As Canadians, we can barely remember the first drink we ordered after we’d turned legal. Was it a Canadian? A 50? A Boreal Blonde? A Pilsner? A Kokanee? (OK, real talk—it was probably a Slippery Nipple served in a test tube.) Nonetheless, every year, a new cohort graduates into our boozy ranks—including these 19 albums.
They were born in an era when music videos were requested on RSVP. They came into the world wearing a SNUG backpack. And today, 1995’s best are welcomed to adulthood. Tip one back for ’em.
Age of Electric — Age of Electric
Age of Electric wrote two mostly decent alt-rock albums in the ’90s, but they splintered into better things: Singer Todd Kerns took guyliner and greasy middle-parted hair to its logical extreme, eventually landing every Long and McQuade-employed rockist’s dream job. (He became Slash’s guitarist, natch.) The Dahle brothers, meanwhile, went onto produce perfect power pop in their AoE side project, Limblifter, before joining bands like Mounties and New Pornographers.
Still, it all began with Age of Electric and its biggest single, “Enya,” whose video features our fave mid-’90s trope: The shaved-head, vaguely mall-goth member with a low-slung bass.
Alanis Morrissette — Jagged Little Pill
Here’s a guarantee: If you’ve spent any time discussing Jagged Little Pill, some wannabe grammar nerd—and sensible society has requested that we publicly execute anyone who refers to themselves as “grammar nerds”—has pointed out that “Ironic” isn’t, in fact, ironic. (Yes, we know it isn’t ironic, Andrew. We have English degrees too. EVERYONE HAS ENGLISH DEGREES, ANDREW. That’s why we’re both baristas. You wanna try talking about some Foucault panopticon bullshit next? Go on. Try me.)
Such is the cultural impact of Jagged Little Pill. What most forget, however, is that until its release, Alanis was considered a washed-up teen pop star, and when “You Oughta Know” dropped, everyone was like, “Yo, she mad as fuck at Dave Coulier.”
Ashley MacIsaac — Hi, How Are You Today
After cementing himself as a one-hit wonder—OK, techincally a two-hit wonder, but who even remembers “Sleepy Maggie”?—Ashley MacIsaac became the subject of a slew of middle-school rumours. “Hey, I heard he publicly asked a dude to piss on him at the MuchMusic Video awards,” the grade-school chatter went. “It’s true,” replied someone else, “It happened to my cousin.”
“He did it.”
Much of that was hearsay, largely stemming from an alleged MacLeans story, where MacIsaac said he enjoyed sex involving urination with his 16-year-old boyfriend. But beyond that tidbit, he’s been a fascinating personality: Famously, he flashed his peen on Conan O’Brien’s show (which, like, is fucking cool as hell). He once stood in front of a PETA protest wearing a mink coat. According to the HuffPo, he was a one-time crack addict who planned to run for federal Liberal leadership.
And—because there has to be an and—he apparently is a cousin of Jack White’s who was discovered by Philip Glass.
The least fascinating thing about him? Hi How Are You Today, an album that tried to make Atlantic fiddle music cool for grunge-loving Gen Xers, who were likely more interested in finding new ways to tie oversized flannel shirts around their waists. Yo, marketing execs circa 1995: The fuck were you thinking?
Change of Heart — Tummysuckle
Among Canrock heads, Change of Heart is a beloved band—from Steelteeth to Smile, their bluesy, cranked-to-11 approach to music earned them a place in Canrock’s canon. (It helps that frontman Ian Blurton has become a celebrated producer.) Tummysuckle, for its part, had one of their most beloved songs, “Trigger,” and, according to Wikipedia, had the band touring with Cancon mainstays like Blue Rodeo and the Hip.
Their ascent to superstardom has also cemented them a larger place in Canrock at large: Blurton’s hoser dirtbag archetype—complete with a massive beard, a way-past-the-trend-trucker hat, faded Zeke tattoos, and a minor obsession with vans—is as Canadian as apologizing after someone else bumps into you on the subway.
Cub — Come Out Come Out
When we were 19, we were awkward assholes who routinely lied about how much sex we were having. When Cub’s Come Out Come Out turns 19, it’ll be the effortlessly record that reminds us why dick-chill marketers are so obsessed with “youth culture” and “doing what VICE does, but better”: All hyper-energized D.I.Y. pop, this is the type of all-girl, don’t-call-it-twee music that reminds us why K and Slumberland will be cool forever. Even if the record came out on Mint.
Econoline Crush — Afflicton
It’s prescient that Econoline Crush named their debut Affliction. Like the similar-titled clothing label, their almost-industrial approach to hard rock sounded dangerous at the time—just like faceless tattoo flash and Jake Bannon-esque art once felt dangerous—but now, their music feels like the stuff over-tanned juiceheads listen to when they hit up most depressing strip club in Kenora, ON. As if their little chemical-damaged, cashew-looking dicks could sprout a boner, anyhow. Still, “Nowhere Now,” and its virtual reality stock cars, was an unfuckable jam.
Gob — Too Late No Friends
In 2014, it seems like you can only have two types of conversations about punk: Either you’re talking to a walking porkpie hat who claims that “punk rock saved my life” when he first heard Ted Leo on NPR, or you’re talking with an upper-middle class whiteboy who’s raving about a show that was smeared in human feces, had chains in the pit, and ended when a band’s drummer fell out of a second-story window. In 1995, though, a different punk specimen roamed Canada—he rode an ATV and a BMX, was convinced that Pennywise were excellent lyricists, and emptied his parents’ liquor cabinet before passing out in the hot tub. Too Late No Friends was his favourite album, and it’s ours, too, for having a song named “Fido Dildo.”
Hardship Post — Somebody Spoke
When most people remember the lower-case Halifax pop explosion of the mid-’90s—when the city was commonly, if somewhat hilariously, referred to as the Seattle of the North, which would kind of be akin to calling Edmonton the Bushwick of the North in 2014—Hardship Post are curiously left out of the equation. Maybe it’s because they’re OG Newfoundlanders, maybe it’s because they added quirks aplenty to the city’s ’60s influenced pop sound, or maybe it’s because they’re simply underrated. Either way, they put out three releases on motherfucking Sub Pop (!!!) which, if you think about it, is a massive accomplishment for a Canadian band. I mean, how many Canucks do they have on their roster now? Like, one? Come at me, METZ.
Hayden — Everything I Long For
Everything I Long For is still one of Hayden’s most beloved records and, it’s arguable, one of Sonic Unyon’s most definitive. And that’s because it’s an incredible album, and a complete anomaly in his career—it’s a dirge-y post-grunge masterpiece stuffed with minimal folk numbers, all sung by a dude who sounded like (and resembled) a down-and-out hound dog in a ringer tee. “Bad As They Seem” is still one of Hayden’s most recognizable songs—a huge credit, considering he’s had a quietly banner career.
Matthew Good Band — Last of the Ghetto Astronauts
Last of the Ghetto Astronauts wasn’t Matthew Good’s best album, but it was his first—and foreshadowed a career that would burst wide open in the late ’90s. It’s still a rock-solid album, though, and Good’s razor-sharp lyricism, nervy vocal stylings, and penchant for soaring alt-rock choruses were all on full display. That, and the video for “Alabama Hotel Room” established Good as a death-glaring, over-caffeinated phenom who was equal parts college slacker and witty-sign carrying beggar. (“Money for weed,” anyone?)
Plumtree — Mass Teen Fainting
Plumtree are best-known for inspiring Scott Pilgrim, but Mass Teen Fainting should be judged on its own. Mega props for the album’s Husker Du-esque cover, and even bigger props for the sound they unveiled on the album—they created raw punk-tinged pop songs that didn’t quite fit in with the all-girl-band tropes of the era—although they surely were influenced by riot grrl, twee, and Flying Nun-esque jangle pop, they weren’t overtly cutesy, political, or amateurish. The result? At 19, this is the mature kid who never fucked with JNCOs, nu metal, and facial piercings.
Pluto — Cool Way to Feel
Vancouver-based Pluto released one of the best Shiny Tunes of the ’90s in “Paste,” but we wouldn’t call them a one-hit wonder—they put three albums out, all varying degrees of excellence. Cool Way to Feel started it all, and if it’s raw, grunge-inspired indie pop ye seek, than you could do far worse.
Sandbox — Bionic
In 2014, Sandbox are often considered a footnote, or at least a piece of trivia, in Mike Smith’s career. Smith, of course, took the ’00s by storm as Bubbles, the loveable, google-eyed Trailer Park Boy, a character that still lives on to this day. But for all the musical endeavours Smith had—he’s had duets with Emm Gryner (including one in character as Bubs, with Gryner providing the harmonies for “Kitties Are So Nice”), and has been spotted onstage with Rush and Guns ‘n’ Roses—none have had as much of an impact as Sandbox, whose “Curious” was one of the defining Canadian alt-rock songs of the ’90s.
Skydiggers — Road Radio
In the mid-’90s, in the midst of the new country boon, it was particularly heinous to like country—unless, of course, you were from downtown Toronto. Way before it became cool (and simultaneously cliché) to only like “old country,” bands like Blue Rodeo, Cowboy Junkies and, of course, Skydiggers were reimagining roots music as something urbane and, most essentially, progressive. Songs like “Maple Syrup” made Canadiana sound—gasp—kind of sexy in a muted, non-David Usher way, but Road Radio is best remembered as a mid-tempo, rock-oriented album that’d be at home on any alt-country fan’s Discogs collection.
Superfriendz — Mock Up, Scale Down
In 1995, the LP was dying a slow death—but there was so much interest in the Superfriendz’ classic Mock Up, Scale Down that it was recently reissued on vinyl. No surprise: It’s perhaps one of the finest things to emerge from Halifax’s fertile ’90s music scene. Released on Sloan’s Murderecords imprint, the album took a Juno as the best alternative album of the year. And for good reason—there’s bits of Sloan’s ’60s-leaning guitar pop on hand here, but brimming with caffeinated guitar leads and jerky tempo changes, it’s an album that, despite its age, would fit in just fine in Halifax’s modern pop scene.
Tea Party — Edges of Twilight
Jeff Martin’s transformation, AUX contributor Tyler Munro notes, has been nothing short of confusing: In his early career, he seemed to be a well-intentioned Jim Morrison lookalike. In 2014, he’s morphed into a living, breathing Guy Fawkes mask. Edges of Twilight, for its part, caught Morrison in his Doors-obsessed phase, and while it never yielded a hit as big as “Temptation”—which had the singer experimenting with guyliner and, we can only assume, PVC trenchcoats—it was one of the Tea Parrt’s best albums. The sultry “Bazaar” led the way, and while it was probably the Tea Party’s attempt to appear cultured, it felt about as exotic as a college-town Pita Pit.
Thrush Hermit — The Great Pacific Ocean
The Great Pacific Ocean might not have had the best artwork—honestly, it looks like an e-vite to your coworker Ron’s birthday party at the Firkin—but it’s a wonderful record that captures Thrush Hermit in its formative stages. Thrush Hermit’s anthemic choruses and pitch-perfect harmonies aren’t quite developed yet—though they’d eventually hit their stride on future tracks like “From the Back of the Film” and “The Day We Hit the Coast”—but damn, do they ever try: Listen, for example, to their barely post-pubescent voices cracking on the track above. We can almost imagine Joel Plaskett telling us to put that mayonnaise in the sun.
Shania Twain — The Woman in Me
Shania Twain’s The Woman in Me was, perhaps, the biggest international star on this list, and for good reason: The music on the album paints vivid imagery. Of what? Of cut-off denim blouses, faded rose tattoos, truckstop coffees, hot chicken sandwiches at all-night diners, salt and pepper handlebar moustaches, shady single-storey motels in rust belt towns and… well, this is basically Bruce Springsteen for Republicans.
V/A — MUCH Dance 95
It may be 19, but this is still our pre-drink soundtrack—and it’s so beloved, Toronto quirk-rock act Gay named their debut album after it. It’s not only ironic, though. Because Dance Mix 95 had some stone-cold early-decade techno jams: Think Whigfield, Technotronic, BKS, Fun Factory, and Bananarama. Oh, and did we mention BKS yet?