Music

13 Canadian bands that will make you feel totally nostalgic for the 2000s

Remember Hot Hot Heat, Lillix and Ohbijou?

Remember Hot Hot Heat, Lillix and Ohbijou?

Vancouver pop-punk teen band Lillix was best known for its singles 'It's About Time' and 'Sweet Temptation.' (Getty Images, graphic by CBC)

It's been proven that, in times of stress, revisiting old memories or forms of entertainment can trigger nostalgia, which in turn can calm a person down or combat negative feelings.

In a 2008 research paper called Nostalgia: Past, Present and Future, Constantine Sedikides and Tim Wildschut argue that instead of "being a feeble escape from the present," nostalgia can actually be "a source of strength, enabling the individual to face the future." And while there are neurological benefits to experiencing new music, TV shows, movies and more, it's also OK to indulge in something familiar that sparks joy during these uncertain times. 

That's why we wanted to take a moment and look back at the music of the 2000s. Some will remember this time as the decade where Canadian indie-rock exploded, others may look back at all the pop acts that attempted to go up against America's mighty pop star-making machines. Many musicians powered through and continued to make music beyond this era, but lots of acts were also lost in this time. 

As we entered a new millennium, technology revolutionized the music industry, for better and worse. Physical album sales dwindled thanks to a shift to digital, first with illegal downloading then later the introduction of iTunes, YouTube and streaming services. With the internet equalizing the playing field, music became saturated with new bands emerging all over the world with their own MySpace profiles, but the success rate was also readjusted.

Below, we revisit 13 Canadian groups that we wish were still together today. Not all of them broke up because of this tectonic shift in the music industry but they fell through that same crack in time. 

What were some of your favourite acts that formed or broke up in that time? Share with us @CBCMusic


soulDecision (1993-2005)

Canada doesn't have the best history at turning out successful boy bands, and maybe soulDecision works precisely because they didn't think of themselves as such — they were just marketed that way. The Vancouver-based group released its breakthrough debut album, 2000's No One Does it Better, and blew up. They opened for Christina Aguilera, Destiny's Child and *NSYNC, and even scored a No. 1 hit single on the Canadian charts. The band released its followup album, Shady Satin Drug, in 2004, but their new label had basically already gone bankrupt and pretty soon soulDecision was over. True fans know that lead singer-songwriter Trevor Guthrie has had this whole second life, writing and performing EDM and dance hits, including 2013's "This is What it Feels Like" with global superstar DJ Armin Van Buuren but let's face it: soulDecision 4-eva. — Andrea Warner


The Weakerthans (1997-2015)

Canada has always had its fair share of indie bands that blend punk sensibilities with melody, but the Weakerthans always managed to stand out above the rest. Maybe it was because they always repped Winnipeg with such heartbreaking nuance, making us all remember the love/hate relationship we have with our hometowns, no matter where we were from. Or maybe it was because John K. Samson could transplant you to a specific time or place or feeling with a simple lyric. When they broke up in 2015, the Weakerthans certainly left a void in the Canadian indie music scene — one that would be harder to get over had they not left us with so many brilliant songs about dealing with loss. — Jesse Kinos-Goodin 


The Corn Sisters (1998-2002)

Neko Case and Carolyn Mark were just at the beginning of their respective solo careers (and Case's relationship with the New Pornographers) when they formed the Corn Sisters in Vancouver in 1998, playing their alt-country songs in small venues along the West Coast for a handful of years. The Corn Sisters released their debut, and only, album, The Other Women, in 2000, mainly consisting of Mark's songs as well as some covers (Loretta Lynn, Lucinda Williams, Nick Lowe). The only available online recordings are of a live 1998 show at Hattie's Hat in Seattle, and on it you can hear the timelessness of their music, as well as the musicianship — and banter — that they each brought to the table. My queendom for another album from the Corn Sisters — this time with both Case and Mark writing. — Holly Gordon


Hot Hot Heat (1999-2016)

Victoria indie-rock outfit Hot Hot Heat released their debut LP, Make up the Breakdown, to critical acclaim in 2001, giving Canadians a spunky answer to NYC garage revivalists the Strokes, and helping pave the way for similarly upbeat Brit-rockers the Kooks and Arctic Monkeys. The Sub Pop-signed band's post-punk success would continue through the 2000s, landing them spots on top TV soundtracks like The O.C., The Hills and House. While Canada's other big early-to-mid-aughts indie successes were dabbling in deeper, more artful experiments (Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene), the West Coast band kept things light, playful and stuck in our brains with their earworm hooks, until they eventually disbanded in 2016. — Jess Huddleston


The Unicorns (2000-04)

Nick Thorburn is best known for writing the theme music for the breakout podcast series Serial or leading his longtime band Islands, but before all of that he was one-third of Montreal's the Unicorns. The band only lasted four years and released one proper full-length album (the gloriously titled Who Will cut our Hair When We're Gone?), but its music was messy, playful and beautifully embodied the DIY spirit of the city they were based in. — Melody Lau


Sugar Jones (2001-02)

Perhaps you went to a multi-level record store in 2001 and joined the hordes buying Sugar Jones' singles "Days Like That" and "How Much Longer." The all-women pop/R&B quintet came into existence through the Canadian version of the TV franchise Popstars, and they flashed across our heavens like a comet, releasing a lone album (self-titled) before vanishing a year later. Their cover of Fierce's "Days Like That" spent six weeks at No. 1 on the Canadian singles chart and no wonder: it's a shimmering bop — a beautiful collective effort — whose video boasts some early 2000s memorabilia (such as Mirella Dell'Aquila's awesome ring watch.) Maybe bands chosen by committee aren't always the best, but Sugar Jones made the most of it, however briefly, and scored 2001's song of the summer in the process. — Robert Rowat


Lillix (2001-10)

In 2001, punk-pop teen band Lillix (formerly Tigerlily) seemed poised on the brink of fame with Maverick Records onboard and a sound that was ahead of the curve. And success certainly did come with memorable singles like 2003's "It's About Time" and 2006's "Sweet Temptation" and a couple of Juno nominations. But one sensed that Lillix's full potential was never quite realized due to the concurrent success of Avril Lavigne, whose juggernaut consumed all the available punk-pop oxygen. Maverick folded after Lillix's second album, and while the group did produce a third one independently a few years later, they'd lost momentum. We remember the band as a quartet of gifted musicians who, at their best, crafted smart, catchy songs and performed with scads of energy. Of the B.C. group's original roster (Tasha-Ray Evin, Lacey-Lee Evin, Louise Burns, and Sierra Hills), Burns has carried the torch with a notable solo career. — RR


Two Hours Traffic (2001-13)

When Liam Corcoran and Alec O'Hanley formed Two Hours Traffic with Andrew MacDonald and Derek Ellis as students at the University of Prince Edward Island, they knew it would be tough to make a go of things based in Charlottetown. But the power-pop quartet came out swinging, with Joel Plaskett joining on as producer for their self-titled 2005 debut album and their 2007 followup, Little Jabs, which was shortlisted for the 2008 Polaris Music Prize. Two Hours Traffic disbanded in 2013 largely because they couldn't make a living off the music, though O'Hanley had left the band two years prior. Corcoran released his debut solo album, Nevahland, in 2018, and O'Hanley is a member of Alvvays. — HG


Controller.controller (2002-06) 

Around the same time that LCD Soundsystem, the Rapture and DFA Records were transporting the New York rock scene onto the dance floor, controller.controller was one of a handful of Canadian acts doing something similar north of the border. Along with bands like Metric and You Say Party (formerly You Say Party! We Say Die!), this Toronto band combined the burgeoning indie-rock sound that would soon put cities like Toronto and Montreal on the map with something more rhythmic and disco-inspired, complete with singer Nirmala Basnayake leading the charge. The band only released two albums before Basnayake left the band in 2006, but those releases still pack a mighty punch that few bands are capable of today. — ML 


Ohbijou (2004-13)

Toronto act Ohbijou helped build one of the city's most vital folk communities in the mid-aughts. As a band, Ohbijou put out three gorgeous albums of orchestral pop that were subtle but powerful compared to the bigger, anthemic indie-rock coming out of the city at the time, led by juggernauts like Broken Social Scene. But members of Ohbijou also formed their own collective of sorts called Friends in Bellwoods that put out compilations featuring music from some of Toronto's best (and perhaps underrated) musicians like Forest City Lovers, the Wooden Sky, Evening Hymns and Bruce Peninsula. — ML


Think About Life (2005-12) 

Similar to the Unicorns, Think About Life's DIY energy was what made them one of the best live acts of their time. From mosh pits to confetti surprises, Think About Life's shows were just as much of a surprise grab bag as their sound: a swirling confection of pop, rock, funk and electronic. A hidden gem that was buried underneath all the international attention some of their Montreal contemporaries got, Think About Life broke up in 2012 after two albums, but its members have gone on to more notable projects like Graham Van Pelt's Miracle Fortress or Caila Thompson-Hannant's Mozart's Sister. — ML


Hey Rosetta! (2005-17)

The St. John's seven-piece toured its symphonic pop across the world for 12 years before going on indefinite hiatus in 2017, with members Tim Baker, Kinley Dowling, Romesh Thavanathan, Mara Pellerin, Phil Maloney, Adam Hogan and Josh Ward cultivating a fanbase built on big hearts and even bigger sing-alongs. Over the course of its career, Hey Rosetta! released four full-length albums, five EPs, garnered one Polaris short list nomination and numerous East Coast and Music Newfoundland and Labrador awards. But the spirit lives on: Baker released his debut album, Forever Overhead, in February 2019 (and it was longlisted for the 2019 Polaris Prize), and Dowling released her second solo album, Kinley, in February 2020. — HG


Handsome Furs (2006-12)

Sometimes the bands that shine the brightest can be the ones that burn out the fastest. So it was with Handsome Furs, the explosive Montreal duo consisting of husband and wife Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry. They signed to Sub Pop in 2006 and released three near-perfect albums over five years, beginning with 2007's critically acclaimed Plague Park. Sadly, in 2012, they dissolved the band, and their relationship, leaving behind a breadth of urgent, genre-pushing music. That year, when their final album, Sound Kapital, was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize, a tearful Perry told the crowd at the Toronto gala, "I'm here to say thank you on behalf of Handsome Furs, for Dan and I, for letting us risk ourselves in pursuit of our ideals. It is worth it." — JKG

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