As the largest city in Quebec, Montreal plays a unique role in both Anglophone and Francophone Canada. A majority of the city is bilingual in both French and English giving the city a cosmopolitan flair and vibrancy. The city’s music scene is no less diverse. This playlist highlights all the great artists that make Montreal one of the world’s most musical cities.
1. Wake Up – Arcade Fire – 2004
Founded in 2000 by classmates Win Butler and Josh Deu, Arcade Fire is one of indie rock’s most successful and critically acclaimed bands. Every single one of their albums has been nominated for a Grammy Award and several of their albums such as Funeral and The Suburbs are considered among the best albums of their decade.
2. Comme Des Enfants – Coeur De Pirate – 2009
A francophone pianist and singer-songwriter, Beatrice Martin or Coeur de Pirate is a throwback to the chanson francaise of the 30’s and 40’s. Her blend of French indie pop and folk pop has won her Felix Music Awards as well as making her one of the more commercially successful francophone artists.
3. Oblivion – Grimes – 2012
Although born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Grimes did not start releasing music until she was living in Montreal as a college student at McGill University. Grimes’ music draws on many different genres and styles, including electronica, synth-pop and R&B. While maintaining a distinct indie feel, her music is notable for featuring melodic hooks more common in mainstream pop music.
4. The Great Escape – Patrick Watson – 2006
Oft compared to other folk greats such as Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley, Patrick Watson is one of Montreal’s most successful indie folk artists. He has released eight studio albums and is featured on television and movie soundtracks.
5. I’ll Believe In Anything- Wolf Parade – 2005
With four studio albums and a fifth slated for release in 2020, Parade is one of the most prolific indie bands to emerge from Montreal. Heavily influenced by the indie and post-grunge bands of the Pacific Northwest, Wolf Parade was signed by the gamed Sub Pop label of Seattle and have toured widely throughout the region.
6. Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen – 1984
Before he released a single song, Cohen was already an accomplished poet in Montreal. He would later bring the same lyricism and emotional depth to his five decades as a singer-songwriter. With works that explored themes of religion, politics, depression and death, Cohen gained a reputation as the philosopher king of music. His song Hallelujah remains one of the most critically acclaimed songs in popular music. He has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And in 2011 he received the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature.
7. Lost In The Plot – The Dears – 2003
Led by the husband and wife duo of Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak, The Dears have performed at some of the major music festivals in North America. They have released seven studio albums and over a dozen singles.
8. Lightshow – Plants and Animals – 2010
Nominated for both Juno Awards as well as the 2008 Polaris Music Prize, Plants and Animals are one of Montreal’s rising indie talents. They have since released four studio albums and tour widely through the nation.
9. Natalie – Milk & Bone – 2016
Nominated for the 2015 Polaris Music Prize, Milk & Bone are an electropop duo based in Montreal. They have released three studio albums and are noted for their many collaborations with other artists in hip-hop and synthpop.
10. Not Nice – Naadei – 2017
With a combination of soul, jazz and hip-hop verses, Naadei has collaborated with stars such as 2 Chainz and Wycleaf Jean. Although she does not yet have a studio album out, Naadei is one of the emerging talents of underground Montreal music.
11. Folders – RYAN Playground – 2016
RYAN Playground is the musical side project of Genvieve Martel. Both a model as well as clothing line manager, Martel also produces songs under the name RYAN Playground. The sound is versatile, moving from indie pop to electric R&B.
12. Dis, Quand Reviendras-Tu? – Martha Wainwright – 2005
The daughter of folk singers Loudon Wainwright and Kate McGarrigle, it’s no surprise that Martha Wainwright makes some of the best folk music to come out of Montreal. She has released seven studio albums and creates songs in both French and English.
13. Show Me How – Men I Trust – 2018
Working the blurred boundaries of dream pop and electropop, Men I Trust has performed at music festivals as big as Coachella and Lollapalooza. They have also embarked on national tours through North America.
14. It’s All Coming Back to Me Now – Celine Dion – 1996
There’s no bigger start to come out of Quebec than Celine Dion. The pop icon has released albums in both French and English and has won five Grammy Awards including for Album of the Year. Her residency in Las Vegas also remains the highest-grossing concert residency of all-time. She continues to be the best-selling Canadian artist of all-time with over two hundred million copies world-wide.
15. I’d Do Anything – Simple Plan – 2002
A staple of the pop-punk days of the early 2000’s, Simple Plan performed the famed Vans Warped Tour ten times from 1999 to 2018. Their songs landed squarely in the pop punk genre and were noted for their classic punk energy blended with melodic pop lines.
16. The Weight – Elliot Maginot – 2018
Influenced by Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, Elliot Maginot is one of Montreal’s newest folk talents with an array of songwriting, lush orchestral arrangements and emotionally charged performances.
17. Pretty Boy – Young Galaxy – 2013
Dream pop duo Young Galaxy have released six studio albums and six EP’s. They are made up of husband-wife duo Stephen Ramsay and Catherine McCandless and have toured widely, at times opening for bands such as Arcade Fire and Death Cab For Cutie.
18. Ballad 5 – Tess Roby – 2018
Raised in the Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Tess Roby brings a synthpop sound to her music. Compared at times to musicians such as Bjork and Nico, her debut album Beacon incorporates many different sounds and textures into her music.
19. Sunshine – Cam Maclean – 2018
A past participant to the DIY musical scene of Montreal, Cam Maclean brings a 70’s pop feel to his solo work. His early work has drawn acclaim from publications in the underground scene and have him poised for continued success.
20. If After All – Common Holly – 2017
Alternative Common Holly is the musical project of Brigitte Naggar and ventures between folk, rock and punk influences. With a unique storytelling songwriting, Common Holly’s songs are driven with woodwind tracked instrumentation and narrative lyrics.
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