Best Coast – Crazy For You

Best Coast might be a spiritual argument for the beachy appeal of the North American west, but their hazy indie pop’s enjoyed just as well on docks in Muskoka and the Kawarthas, and their full-length debut stuck as an instant summer classic, drifting through the world in heart-shaped shades.

Mazzy Star – So Tonight That I Might See

With more populist appeal than She Hangs Brightly, Mazzy Star’s 1993 follow-up took their slow and smoky psychedelic country sound in new hypnotic directions, producing a dream pop classic in “Fade Into You” while pursuing more esoteric studies like “Mary of Silence” and its heavily distorted organ drone. It’s perfect stuff to take in under a sky full of stars.

Television – Marquee Moon

Powered by the subtle twang of offset Fenders that motor off on searching solos all slightly out of tune, it’s a city-born classic that demands to be heard in the open air, and you can be sure it’ll make for some epic fireside air guitaring.

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

Maybe the only album that’ll match the volume and blurry intensity of your late night fireworks display – throw it on and watch everyone pretend they know the words (no one does).