Yeah, you’d consider these kids and kiddos to be hit makers and taste shakers of the oughts, but they are ’90s babies, having all gotten their start in various projects that only sort of worked out, their future fame mere twinkles in their fathers’ eyes, that sort of thing.
10. Sarah Harmer
At age 17, Burlington singer/guitarist Sarah Harmer began making music with The Saddletramps before forming the excellent Weeping Tile in ’92. Her one-two punch of a personal record (1999’s Songs for Clem) and major label debut (2000’s critical and commercial hit You Were Here) were enough to get her onto most mixes you made throughout that decade, but she also released a trio of great discs, including 2004’s All of Our Names, 2005’s I’m a Mountain and 2010’s Oh Little Fire (which she has yet to follow up).
9. Buck 65
Making tapes since ’93, Rich Terfry tried on a collection of aliases (Jesus Murphy, Stinkin’ Rich, etc) before landing on Buck 65. Releasing a diverse mix of weird lo-fi raps (including a semi-breakout hit in 2001’s Man Overboard) which crept off of the college charts and into your mainstream hearts with 2003’s Talkin’ Honky Blues and 2005’s Secret House Against the World. While he’s had some missteps as of late, he still cranks out oddities (the hard-to-download Dirtbike series and Dirty Work EP) and released a quasi-memoir that may or may not be true, in between hosting CBC Radio 2 Drive.
8. Hawksley Workman
I’ll never forget seeing Hawksley on Much Music, his arms around Tegan and Sara, talking about how those kids were gonna blow up real soon. He had just worked with them on their major label debut, and he wasn’t even there to promote his record, 1999’s delightfully dandy For Him and the Girls. I will also never forget hearing “Striptease” for the first time on a commercial rock radio station, wondering how the same guy who released “No Sissies” could make the jump to sexy electro stripper rock. We all know how things went from there – all over the damn place – and it’s been a real treat to wonder exactly which Hawksley you’ll get next (I’m personally really enjoying him as the co-singer/drummer of Mounties).
An acquired taste, I personally love the records no one loves and hate that one (Kaputt) that you put on your best of 2011 list. Dan Bejar has been making music as Destroyer for over 20 years with various people, releasing the lo-fi popsterpiece, We’ll Build Them a Golden Bridge, in 1996. Since, Bejar has made his bones with the New Pornographers, Swan Lake and Hello, Blue Roses – always returning to Destroyer to deliver something unexpected.
6. Tegan and Sara
Before being nominated for Oscars for Lego songs with SNL rap guys, these Calgary twins were racking up YTV Achievement Awards and releasing colour-coded demo tapes. Their debut proper, 1999’s Under Feet Like Ours, was first released as Sara and Tegan. When This Business of Art came out in 2000, I remember seeing a girl at a Finger Eleven show wearing a toque that read “I’m T&Sing” and I knew they had arrived.
Vocalist/synth player Emily Haines and guitarist James Shaw formed a duo called Mainstream in 1998, releasing a self-titled EP through Chrysalis before joining up with bassist Joshua Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key in 2001. Haines had also released a nine song album called Cut in Half and Also Double independently in 1996, which includes rough sketches of what was to come with Metric, which released its first proper LP in 2003.
4. Carl Newman
Bands named after the drummers are usually great (The Dave Clark Five and Fleetwood Mac being the only two I can think of) and Jason Zumpano may not have the fame that singer/guitarist Carl Newman had after leaving Zumpano, but he did alright with his Cyrillic Typewriter and Sparrow, projects, in addition to appearing on a few Destroyer discs. But Newman is the one that succeeded where Zumpano could not (despite releasing two excellent records through Sub Pop in ’95 and ’96) with his solo career and as a member of the New Pornographers, alongside other ’90s favourites as Destroyer’s Dan Bejar and John Collins, Todd Fancey and Kurt Dahle of Limblifter, and honourary Canuck Neko Case.
In ’91 Leslie Feist was 15 and playing in a Calgary punk act called Placebo that was not that other band you’re thinking of. Jumping from playing bass in Noah’s Arkweld to guitar in By Divine Right to wielding a sock puppet as Bitch Lap Lap alongside Peaches, she eventually released her indie debut, Monarch (Lay Your Jewelled Head Down), in ’99. Then yes, You Forgot It in People with BSS in ’02 and Let it Die in ’04 and an iPod commercial and Sesame Street and so much more.
2. Broken Social Scene
The band’s debut, 2001’s largely instrumental Feel Good Lost, was really the continuation of Kevin Drew and Charles Spearin’s KC Accidental project, which released two gloriously lush/mostly instrumental records in 1998 and 2000. The “supergroup” (including members of Stars, Metric, Apostle of Hustle, hHead and more) would go on to explode and implode many times, delivering at least one masterpiece of a record (2002’s You Forgot It in People) and spawn an indie revolution with record label Arts & Crafts, before taking a hiatus that ends whenever Drew feels like getting a few members together to play the Field Trip festival.
1. The Weakerthans
What started as “that band with the Propagandhi bassist and those two guys from Red Fisher” quickly turned into Winnipeg’s most beloved thing that isn’t a dumb hockey team or a bargain. Formed in ’97, the same year debut album Fallow was released through G7 Welcoming Committee, the band went on to release a trio of records in the ’00s (in addition to a live record and a collab with Jim Bryson) and break all of our hearts when guitarist Stephen Carroll casually mentioned the band was done in an interview with my wife. A year later, Jason Tait tweeted something about the band being done and Winnipeg’s best kept secret was out there. No farewell show or tour, but we all have those nights at the Albert, the West End, the Burt. We all have “Pamphleteer” and “Confessions of a Futon Revolutionist.” We all have John K. Samson, beard and all, making references to literature and The Simpsons.