Exclaim! Salutes Ten Heroes in Canadian Music

Exclaim! Salutes Ten Heroes in Canadian Music
In honour of Canada's 144th birthday being celebrated today (July 1), we decided to pay tribute to some of our current Canadian music heroes. Sure, the internet has made experiencing music from all over the world a fast and simple process, but we have way too much to be proud of in our home country. Rather than focus on too many of the enduring Canadian icons like Neil Young or Leonard Cohen, we have paid tribute to some present-day heroes. Check out these ten Canadians who deserve our kudos this Canada Day. Naturally, this is far from complete -- and the somewhat arbitrary ranking is up for debate -- so feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section.

Ten Heroes in Canadian Music:

10. Chad VanGaalen
Calgary-based singer-songwriter Chad VanGaalen is a true inventor in every sense of the word. Not only do his albums ably straddle the line between freeform experimentation and thought-out song crafting, but he also literally invents his own instruments in his basement. Outside of his own recording career, CVG has his production fingerprints all over albums from Women and Extra Happy Ghost!!!, alongside his brilliant animations, including a recent video for J Mascis. Then there are his abstract electronic excursions under the Black Mold moniker. Seemingly always doing something worthy of our attention, VanGaalen is an endlessly creative force.

9. Gord Dufresne, Deranged Records
There are plenty of amazing record labels in Canada, all of which deserve our attention in their own unique way. Still, there's something truly special about Deranged Records, the former Toronto imprint now operated in Roberts Creek, BC, by founder Gord Dufresne. Sure, the label has launched the careers of punk and hardcore stalwarts like Fucked Up and Career Suicide, but there's so much more to take note of. If you're looking for the freshest DIY hardcore, punk or power pop bands from the sweaty basement shows of the world, Dufresne has probably already released their demo as a seven-inch. It's safe to say that Deranged Records is one of the best punk labels in the world, and that makes us damn proud to call it Canadian.

8. Aaron Levin, Weird Canada
In May of 2009, Aaron Levin quit his job as music director at Edmonton's CJSR and decided to start Weird Canada, a site dedicated to emerging outsider artists from anywhere and everywhere in Canada. Since then, the site has grown drastically, turning listeners on to obscure CD-Rs and limited cassette releases from across this great country and uniting artists via a growing online community. These are the people who knew about Dirty Beaches and Braids when they were in their earliest stages. Still, there is no hipster ego or moneymaking motive in Levin's mind, just a desire to keep growing. The site also spawned Wyrd Fest -- a travelling music festival that has had numerous incarnations across Alberta, as well as in Vancouver and Montreal -- and will eventually spearhead a cross-Canada distribution network for tiny independent artists. Canadian hero indeed.

7. Joel Plaskett
What list of Canadian heroes would be complete without a mention of beloved Nova Scotian Joel Plaskett. The accomplished singer-songwriter has a deep discography including releases with Thrush Hermit, Neuseiland and the Joel Plaskett Emergency, alongside his solo albums. Having received multiple awards and honours, along with becoming the first artist to reach one million plays on CBC Radio Three, one would think that Plaskett would have developed quite the ego. Instead, he continues to plug away with a regular stream of new music and a budding career as a producer, working with artists like Two Hours Traffic. Earnest and hard-working, Joel Plaskett is a true Canadian icon.

6. John K. Samson
Sure, Weakerthans' frontman and former Propagandhi bassist John K. Samson is a beloved musician, but he probably loves Canada more than Canada loves him. Throughout his career, Samson has used the city of Winnipeg as his muse, penning love songs to the town and, more recently, dedicated an entire seven-inch series to the roads of Manitoba. Last year, he was dubbed the Winnipeg Ambassador for Music. If there's anyone championing the Canadian Prairies on a world stage and drawing attention to the positive (and some negative) aspects of his hometown, it's Samson.