I've been to Canada a lot in the past year, and I've come to the conclusion that our brothers and sisters in the Great White North are churning out records that make the States' musical output look like a Baptist Sunday School singalong.
Say what you want about how we created rock 'n' roll and rap and The Grind and everything. But look: The Grind premiered 20 years ago, which in Internet time is about three millennia. Let's take a look at right now. In a very short time, Canada has spawned music for all types of humans and situations: Feist for your first dates, Grimes for your post-Internet road trips, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan for your visionary experi-sludge seshes, Arcade Fire for thumbing wistfully through your cousin's yearbook, Deadmau5 for your company's digital marketing team, Metz for when you're sick of your Mudhoney records, TRUST for all those Klonopin sleepovers… the list is longer than that, but you see where I'm going.
I'm not saying that the States doesn't have it's own totally respectable music thing going on, or Canada doesn't rip us off every chance they get. I'm saying there are a series of conditions at play up there that bands to grow in ways that make me jealous. Here are all the things about Canada that make their pop music a bajillion times better.
CANADIANS HAVE HEALTHCARE
This is a big one: Every single Canadian is delivered health care through a publicly-funded system which, for all intents and purposes, is completely free. This means that Canadians don't give a single crap about putting themselves in dangerous situations and getting fucked up literally all the time. This makes them extremely fun to hang out with, and makes their music infinitely better than ours. Look at GG Allin, or Mac DeMarco, who crams microphones up his butthole because he knows if he gets E. coli he can just scoot down to the clinic and get a pill.
CANADIANS BANDS GET GRANT MONEY
In America, the government considers music a hair above porno on its list of industries to give a shit about. Not so up north. In Canada, any musician, no matter how dog-doo awful, can score massive amounts of funding from public and private grants to fund their new poutine-core band. All they have to do is prove that they'll be spreading the musical legacy of Canada across the land. This means that people in Canada can actually expect to receive some sort of compensation for their contributions to the musical landscape. Isn't that funny and weird and foreign? It's almost like music has monetary value to them!
There is no greater music journalist on this planet than Nardwuar. You know him, that funny nerd punk guy from Vancouver who does annoyingly well-researched and enthusiastic interviews with bands and rappers and what not. Nardwuar has reached a state of perfect cosmic unity, and when he dies we'll all talk about him like he was Eduard Hanslick or something. Forty, Love.
WINNIPEG PUBLIC ACCESS TV
While we haven't had anything remotely relevant to music on TV since Glenn O'Brien, bored teenagers in Winnipeg are naming their bands Mental Note and belting out songs about weed on public access.
THE PEOPLE ARE REALLY NICE AND WELL-ADJUSTED
If you've ever been in a band, you know that the people you work with immediately turn into maniacal hosebeasts once they've got a guitar or microphone or drumstick in their grubby little dickbeaters. On tour, I've had one of those giant hotel room chairs thrown at my face because my bandmate slept with my ex-girlfriend - I didn't even do anything! Situations like that make normal musicians want to quit bands.
Canada is the only country in the world where the rest of your band will stick with you when you're late to practice the ninth time in a row because you were out all night doing weird drugs after your DJ set and you feel like William Hurt at the end of Altered States. This perennial kindness has a tendency to lubricate band practice to the point where band meetings feel like yoga sessions and all your songs sound like "Kumbaya."
IT'S FUCKING COLD
Really cold. My girlfriend grew up in Canada. A few nights ago, after I'd finished an ill-advised complaint session about the nippy December weather in New York, she smiled politely and informed me that in 1996 she survived a Winnipeg winter with wind chills of up to -57 degrees Celsius.
-57 degrees Celsius! That's translates to -70 degrees Fahrenheit, which is so ass-clenchingly cold that if you're outside for more than five minutes your fingers start to snap off like Olive Garden breadsticks.
This means that Canadians literally do not go outside during a large portion of the year. Instead, they order MicroKORGs off eBay and actually learn how to use them. You know every time you go to a basement show in the states and there's the guy with a bunch of gear that he doesn't know how to use? That happens in Canada too, I guess. But not as much. Because it's so cold.
I mean just look at him. If I knew I was part of the same cultural lineage as "Shakey" himself I'd be standing prouder than a honeymooner's doinker.
CANADIAN ABORIGINAL MUSIC
This is obviously a thorny path to walk down, but the music of the First Peoples of Canada puts Native American music to absolute shame. If you're sick of all your new agey Sioux and Navajo seven-inches, dig into the back catalog of the Subarctic Aboriginal People: When you're living nomadically off snow and the occasional marmot, you start playing far out recitative vocal music with mind-numbingly complex rhythmic organization, and you sing in that creepy black metal throat-whistle that sounds like Vin Diesel croaking through a mechanical larynx.
CANADA HAS HOTTER GIRLS THAN AMERICA
It's a well-documented fact that, gender notwithstanding, Canadians are hotter than Americans. Now I'm not trying to be sexist here, but let's just be real with ourselves: There are more men playing pop music today than women. I wish this wasn't the case, but it's objectively true, because most women (besides dancers and performance history majors) are smart enough to avoid professions with no real hope of money, recognition, or basic respect.
French Canadian girls are probably the biggest sexual deviants in the hemisphere, but English-speaking Canadian women don't put out at all. Since 100% of dudes are in bands to meet girls, this hotness quotient makes Canadian bands push themselves that extra bit harder, and helps them convince the bassist to stop farting around and wearing sweatpants onstage.
Follow Ben on Twitter - @b_shap
Do you think America's still number one? Check out Noisey editor Drew Millard's counterpoint - Reasons Why American Music is Better Than Canadian Music
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