A love letter to Canadian music with Thrush Hermit’s From the Back of the Film

It’s the Canada Day long weekend here in the true north strong and free (okay even Edmonton isn’t that far north, but it’s part of our national identity so forgive me). It seems like as good a time as any to say something:

Dear Canadian Music,

I love you. Maybe I should be more coy in expressing my feelings but I really can’t.

You’re rich in content and diverse in sound, with terrific music produced from coast to coast to coast. This week’s song, Thrush Hermit‘s From the Back of the Film is just one of the many that have become a permanent part of the soundtrack of my life (this one more than most, as friends may recognize it as the ring tone on my phone). The Halifax band was too short lived but also much loved. And lead singer Joel Plaskett didn’t fade into obscurity when  they broke up in 1999. His solo career and efforts with the Joel Plaskett Emergency have solidified his place in the your pantheon. Having seen him live again a few months ago, there could hardly be anyone who enjoys making music on stage more than Plaskett. His enthusiasm is as infectious as his feigned indifference is charming in this video.

It was on a cold and stormy autumn night in 1992 when the blindfold came off and I saw that you were  more than a remembrance of the Yorkville nights in the 60s that brought us Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Friends dragged me to the Carleton University campus to see The Scatterbrains. Hours late because of the storm, they rocked a very late night show that blew my mind. So much so that I forgot to call home to say I’d be late and spent the next week or so grounded. I didn’t care: you were totally worth it.

Over the years, sleepless nights have been filled with trying to decipher experimental pieces from Do, Make, Say, Think or track down the hundred or so projects with ties to Broken Social Scene. I get updates on underground tapes from Weird Canada and follow Kelp Records, a label that not only puts out some of the best  independent music but doesn’t shy away from working with opera singers. Alberta punk shows with terrific bands like The Mandates remind me to always bring ear plugs to shows but also that there’s more to you than the smart and melodic indie rock I’ve often written about.

Much of this range and depth seems to come from your impressive long-term response to Canadian content regulations, which license radio stations on the basis of a required amount of Canadian-created content. With the percentage increasing over the years, the answer could have been to look for cheap ways to subvert the system. Instead, you’ve become a rich community of musicians, producers and writers that provides material of the highest quality. With all the radio listening choice in the world, I rarely need look further than the all-Canadian CBC Radio 3 and my local campus community station CJSR. Why would I, your music is that good.

So thank you Canadian song writers, musicians, producers, engineers, record labels, writers, venues, radio hosts and everyone else. You make the sound track I live better every day.

With love,


Author: mcshanahan

Science education researcher and writer

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