Exclaim! Staffers Share Their Favourite Dock Rock Anthems for May 2-4

Soundtrack your long weekend to the Tragically Hip, Steely Dan, Heart, Kiwi Jr. and more

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished May 18, 2023

Ah, the first long weekend of the warmer months. There's a culture of it in scattered spots across Canada, as it's something of a rite of passage to take a frigid dip in the lake too early in the season — or adversely, underestimating the late May sun and ending up with a Croc-shaped sunburn. These formative memories are usually soundtracked by songs that are just as tacky as the burnt marshmallow that will inevitably get stuck to your jeans, especially if your dad was involved with making the playlist.

Regardless of whether you'll be at a cottage, on a patio or simply at home this May 2-4 weekend, we Exclaim! staffers have put together our favourite cabin-core — or dock rock, if you will — tracks for the unofficial beginning of Canadian summer. Though not all rock, these breezy, cheesy and somewhat sleazy bangers will keep you company wherever you're sipping a cold one in the coming days.

Find our choices below, and scroll all the way to the bottom for a playlist with our selections. Happy camping!

Kaelen Bell, Reviews Editor

Alessi Brothers - "Seabird"
Lijadu Sisters - "Please Come Home"
Róisín Murphy - "Coocool"
Anna Domino - "Summer"
Bruce Springsteen - "Dancing in the Dark"
Captain Beefheart - "Tropical Hotdog Night"
Eleanor Friedberger - "Roosevelt Island"
Lo Borges - "Paisagem Da Janela"
Mulligrub - "Homebody"
Tune-Yards - "Sunlight"

To fully inhabit the essence of dock rock, one must peer beyond the veil of dads grilling in flip flops and the smell of boat fuel in the air — both great things, mind you — and step into the purity of emotional abstraction. How does it make you feel, truly, to have the lake sway beneath your body as the dock rocks? How do you define the sensation of a cool breeze against a still-wet bathing suit, the sound of birds and lapping water and crunching pinecones, the crack of a beer tab or rustle of a chip bag? 

The essential core of dock rock is nearly impossible to define, but these songs take a whack at it regardless. From Roisin Murphy's phantasmagoric ode to new love — "Let it be silly season, darling / All year 'round" — to the wiggling insanity of Captain Beefheart's "Tropical Hotdog Night" or the gentle, bittersweet shimmer of the Alessi Brothers' "Seabird," these artists manage to embody all the debauchery and tender quietude of a summer by the lake. Mulligrub's "Homebody" will have you ready to cannonball into the deep, while Anna Domino's "Summer" will have you wobbling back up to the deck for a drunken dinner. Lose yourself in the haze!

Sydney Brasil, Social Media Manager
Steely Dan - "Only a Fool Would Say That"
Paul Simon - "You Can Call Me Al"
James - "Laid"
Marcos Valle - "Estrelar"
The Cleaners From Venus - "Summer in a Small Town"
Shigeru Suzuki - "Passion Flower"
Steely Dan - "Deacon Blues"
The Strokes - "Someday"
Rupa - "Aaj Shanibar"
Blur - "Bank Holiday"

While the closest to a dock I'll be getting this weekend is a metropolitan park, the long weekend aura is strong enough to carry the warm energy into the city. Of course, no cottage fantasy is complete without a healthy dose of yacht rock, giving me an excuse to defend my love for Steely Dan and Paul Simon. This first tease of summer also lends itself well to the breeziness of "Estrelar" and "Passion Flower," with their escapism helping me forget that it still gets cold after sundown. Though the most wholesome of my picks is "Someday," as one of my first cognizant memories is listening to it on my first-ever cottage trip. Whether you're in cottage country or simply dreaming of it this weekend, I hope you're able to channel your inner corniness for a weekend of easy listening and vices of your choice.

Allie Gregory, Online Editor

Steely Dan - "Do It Again"
The Band - "The Weight"
Steve Miller Band - "Take the Money and Run"
Jimmy Buffett - "Margaritaville"
The Doobie Brothers - "Black Water"
Grateful Dead - "Truckin'"
Allman Brothers - "Dreams"
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Tuesday's Gone"
Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Lookin' Out My Back Door"
America - "Ventura Highway"
ZZ Top - "Gimme All Your Lovin'"

Join me, if you will, on a quest through time — back to an age before YouTube Music, before Google Play Music, to an era of music discovery platforms led by the purest of playlist apps, Songza. Before she embarked on her maiden voyage into the new age of streaming, Songza was home to some of the most expertly curated playlists since the height of 8tracks' reign, one of which being the yacht rock collection known only as Charter Boat Fishin'. On this, the occasion of the late Queen Victoria's birthday, I present to you the finest fish plucked from that sea — from Steely Dan to the Band, CCR and Skynyrd. Upon listening, may you never again waste away in "Margaritaville," and may your "Dreams" usher you along "Ventura Highway" as you and your partner in crime "Take the Money and Run" straight to the dock of your choosing, so you might peer into the "Black Water," inspiring you to keep "Truckin'" for yet another glorious day.

Alex Hudson, Editor-in-chief

Bachelor - "Stay in the Car"
chemical club - "Every Morning Is a Chance"
Ducks Ltd. - "Under the Rolling Moon"
Kiwi Jr. - "Unspeakable Things"
Spencer Krug - "New Kind of Summer of Love"
Rapport - "Video Star"
Wet Leg - "Chaise Longe"
Pharrell Williams - "Cash In Cash Out" (ft. 21 Savage and Tyler, the Creator)
The Zolas - "Yung Dicaprio"

Dock culture isn't all that big of a deal in Vancouver, where I grew up — so it's only in the last couple years that I've been exposed to May 2-4 and have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Sauble Beach on Lake Huron. That's why all the picks on my list are extremely new: these are the songs that I have had on high rotation while beside the lake during the last couple of pandemic summers. They're mostly feel-good pop rock jams — but Spencer Krug is a nice reminder that weirdo art ballads also sound good while crushing Mike's Hard Blue Freezes beside the lake.

Megan LaPierre, Associate Online Editor

Kim Mitchell - "Patio Lanterns"
Toto - "Rosanna"
Arkells - "Kiss Cam"
boygenius - "Not Strong Enough"
Sheryl Crow - "Soak Up the Sun"
Faye Webster - "Kingston"
James Taylor - "Carolina in My Mind"
Tal Bachman - "She's So High"
Rupert Holmes - "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)"

I humbly consider myself a bit of an expert, having grown up on classic rock radio in cottage country. I was literally born on May 24! Making this list, I was reminded of the adjacent sub-genre of campfirecore (e.g., OFF! bug spray-scented vintage Arkells). I was also asking the wrong question when I wondered who the women in dad rock were; it's obviously the boys, as well as source auteur Sheryl Crow and Faye Webster's sauntering "Kingston" — which reminds me of summers in the one she surely isn't singing about. 

I wouldn't be shy and/or nervous to make this list "Patio Lanterns" on repeat. It occupies a similar space in my memory to "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)," which is shredded cheese upon the most unhinged premise ever, while Toto's "Rosanna" is just cheese on top of cheese. Breezy self-own "She's So High" floats on the sole fluffy cloud in the sky, while classic James Taylor takes me to my peak no-thoughts, head-empty state.

Ben Okazawa, Staff Writer

Eagles - "Take It Easy"
Otis Redding - "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"
The Tragically Hip - "Wheat Kings"
Uncle Kracker - "Drift Away "
Kim Mitchell - "Patio Lanterns"
Fleetwood Mac - "Go Your Own Way"
Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Have You Ever Seen the Rain"
Blue Rodeo - "Hasn't Hit Me Yet"
Tom Petty - "Free Fallin'"

Although I'm trading sitting behind a desk for lounging in a Muskoka chair and Toronto's siren-and-car-horn ambience for loon calls this May 2-4 weekend, I'm relying on these songs to transport me to a beat-up old dock swaying gently in the wake of a passing boat.

"(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" effortlessly whistles its way to the pinnacle of tranquillity, while "Go Your Own Way" and "Free Fallin'" embody the drug rug and bell bottoms subgenre of dock rock. I would be remiss in not adding "Patio Lanterns" and "Hasn't Hit Me Yet," both staples of Canadian dad rock. Meanwhile, CCR's reminder of rainy cottage days and the loon calls that kick off "Wheat Kings" living on my playlist ensure I don't need to use much imagination to hear cottage country nature this long weekend.

Hamza Rasheed, Editorial Assistant

Heart - "Dreamboat Annie"
Grandaddy - "The Crystal Lake"
Amarante - "Haunted Song"
Lionel Richie - "Dancing on the Ceiling"
Big Fat Mouth - "Arlie"
Wolf Alice - "Bros"
Pond - "Giant Tortoise"

My list is a blend of old and new, a sonic journey crafted for that chilled-out long weekend vibe. "Dreamboat Annie" by Heart is my spiritual alarm clock, evoking a sense of nostalgia as smooth as the lapping lake waves. Richie's "Dancing on the Ceiling" is the patio party starter, a surefire way to shake off any lingering lethargy, while Amarante's "Haunted Song" is the midnight serenade, ethereal and captivating. Is this playlist the musical equivalent of a cold one on a hot day? Perhaps. To me, it's more like an ice-cold lager that's as refreshing as the first dip in the lake. It's a sun-baked wooden deck under your bare feet, a bead of condensation sliding down the side of a frosty bottle. It's like being in that sweet spot between the setting sun's last rays and the evening's first stars.

Emilie Richardson-Dupuis, Editorial Assistant

Otis Redding - "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"
Bob Marley & The Wailers - "Jamming"
War - "Low Rider"
David Bowie - "Soul Love"
Led Zeppelin - "D'yer Mak'er"
Led Zeppelin - "Going to California"
Beach Boys - "Heroes and Villains"
Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Lookin' Out My Back Door"
Santana - "Maria Maria"
Ramones - "Rockaway Beach"

I am and always will be an unabashed super-fan of dadcore. The long treading guitar solos, the howling vocals, the bell bottoms — that's my jam. No place does dadcore hit better than at the cottage, sipping a hazy IPA from a small-town Ontario brewery that no one's ever heard of. There's something so satisfying about listening to "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" while sitting on the dock, or hearing a song about the beach while being on the beach. It's nice to waste a day lingering in a simple place, with a simple song, far from the complexities of life. 

Calum Slingerland, Print Magazine Editor

Boston - "Don't Look Back"
Heart - "Heartless"
Santana - "One with the Sun"
Kurt Vile - "Air Bud"
A Foot in Coldwater - "(Make Me Do) Anything You Want"
The Isley Brothers - "Summer Breeze"
Chic - "Savoir Faire"
Tom Petty - "You Don't Know How It Feels"
The Tragically Hip - "Sherpa"
El Trío de Omar Rodríguez-López - "Lunes"

Within my top-secret playlisting facility in the depths of Lake Ontario, the summer soundtrack runs a little longer than 10 songs, so this particular sequence has surfaced to play out over a full day of dock rocking. Boston's "Don't Look Back" and Heart's "Heartless" are classics to hit the highway to, their guitars propelling you toward the promise of sunshine and cold ones on the other side. Once at your dockside destination, lather up with your SPF of choice and ascend with a choice cut from Santana's mid-'70s fusion period, before reaching a pair of spacious jams in D major from Kurt Vile and A Foot in Coldwater. (For the latter, you'll notice I have the 7-inch of Helix's cover version on display, because it's all about how hard you want to rawk.)

As the sun begins to set on this perfect day, someone turns to me and asks, "Again with the Isleys, Calum?" Most definitely, and they'll need to throw me in the lake to get me stop talking about how much the group's version of "Summer Breeze" turns the heat up on the original. Chic's "Savoir Faire" is a beautiful sunset send-off which leads to slower songs best experienced fireside, highlighted by the stoned poetics of Tom Petty and Gord Downie, and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's starlit lead guitar.

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