November 22, 2007

Great Canadian Music

A brief discussion in my Film and Lit class prompted me to write a post. One of the books and films we've been studying has been Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter. The overwhelming consensus was that both the book and the film are absolute masterpieces, brilliant gems in a landscape of dust and rock. But one comment in particular got me to thinking. An intelligent young woman, savvy and knowledgeable commented that this is the first time she's ever experienced something Canadian and enjoyed it. In fact she professed a dislike for all Canadian television, film, and music. Heavy words to me, but there were a lot of nods of agreement after the comment was made.

Frustration with Canadian film and television is a topic all on its own. I'll tackle Canadian music for now. Brilliant music can be found buried in the Canadian Music scene, but it's hard to know where to start. The sad truth is, the bands that take the forefront are often talentless and generic. One only has to listen to the great musical rip-off known as Nickelback to understand what I mean. Truly horrifying.

There is the proverbial list of the well knowns --The Tragically Hip, Sarah McLachlan, Chantal Kreviazuk, Avril Lavigne all who have achieved success in their own rights. But there is so much more beneath the surface here, so many bands that have come in and out of the music scene without the acknowledgment they deserved. Most of them, in my humble opinion, more interesting and unique than the artists I've already mentioned (and yes, I do like The Hip).

Bands like Chore (in my mind one of the best ever), Alive and Living, A Northern Chorus, create amazing atmosphere with their non-mainstream, lyrical and often beautiful work. Their use of violins, distortion, clear melodic voice, and hints of the prairies embody many elements of what I consider to be Canadian music. And we can dig into other indie greats too, the magnificent punk band The Smalls. Check out My Saddle Horse Has Died. Brilliant. Of course, they've disbanded as well. But their bassist, Corb Lund has written some intelligent, alternative country that many are taking note of (not much for country myself). If you check out the record label Sonic Unyon you'll find a ton of lesser known, but amazing bands.

It's out there people, but you gotta dig. Find the Indie bands. There are so many bands and genres I've left out, much of it due to my own ignorance. But surely we all can find music with substance, songs that actually illicit a genuine response. Find them, let me know about them. Support the Indie music scene. Say no to generic, boring, tasteless tripe that sounds like everything else you hear on the radio.


Ken Dyck said...

Well said, Harry.

It's hard to overstate the value of exploring outside of the mainstream -- whether you're talking geographical regions or musical styles. I feel my life would be a whole lot emptier had I not followed an interest in jazz when I was in high school. These days, it's all I listen to.

Sadly, many people measure the value of a piece of music by how much it sounds like what's already popular. But even that seems to be changing.

Online stores give us access to a much broader selection of music than was ever available to pre-internet record stores.

The mainstream is shrinking as it branches off in to thousands of tiny sub-genres. The obscure Canadian act has a better shot than ever of finding an audience, and a tougher time than ever of making it big.

Thanks for sharing your favourites.

Harry Tournemille said...

Interesting comments, Ken. You may be correct with your assessment of acts finding an audience, but never making it big. I wonder if it's important to make it big, though? Clearly something happens to a band's music when they're at the top of the food chain, but also at the mercy of the labels.

As for online music, I wholeheartedly agree about the easy access to a wider range. However, music quality is an issue. Because of the file sizes a lot of the high and low ends of songs are trimmed, reducing the "full" experience of the song itself. Bit of a shame, I think. Sort of a quantity over quality issue.

harpoon said...

The music industry is currently a steaming, heaping wreck. They inbred their retarded kids, New Kids became Backstreet Boys, and husha husha, they're all falling down.

A friend and I were recently trying to think of a Canadian band with a good name, it's nearly impossible to come up with one.

From my perspective being in a ton of bands out here, Canadian bands never made it because we were caught between the UK's influence of songwriting and melody and the US' beat-driven fare. A bit of both only got the crossover kids. Mind, that's my perspective as of 8 years ago.

The East coast has some good stuff too (Broken Social Scene, The Dears, Stars) that are getting some success. But it's tough, most people assume music should be free nowadays.