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From Tegan and Sara to Stars: 10 Canadian albums turning 10 in 2014

Emma Godmere

Ah, 2004. It may only be 10 years ago, but boy, was it a different era: Facebook and Gmail were only just seeing the light of day. People were still learning what "blogs" were. The federal Liberal Party was elected to form a minority government, and George W. Bush beat John Kerry to lead the U.S. for another four years. Martha Stewart was sentenced to five months in jail. Same-sex marriage was only just becoming legal in certain jurisdictions in North America.

Feel old yet? Just wait until you start thinking back to what you were listening to a decade ago.

Believe it or not, several seminal Canadian albums from now-revered and highly respected artists will turn 10 years old in 2014. Check out the list below to find out (and learn more about) which records are celebrating an aluminum anniversary in the coming months.

Chad VanGaalen, Infiniheart (released Jan. 20, 2004)

Reception: Calgary’s Chad VanGaalen won over enough audiences with his eclectic debut that he earned opening set spots for such high-profile acts as the Pixies, Built to Spill and Wolf Parade, and caught the attention of several notable indie labels (see below). 

Song you’ll know: Likely “Blood Machine.” It was commended as a standout track by numerous reviewers

And maybe you didn’t know: Infiniheart was VanGaalen’s first widely released album, following several independent, homemade CD releases. He experienced a bit of a “bidding war” among several indie labels who wanted to pick him up. He eventually signed with Sub Pop, which VanGaalen described as “a wet dream come true." Sub Pop released Infiniheart in the U.S. in 2005.

Chromeo, She's in Control (released Feb. 17, 2004)

Reception: Reviews for the Montreal duo’s dance-driven debut were favourable — and several cuts were heard frequently in clubs around the globe, a big help in spreading the word in this pre-YouTube era. 

Song you’ll know: “Needy Girl.” It “was like a musical passport,” according to Chromeo’s Dave-1. The song “went all around the world and DJs played it everywhere.”

And maybe you didn’t know: These old school pals had been making waves in Montreal hip-hop circles until DJ mastermind Tiga coaxed them into working on something more electronic. He signed the pair to his Turbo label for She’s in Control.  

They also have a new album coming out this year (OK, maybe you knew that) — you can look forward to the release of White Women this spring.

Feist, Let it Die (released May 18, 2004)

Reception: Reigning indie queen Leslie Feist’s breakthrough sophomore album captured two Juno Awards in 2005 after being nominated for three (she walked home with best alternative album and best new artist). In 2012, Toronto’s NOW Magazine placed Let It Die at number four on their “50 Best Toronto Albums Ever” list. 

Song you’ll know: “Mushaboom,” obviously. Chances are, you got into Feist through that song, long before “1234.” The track appeared in a 2005 Lacoste commercial

And maybe you didn’t know: This wasn’t actually her debut album, though it’s sometimes mistaken for it (and, granted, it is considered her breakthrough album, though you could argue 2007’s The Reminder expanded her audience even more). The 1999 record Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down), which is now out of print, was Feist’s official debut.

A.C. Newman, The Slow Wonder (released June 8, 2004)

Reception: The first solo album from the New Pornographers frontman got a score of 80 out of 100 on Metacritic, meaning there were some pretty favourable reviews across the board. It was heralded in some circles as one of the best albums of the year — a decent feat, considering he was pretty darn busy with the New Pornographers and their excellent albums in the years preceding (Electric Version) and following (Twin Cinema).

Song you’ll know: “On the Table." Not only is it a standalone hit, but if you were an avid, shameless viewer of The O.C. in 2005, you'll know it appeared on the fourth mix released from the TV series.

And maybe you didn’t know: Allan Carl Newman officially took on the “A.C.” moniker as he kicked off his solo career, partly because “it sounded like a pseudonym.” (He has been called just “Carl” otherwise.) Bonus: John Collins, his New Pornographers bandmate, produced The Slow Wonder (and he even co-produced another album on this list, Tegan and Sara’s So Jealous).

Sam Roberts, We Were Born in a Flame (released Aug. 13, 2004)

Reception: Montreal rocker Sam Roberts stormed through our radios and into our hearts with We Were Born in a Flame, which scored two Juno Awards in 2004 for album of the year and rock album of the year (alongside Roberts’ win for artist of the year).

Song you’ll know: You’ll know several, actually: “Where Have All The Good People Gone?” and “Brother Down” and “Don’t Walk Away Eileen” and even “Hard Road” got some solid spins in ‘04, whether through music videos or commercial airplay or both. (A couple of those received earlier buzz via their inclusion on 2002’s The Inhuman Condition EP.)

And maybe you didn’t know: This is considered his first full-length commercial release, following the limited releases of The Inhuman Condition EP and Brother Down. Roberts also played every instrument on the album, save for percussion.

k-os, Joyful Rebellion (released Aug. 13, 2004)

Reception: Toronto rapper Kevin Brereton’s second album under the k-os moniker went platinum in Canada, selling more than 100,000 copies. He also scooped up two MuchMusic Video Awards, three Junos and two Canadian Urban Music Awards for the effort.

Song you’ll know: As if you even need to ask. “Crabbuckit” won the Juno for single of the year in 2005 and is probably ear-worming its way into your brain right now.

And maybe you didn’t know: k-os ruffled some feathers when a lyric in the album’s first single, “B-Boy Stance,” was interpreted as a knock against fellow Toronto rapper K’naan. The beef has since been settled, after K’naan responded with some wisecracks of his own in “Revolutionary Avocado.” But don’t worry, they really are cool now.

Stars, Set Yourself on Fire (released Sept. 14, 2004)

Reception: Toronto-bred and Montreal-based indie-pop heroes Stars’ third album is often considered their strongest and most well received. Set Yourself on Fire was nominated for the 2005 alternative album of the year Juno, but lost to Feist. Nevertheless, the record snuck its way onto Billboard’s Top Heatseekers and Top Alternative Albums charts and reached eager ears in the U.S. and UK.

Song you’ll know: “Ageless Beauty” for its ability to win everyone over every time it plays, and “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” because it was also featured on The O.C. and Degrassi and apparently even So You Think You Can Dance.

And maybe you didn’t know: It’s a sex record. Or was often lauded as such, even by vocalist Amy Millan herself. It could be why you’ve been infatuated with it for the last decade.

Tegan and Sara, So Jealous (released Sept. 14, 2004)

Reception: Despite the odd poor rating, Tegan and Sara’s fourth album was lauded by many and levelled out with an average score of 70 out of 100 on Metacritic. Numerous tracks snagged placements on such hit shows du jour asGrey’s AnatomyVeronica Mars and One Tree Hill.

Song you’ll know: “Walking With a Ghost,” certainly. And if you were an avid viewer of that first season of Grey’s Anatomy, you can add “I Won’t Be Left” and “Where Does the Good Go” and “You Wouldn’t Like Me” to this list.

And maybe you didn’t know: The White Stripes covered “Walking With a Ghost” in 2005 and released an entire EP around it. It sounds exactly like you'd imagine it would.

Arcade Fire, Funeral (released Sept. 14, 2004)

Reception: The Montreal megaband’s debut disc scored a Grammy nod for best alternative music album and catapulted them to indie darling status. Funeral appeared on countless best-of-the-year lists — it’s second only to Radiohead’s Kid A in the amount of appearances it made on end-of-decade top 10 lists from publications around the globe.

Song you’ll know: “Rebellion (Lies),” unless you’ve been living under a rock since the turn of the millennium. “Wake Up” also played during Super Bowl commercials in 2010, and the band donated proceeds from the song’s airing to Haiti earthquake relief efforts.

And maybe you didn’t know: Funeral made it onto Rolling Stone’s 2012 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (number 151, but still).

Death From Above 1979, You're a Woman, I'm a Machine (released Oct. 26, 2004)

Reception: Toronto-bred rock duo Death From Above 1979 have released only one album to date, but it was enough to cultivate a horde of dedicated fans. You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine has sold more than 50,000 copies in Canada (certified gold!), which of course means they broke scores of hearts when they ended things in 2006. Luckily, they reunited in 2011 and are apparently working on new material.

Song you’ll know: “Blood On Our Hands” (for which they scored a MuchMusic Video Award) or better yet, “Romantic Rights," their first single.

And maybe you didn’t know: The album’s title apparently gets its name from a verbal exchange between a human and a Cylon in the Battlestar Galactica TV series.