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Canadian Indie Rock Bands

Music | By The Top 13 on April 12, 2010

Today marks the start of Juno Week, the seven-day Canadian music industry event that culminates this weekend with the presentation of the 2010 Juno Awards. The awards are presented annually by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to acknowledge the artistic and technical achievements of Canadian artists. Considering how many of our favorite bands from north of the border that have been nominated or won Juno Awards in the past, we decided to mark this year's festivities by counting down our Top 13 Canadian Indie Rock Bands.

The Top 13 Canadian Indie Rock Bands is brought to you in conjunction with the recently redesigned Consequence of Sound, one of the Internet's fastest growing destinations for music news and reviews, and our first stop for news and rumors about music festival lineups.

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Arcade Fire


Arcade Fire

One of Canada's most successful indie exports, Arcade Fire released two of the most critically acclaimed albums of the 2000s. The Montreal-based band's theatrical debut full-length Funeral is rightfully considered one of the very best albums of last decade (our readers ranked it second) and the band won a Juno for its songwriting on the album. Arcade Fire's follow-up, Neon Bible, once again perfectly displayed the band's unique multi-instrumental approach, and picked up a Juno for Best Alternative Album. A new album and a summer festival tour are on tap.

Broken Social Scene


Broken Social Scene

Perhaps more of a collective than a band, Broken Social Scene is anchored by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning. The Toronto-based band features a revolving cast of musicians who are themselves some of Canada's most accomplished indie rockers, such as Emily Haines, Feist (who ranks seventh on this Top 13 for her solo work), Jason Collett, Charles Spearin, and Andrew Whiteman. At once orchestral and discordant, Broken Social Scene - whose next studio album is due in May - released two of the finest indie rock albums of the 2000s in You Forgot It in People and a self-titled follow-up, both of which received Juno Awards for Alternative Album of the Year.

Wolf Parade


Wolf Parade

With songwriting and vocals split between keyboardist Spencer Krug and guitarist Dan Boeckner, Wolf Parade's debut full-length Apologies to the Queen Mary is a chaotic, yet cohesive, masterpiece. While the band's sophomore effort, At Mount Zoomer, doesn't reach the heights of the debut, it's still a fantastic follow-up. Wolf Parade is now on tour and its third album is due in June. The band also has spawned two successful spin-offs - Krug's proggy Sunset Rubdown and Boeckner's electro-punk Handsome Furs, whose latest release is up for this year's Juno for Alternative Album of the Year.

The New Pornographers


The New Pornographers

Over a ten-year career, this band has been consistently exceptional, releasing four near-perfect indie pop albums, with another due next month. The New Pornographers alternate vocals from Carl Newman, Neko Case, and Dan Bejar, each of whom has had significant success away from this band, though neither Case nor Bejar are a sure thing to appear at any particular New Pornographers live show. The band won the Juno Award for Best Alternative Album for their debut Mass Romantic and they received another nomination in that category for their 2005 classic Twin Cinema.

Eric's Trip


Eric's Trip

Though this Eastern Canada noise-pop quartet enjoyed only modest commercial success during its six-year run during the first-half of the 1990s, Eric's Trip is notable as the first band from north of the border to be signed to Sub Pop. The band, named after a Sonic Youth song, released each of its three full-length albums on the Seattle label. One of the band's vocalists - Julie Doiron – has gone on to a successful solo career that's included a Juno Award for Best Alternative Album in 2000 and another nomination this year.




One of the most successful and enduring Canadian bands since the release of their 1992 debut Smeared, Sloan's first two albums were actually released in the United States on Geffen. But after a dispute with that major label about marketing of Sloan's fantastic sophomore effort Twice Removed, Sloan has largely gone the indie route. From Halifax, but now based in Toronto, this quartet consistently creates high-quality power pop reminiscent of the Beatles. Sloan has been nominated for nine Juno Awards, with their 1996 album One Chord to Another winning for Best Alternative Album.




Sometimes Broken Social Scene member Leslie Feist released her first solo album, the out-of-print Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down) in 1999. But Feist didn't gain significant acclaim on her own until 2004's Let It Die for which she won Juno Awards for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album. Three years later, she become a household name with The Reminder, which features the infectious "1234," and for which she won five more Juno Awards, including Artist of the Year and Album of the Year. Feist will appear next month on Broken Social Scene's new album.




Islands formed in the wake of the 2005 end of another favorite Canadian indie of ours, the quirky Unicorns, whose Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? was a groundbreaking lo-fi effort. Former Unicorns Nick Thorburn and Jaime Thompson quickly formed Islands and released the band's fantastic Juno nominated debut, Return to the Sea. With some personnel adjustments, Islands has since put out two more off-beat but well-received indie pop records. Thorburn is currently at work on a new project with Man Man's Honus Honus and Joe Plummer of the Shins and Modest Mouse.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor


Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Over three studio albums (a fourth, All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Drooling, was a 1994 cassette release limited to 33 copies that is the holy grail for post-rock fans), this band has established itself as an innovative and influential instrumental collective. The classic 2000 double-album Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven best showcases the hypnotic, building tracks created by the group's ten or so musicians. Godspeed's extended current hiatus will come to an end in December, when the band curates and plays an All Tomorrow's Parties festival in England.




Though this band actually spent its nascent days in New York City, the members of Stars quickly relocated to Montreal and have been based there ever since. They've released four albums full of luxurious indie rock, most notably their Juno-nominated albums Heart and Set Yourself on Fire, the band’s flawless second and third releases. Just about all the member of Stars - including Torquil Campbell, Amy Millan, Chris Seligman, and Evan Cranley - also have performed with Broken Social Scene, and like that band, Stars is putting the finishing touches of a new album.

Hot Hot Heat


Hot Hot Heat

On the strength of their acclaimed live shows and a string of self-released singles, Hot Hot Heat caught the attention of Sub Pop, which signed the band and released its debut full-length in 2002. Make Up the Breakdown - recorded by famed grunge producer Jack Endino - was a critically acclaimed dance punk masterpiece that picked up a Juno nomination for Alternative Album of the Year. The album's success led to the band singing with Warner Bros., which released Hot Hot Heat's next two albums. The band is scheduled to release its fourth full-length in June on the Canadian indie label Dine Alone Records.

Tegan and Sara


Tegan and Sara

Fronted by identical twins Tegan and Sara Quin, this band has developed a devoted following since releasing its debut album in 1999. Originally signed by legendary Canadian Neil Young, the folk-rock duo each play guitar and keyboards, and take turns writing and singing the songs on their six much-celebrated studio albums, the last two of which largely were produced by Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie. Tegan and Sara has been nominated for four Juno Awards, including for Best Alternative Album this year for the band's most recent release, Sainthood.

Death from Above 1979


Death from Above 1979

Though they released only a single full-length album - the acclaimed You're a Woman, I'm a Machine - before breaking up in August of 2006, the dance punk duo known as Death From Above 1979 remains influential today. With just Jesse Keeler on bass and synth and Sebastien Grainger on vocals and drums, the band still managed to create a massive sound. Today, Keeler's focus is MSTRKRFT, his electronic collaboration with Al-P, while Grainger is scheduled to release a second solo album this year. Watch Death From Above 1979's amazing performance - featuring Max Weinberg - on Late Night with Conan O'Brien below.

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Comments Leave a comment

KungFuJay ★★

No King Khan???

8:31 AM   Apr 12, 2010

stillathreat ★★

No thanks on King Khan, but cases could definitely be made for the Weakerthans, Metric, and Final Fantasy. And how can Eric's Trip be that high?

8:42 AM   Apr 12, 2010


Ditto on the Weakerthans. i'd rank them kilometers ahead of any of these 13.

8:57 AM   Apr 12, 2010


No Metric? WTF?

9:08 AM   Apr 12, 2010



7:57 PM   Apr 12, 2010



9:41 AM   Apr 12, 2010

ajay ★★

Though I would include Metric in the top 3 and bump up Islands and Stars, it's a good list.

9:46 AM   Apr 12, 2010


How old is this list and what are the qualifications for "indie"? Talk about being lazy. When was the last time hot hot heat did anything, do they even have a label anymore? Wolf Parade? Is this from 2004 maybe? Canadian music is actually doing well and defining it's own, maybe dig a little deeper beyond what's managed to make it over the border.

12:35 PM   Apr 12, 2010


This is clearly not meant to be the Top 13 Current Canadian Indie Bands - the list looks at long-term impact and quality of the music. And although it doesn't matter, to answer your question, both Hot Hot Heat and Wolf Parade have albums due in the next month or so.

12:42 PM   Apr 12, 2010

KungFuJay ★★

Hot Hot Hot does suck.

1:11 PM   Apr 12, 2010


While Hot Hot Heat may suck, you suck even more for questioning Wolf Parade :)

12:58 PM   Apr 13, 2010


I'd have metric on the list, and i think wolf parade is too high. Other than that im ok with it.

1:07 PM   Apr 12, 2010

PulpAffliction ★★



2:27 PM   Apr 12, 2010

PulpAffliction ★★

(but, for real, GY!BE should be #4.)

2:27 PM   Apr 12, 2010


You forgot Boards of Canada and Of Montreal!!!

3:08 PM   Apr 12, 2010

KungFuJay ★★

I got a good chuckle out of this one.

4:06 PM   Apr 12, 2010


The list was very obvious except for the awesome #5 showing of Eric's Trip. Talk unexpected to see.

8:05 PM   Apr 12, 2010

tloveisready ★★

Canada is such a joke

9:45 AM   Apr 14, 2010


a decent list but i would have had the acorn and ohbijou in there.

12:34 PM   Apr 18, 2010


I guess it comes down to which Canadian bands make it outside of Canada. By in large this isn't a great list. BSS were once something but have merely become a vehicle for Kevin Drew to spew his nonsense. Metric? Stars? Hot Hot Heat? Wow. I guess it is a list of the top 13 bands known in the US. Following this logic Sunset Rubdown should be here at the very least.

2:10 PM   Jan 10, 2011

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