The Aughts was such an interesting time for indie music. It was the era where rock groups were metabolizing what they learned from the independent rock groups of the 90s to cement “indie” as its own genre, emblematic of a sound and aesthetic rather than actual financial standing. During this indie boom, there was something fascinating happening by way of our northern neighbors: a hyper-prolific Canadian indie rock output that mobilized through collectives.
Outside of the gargantuan Arcade Fire and cult favorite The Unicorns, it seemed like every popular product of Canadian indie rock in the 2000s was created by collectives and supergroups, or an act that moonlights in one of them. I’ve broken them up into the four following (very unofficial) categories:
Although there is an overlap between some of these groups, each can be categorized loosely by their aesthetic. The Arts & Crafts troupe trafficked heavily in bedroom pop. No matter how large the collective was at a given moment, their songs about love and relationships almost always feel potently pocket-sized. The New Pornographers also sing a lot about love and relationships but distinguish themselves through intellectualism. Whether through quip or hook, their muscles are perpetually flexed. Spencer Krug and company are marked by a lovably animalistic quality, both in lyric and sound. These projects are fueled by a visceral rambling that often seem comfortably out of control. Constellation Records is the easiest to classify. It’s a post-rock label whose bands had the ability to be simultaneously personal, apocalyptic and political.
Outside of Feist’s impressive sophomore LP, The Reminder, very few of these records were heard by mainstream audiences. It’s striking how many names on that list have become completely irrelevant, even within the indie music scene. Unless I’m just incredibly out of touch. Some of them continue to make interesting music. Well, mainly just Dan Bejar and his compatriots. Many of the rest have disbanded or become dormant. I saw Broken Social Scene at P4K, this past July, and I believe 100% of their set was from material pressed years ago.
Whether relevant now or not, many of these projects turned out wonderful work that showcase an indie boom faction of remarkable proliferation and collaboration. They deserve their own Easy Riders, Raging Bulls...except a perfectly tranquil and utopian version that all too well fits the Canadian stereotype of friendliness and passivity.
The following are some of the best songs from this moment of Canadian collaboration.