Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Canadian Roadtrip Sextodecimo Playlist for Americans 


Image via Lonely Planet



You told all your friends, “If Trump wins, I’m moving to Canada!” Now that day has come. You can’t believe it. Thanksgiving has come and gone and now you have less than a month before the President-Elect becomes the President. So? Do you really want to go through with it or do you just hope no one remembers what you said? Perhaps this playlist will help you with your feelings as you test drive for the border.

Tired as F**k
2016 has been a long year. Here’s a Canadian who can empathize with how you feel after the most acrimonious US election in memory. Of course, The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie was feeling the effects of treatment of his incurable cancer before he recorded the band’s last album and completed a cross country tour. But the sentiment must be similar.

Maybe Tomorrow (Theme from “The Littlest Hobo”)
If you know anything about Canada it may be that our German Shepherds travel from town to town solving crimes and reuniting families a la the internationally seen Canadian TV show The Littlest Hobo. If you actually remember this theme song you’re already half way to Canadian citizenship (yes, it is on the exam).

Makes a Long Time Man Feel Bad
Perhaps you’re old enough to have seen the US survive a war or two while facing civil unrest and generational change. Then this song by Ian & Sylvia, a classic Canadian folk duo who found success in the 60s is for you. You should also know that at some point in the past, Ian Tyson was the image of Canadian manhood that all other men were judged by.

Land of the Silver Birch
You might be wondering exactly what kind of land you’re heading to. Well, this song is here to tell you:
"Land of the Silver Birch,
Home of the beaver,
Where still the mighty moose
wanders at will”
This song couldn’t be a bigger Canadian cliché unless the mighty wandering moose walked into a Tim Horton’s looking for anyone interested in a game of shinny. Don’t get your gonch in a knot aboot playing hockey against a moose, just grab your tuque and skates and join him. Lucky for you, the citizenship test does not have a language requirement. By the way, if you’re driving to Canada, be watchful of mighty moose wandering at will.

Northwest Passage
I’m personally not a fan of Stan Rogers, but this most Canadian of songs is a must. It sings of Northern explorers and Franklin’s failed attempt at finding the Northwest Passage (an obsession for Canadian men of a certain age). These days, climate change has meant there is plenty of ice-free passages to take through the Arctic Ocean so it’s not such a big deal. Also, this tune mentions the Beaufort Sea making it both a history and geography lesson. Committing the name of this body of water to memory makes you more Canadian than 90% of Torontonians.

We’re Here For a Good Time (Not a Long Time)
Canadians like arenas. Maybe that’s why we make arena rockers like Trooper. There was a time in the 80s when these Canadian rockers were on every dot on the AM dial. They knew sometimes it rains, that the sun can’t shine everyday, so you have to make the best of what you have. Sound familiar?

Nowhere With You
Joel Plaskett is Halifax’s resident poet singer songwriter. He sings about taking the Dartmouth Ferry into the night which is probably the best place to take it. Maybe about now you really want to be nowhere and Canada is absolutely full of nowheres so take your pick.

Carefree Highway
You can learn more about Canada by learning from our “Gords”. In this song, Gordon Lightfoot hopes to escape the memory of a bad break up on a strip of Canadian blacktop. We made our highways intentionally long enough so that you could drive until you’ve forgotten the face of the person who broke your heart. This should give your broken heart solace.

Your English is Good
Tokyo Police Club know good propaganda makes good music. Your English is good? Excellent. You’ll feel right at home almost 90% of the time. In Toronto our secret population of Americans are sometimes called the “invisible minority”, mostly because Torontonians are terrible at recognizing accents so your secret will be safe here.

Under a Stormy Sky
Okay so I know I just said your English will serve you well, but it wouldn’t hurt to learn some of our other language, French. The mash-up of Franglais that many Quebecers and New Brunswickers speak may be a good starting place. Let Daniel Lanois help as you head north under a stormy sky. Daniel’s French surname is pronounced “Lan-Wah”, so get used to pronouncing French names if you want to talk politics or sports.

Love Song To Canada
A Canadian writer once noted that he could never be a “Great Canadian Novelist” because he couldn’t name enough species of trees. Similarly, every good Canadian songwriter composes a tune that is a love letter to Canada and name drops as many place names as possible (Alberta is suspiciously high on that list).

Oh Alberta
See? Another Alberta name-drop. Though Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Yukon, PEI all get shout-outs, and Newfoundland gets a mention as a place to drink all night long which is fair. Add this to the plus column, in Canada you’ll only have to memorize 10 provinces and 3 territories which has to be a lot easier than 50 states.

Up On Cripple Creek
I bet as an American you didn’t know The Band, like Arcade Fire, was an American-Canadian band formed in Canada. Their cross border synergy is an enduring symbol of our kinship. The protagonist of this song tells us of a dependable and reliable lady, Bessie, who mends him when he springs a leak. A drunkard’s dream if he ever did see one. That’s what Canada can be for the US. We’re fine being your dependable back up plan to help you on your feet again after the worst bender of your life.

So Long, Marianne
Adding to the misery of 2016 was the recent loss of Leonard Cohen who was kind of Canada’s version of Bob Dylan and Serge Gainsborough rolled into one (and then some). In this Cohen classic, he writes to a former lover that it’s time to cry and laugh about it all. You’ve probably heard that quite a bit since the election. Time to move on.

Raise a Little Hell
Maybe two Trooper songs in a short playlist is overkill but it’s unlikely (I’m telling you their album Hotshots was bigger than Frampton Live! Plus this song made it into Netflix’s Stranger Things so it’s cool again). Maybe you’ve decided to stay put and stick it out in the good ol’ U.S of A. Well done. You’ve marched in a protest of Trump’s victory, chanting “Not My President”. If that is the case, then this other Trooper hit is for you. If you don’t like what you’ve got, why don’t you change it? If your world is all screwed up, rearrange it. Hell yeah, raise a little hell of your own! Git her done! I even threw in an extra exclamation mark to indicate how pumped you should be about fighting the power.

Stupid White Men
This track by Neil Young from the soundtrack of Dead man has it all really. Rumbling engine noise, wailing guitar and a dialogue that encapsulates debauchery, philosophy, commerce and greed. Yet, its title says the truth that you will have to live with for the next four years, “Stupid White Men” put you in this predicament, and it will be up to everyone else to figure it out.

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