(Pictured – Hommage à Oliver Jones mural – Dan Buller)
The touristic season is in full swing and I am pleasantly surprised that many people are returning to visit Montreal. Whether you still do plan on visiting my fine city or have just returned from your weekend in the metropolis here are my suggestions for the soundtrack of your time here.
I have a natural tendency to favour indie songs so don’t be surprised by my alternative-music heavy playlist.
All tracks can be found on such popular streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music but I have added YouTube links.
The Arcade Fire – Wake Up : It is not a coincidence that I begin with this band given that I am a massive fan of the group that formed here at McGill university in Montreal. I chose their most popular and anthemic song from the band. Their first album Funeral is required listening for alternative music lovers.
Wolf Parade – I’ll Believe in Anything : Another Montreal band that made quite some noise in the early 2000s. Their debut album Apologies to the Queen Mary ranks amongst the best Indie rock releases of the decade, and the band remains very much active and relevant to this day.
The Stars – Your Ex-Lover is Dead : This song gloriously showcases the natural chemistry between singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, and has such a beautiful strong section towards the end. Major brownie points for the lyric “We drove in silence across Pont Champlain”.
The Stills – Still In Love Song : I remember seeing this local band open up for Interpol in the early 2000s and instantly falling in love with this song. There is a cool factor to this song that still resonates with me to this day. Too bad the band disbanded a few years ago.
The Dears – Lost in the Plot : This Montreal band has been around since 1995 and is still active and led by the husband and wife duo Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak. This song is very Morrisey-esque in Lightburn‘s vocal delivery and feels very spacious and cold but in a good way, and is very much like the album cover “No Cities Left” where the song can be found illustrating an endless sea.
Malajube – Montréal -40c : Let it be known that it gets really cold here in the winter. So much that alternative band Malajube writes “Oh Montréal / T’es tellement froide / Une ours polaire dans l’autobus “ translating loosely as “Montreal, you’re so cold, a polar bear in the bus”. It’s a banger of a track yet remains so melodic.
Kaytranada – 10% (feat. Kali Uchis): This popular DJ was raised in Montreal, and this song is the perfect Sunday afternoon car ride track when the top is down and the sun is shining… when you are not avoiding the many potholes and orange cones here!
Bran Van 3000 – Astounded : While their song « Drinking in L.A. » may have brought fame to this James Di Salvio-fronted Montreal act, this song features the amazing vocals of the late great Curtis Mayfield. It’s silky and weird all at once.
Dead Weather – 60 Feet Tall : It has very little to do with Montreal but I love any band involving musician Jack White. However, you can find the lyric “We go down to Texas up to Montreal”. So damn good if you like your dirty bluesy numbers.
Raine Maida – Montreal : You can feel the desperation in Maida’s voice when he sings “Feels like the cold winds of Montreal/The cold winds of Montreal/This winter can take its toll”
And yet the chorus concludes referencing Montrealers’ we’ll-known resiliency “But it can’t take our lives”. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? It’s no surprise we have so many festivals in the summer to celebrate the warm weather!
July Talk – Summer Dress : Montreal isn’t all about winter and the hardship of that season. This song is the best example that we like to have fun in the city during the summer months as evidenced by this lyric : “Barely dressed/looking for love along the plateau”. Of course, the band is referring to the hippest area of Montreal where you can find Mont-Royal avenue and the trendy Mile-End sector.
It’s fun, breezy, and what summer should be all about after all.
Ariane Moffatt – Montréal : She is one of Quebec’s most loved singers. This song feels like a lazy sunny day in the city. It has a reggae vibe that makes you feels light and happy.
Mobile – Montreal Calling : In the “fun rock song” category comes this jolt of energy. After all, the band says it best in the song stating « Montreal won’t you let it calm down ».
Oscar Peterson Trio – Night Train : When it comes to talking about true musical legends it’s really hard to beat this pianist that was born in Little Burgundy. I decided to go with this cool toe-tapping classic from the album bearing the same name. It makes you want to go to a jazz club such as Upstairs or Diese Onze here in Montreal.
Oliver Jones – Lights of Burgundy : In addition to Peterson, Oliver Jones comes to mind when I think Little Burgundy and jazz music in Montreal. This beautiful piece taken from the album with the same name is a perfect song for your late-night glass of whiskey on a cold autumn evening.
Leonard Cohen – Suzanne : It would be a travesty not having Montreal’s favourite son not make the list. Two murals here in the city paying homage to the late great singer prove the fact. While most people will naturally gravitate towards his iconic song “Hallelujah” I much prefer this love song. Find out why by taking my private tour of Old Montreal for the answer.
Harmonium – Un musicien parmi tant d’autres : This legendary band not only broke it big in Quebec but also throughout North America despite singing only in French. Proof that a good song remains a good song even if you do not necessarily understand all the words. This epic song clocks in over at seven minutes and is epic throughout. A masterpiece.
Robert Charlebois – Je reviendrai à Montréal : The most obvious choice and best way to finish off any Montréal playlist. A career-defining song in which the singer wishes to return to Montreal in the winter. Charlebois is music royalty in Quebec.
Check out the other blog entries on this site as well as my various private tours of Montreal that you can book to make the most of your visit of this fascinating city.