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Plaskett primer: the top 15 songs by Joel Plaskett

Emma Godmere

Every year, CBC Radio 3 awards a Lifetime Achievement Bucky to a true pioneer of the Canadian music scene — someone who has paved the way for artists to come. Joel Plaskett fits the bill perfectly: his incredible career has spanned more than 20 years and included 17 studio releases (between his first band, Thrush Hermit, his solo work, his recordings with the Emergency and other projects) but he shows no signs of slowing down. While he continues to tour and write new songs, Plaskett has also helped usher in a new cohort of Canadian talent, mentoring and producing new artists (he’s currently working with Mo Kenney and Colleen Brown on new releases) and most recently becoming a judge for CBC Music’s Song Quest.

There’s no doubt that Plaskett is a prolific national icon: he has been played on Radio 3 since its inception, and can count four Buckys among his long list of various awards and accolades — which now becomes five with this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

In honour of Plaskett’s latest accomplishment, we’re taking a look at 15 of the best and most celebrated songs from his career so far, many of which have been played on Radio 3 time and time again (and boy, do we hope there are many, many more to come!). Check out each of the song picks in our list below.

15. 'Snowed In' (from 2007's Ashtray Rock)

This rocking track that effectively serves as every Canadian’s winter anthem is off of Plaskett’s first record to make the Polaris Music Prize short list. (This photo is actually from Plaskett’s performance at the 2007 Polaris gala. Alas, he lost to Patrick Watson that year.)

14. 'Television Set' (from 2005's La De Da)

This beautifully quirky song is off Plaskett’s second solo album (after two albums with the Emergency) that saw him travel all the way to Phoenix, Ariz., when producer — and Plaskett fan — Bob Hoag invited him to record for free.

13. 'You're Mine' (from 2012's Scrappy Happiness)

For his latest album, Plaskett reunited with the Emergency to record one song a week for 10 weeks — and released each track as soon as it was completed. While this track is the third on the formally packaged album, it was the first to be released by the trio in this on-the-go format. You can check out a clip of Plaskett and co. working on “You’re Mine” here.

12. 'Deny, Deny, Deny' (from 2009's Three)

This upbeat, fiddle-infused track is from Plaskett’s second album to be shortlisted for the Polaris Prize. Three presented a pattern-lover’s paradise: it’s a triple album. It was released when Plaskett was 33. Each disc has nine songs on it, and many of the track titles repeat words three times (like in this very song). And the release date of 3/24/09 is divisible by three. Amazing.

11. 'From the Back of the Film' (from Thrush Hermit's 1999 album Clayton Park)

Yes, that shaggy-haired looker on the left is none other than Joel Plaskett, not quite a solo artist at that point. Here, he’s pictured with the 1990s alt-rock band Thrush Hermit. The band was founded in 1992, when Plaskett was only 17, and obviously formed the basis for his musical career. This track is off their last album, as the band called it quits shortly before the turn of the millennium.

10. 'Extraordinary' (from 2005's Truthfully, Truthfully)

This might be one of the most boisterous, feel-good songs in Plaskett’s catalogue, from his second album with the Emergency, a.k.a Dave Marsh and Tim Brennan. (Plaskett regales us with a great story about how the Emergency came together on the 2013 Bucky Awards Podcast — check it out.)

9. 'Face of the Earth' (from 2007's Ashtray Rock)

This tearjerker of a track is the second on this list from 2007’s Ashtray Rock, a concept record/rock opera Plaskett wrote that is loosely based on some of his own experiences as a teenager growing up on the East Coast. (Contrary to what some believe, “Ashtray Rock” is not meant to be a style of music, but is rather an actual rock in an actual park Plaskett frequently visited as a teen and references in the album.)

8. 'A Million Dollars' (from 2006's Make A Little Noise EP)

Joel Plaskett, movie star?! Plaskett was featured in the 2008 film One Week as a busker (pictured), performing this lovely song that ended up soundtracking a lovelorn flashback. If anyone was meant to soundtrack lovelorn flashbacks, it’s probably Joel Plaskett.

7. 'Maybe We Should Just Go Home' (from 2001's Down at the Khyber)

The video for this song off 2001’s Down At The Khyber was one of the first by Plaskett and the Emergency to really gain traction on MuchMusic, back in the day. There seems to be a running theme of hospitals and emergencies when it comes to Plaskett — while this video may be a nod to that (as was the title of his debut album, In Need of Medical Attention), the “Emergency” of the Joel Plaskett Emergency is actually just a reference to the last-minute nature in which the band came together.

6. 'Lightning Bolt' (from 2012's Scrappy Happiness)

This track, the second off 2012’s Scrappy Happiness to make the list, scored last year’s coveted song of the year Bucky Award, and is an undeniable jam.

5. 'Fashionable People' (from 2007's Ashtray Rock)

The third on this list from the celebrated Ashtray Rock record, "Fashionable People" was nominated for the 2007 CBC Radio 3 Bucky Award for best falsetto and won. “There’s a falsetto in the main hook that everyone knows,” Plaskett told us, “but there’s even … like, a Grammy-award winning falsetto in the high harmony.”

4. 'True Patriot Love' (from 2001's Down at the Khyber)

This classic track from Down at the Khyber was one of the first to really break through on Radio 3 back in the day. It undoubtedly helped him become the first R3 artist to garner one million plays on his CBC artist page.

3. 'Through & Through & Through' (from 2009's Three)

Yes, Plaskett picked up yet another Bucky Award for this song — if you’re counting, he’s now at five Buckys, including the 2013 Lifetime Achievement prize. This track won him the best lyric Bucky in 2009, and may or may not have influenced Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.”

2. 'Nowhere With You' (from 2006's Make A Little Noise EP)

“Nowhere With You” is arguably Plaskett’s biggest mainstream success, getting airplay on radio stations across the country after its placement in a national Zellers commercial . Plaskett shared with us an adorable story about how he came up with the title for this track: he has mentioned he was heading out, “going nowhere,” when his wife, Rebecca, asked him, “Well — can I go nowhere with you?” And thus, a hit was born.

1. 'Love This Town' (from 2005's La De Da)

There’s a backstory to this love letter to Halifax: sure, the city itself was inspiration enough for this acoustic track, but it was the community’s reaction to a friend’s misfortunes that really provided the foundation for the song. As Plaskett described at a recent live show, the lyric “there’ll be drinks on the house if your house burns down” reflects a true story of when a local bartender extended such generosity to none other than fellow singer-songwriter Al Tuck. This heartfelt tune is undoubtedly one of Plaskett’s best and most celebrated (especially when he shamelessly calls out Kelowna, B.C., in what is likely one of the kindest-sung burns in Canadian music history).