Can you believe these albums are turning 20 in 2020?
From Sarah Harmer to SoulDecision to Nelly Furtado, we look at the albums that make us feel surprisingly old
The end of the 2010s brought a lot of nostalgia for the decade that was, and at CBC Music we specifically dug into which songs shaped Canadian music to be what we know today. And while we love contextualizing a decade, sometimes a snapshot in time can do just as much.
Twenty years ago, Sarah Harmer, Nelly Furtado, Peaches and Kid Koala were just kicking off their careers. Rush's Geddy Lee was taking a step sideways from the band that defined him to release a solo album for the first time. Flash-in-the-pan boy band soulDecision was about to top the charts. And singular names like Neko Case, Carl Newman, Kathryn Calder and Dan Bejar were coming together to form what was then slapped with the term "supergroup," a.k.a. the New Pornographers. Canadian music was about to change in a big way.
Below, we look at albums that are turning 20 in 2020.
Album: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Band: Kid Koala
Released: Feb. 1, 2000
Kid Koala's Carpal Tunnel Syndrome took four years to make — instead of the six months he'd originally told his label, Ninja Tune — but the debut album from the producer/turntablist was well worth the wait. Eric San, a.k.a. Kid Koala, created Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by hand-cutting records onto an eight-track recorder, creating a joyful, accessible, 40-minute DJ set — despite the fact that there isn't a definitive single among its 14 tracks. "None of these tracks are songs," Kid Koala told MusicRadar in 2014. "They were more inspired by the Monty Python mantra of, 'Now for something completely different,' or the sketches from The Muppet Show. That's what was informing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, more than me making some type of dancefloor destroyer or something. It was much more on the topic of it being an adventure in sound and records." Carpal Tunnel Syndrome was a window into the playfully sharp skills of the then emerging DJ, and was nominated for the 2001 Juno for alternative album of the year (it lost to New Pornographers' Mass Romantic).
— Holly Gordon
Album: Both Sides, Now
Artist: Joni Mitchell
Released: Feb. 8, 2000
When Joni Mitchell recorded an album of jazz standards and named it after one of her best-known songs (which she also re-recorded for the project), she was asked if she was jumping onto the jazz bandwagon. She answered that question bluntly: "Jazz makes up one per cent of the sales of music in this country. The jazz bandwagon is more of a jazz donkey."
Mitchell recorded a jazz album because the genre has always been part of her identity. In 1979, at the request of Charles Mingus, Mitchell recorded a collaborative album with the jazz great shortly before his death. It was really a Mingus album, and considered his final one, but Mitchell had jumped at the chance. With Both Sides, Now, 21 years later, the singer recorded an album of jazz standards with a full orchestra, including songs like "At Last" and "Stormy Weather." The change in Mitchell's voice on this 2000 album is noticeable, more than three decades after recording the original title track. "Both Sides, Now" isn't a jazz standard, but it's a standard in its own right, and this recording gave us the most fitting version of it that Mitchell had sung yet. — HG
Album: No One Does it Better
Released: Feb. 22, 2000
While Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync were dominating the pop charts, Vancouver churned out its own hit boy band: soulDecision, fronted by Trevor Guthrie (and originally named Indecision). No One Does it Better, the band's debut album, brought us the chart-topping single "Faded," featuring a verse by Toronto rapper Thrust, and "Ooh it's Kinda Crazy," solidifying soulDecision as the go-to Canadian option for high school dances everywhere — with frontman Trevor Guthrie's frosted tips an added bonus for fashion inspiration. The band would go on to release one more album, 2004's Shady Satin Drug, though Guthrie would continue with a solo career. — HG
Released: April. 4, 2000
The heart of Jacksoul, of course, is the late, great Haydain Neale, who had a voice that glowed warm and bright like the five o'clock sunlight in mid-July. Twenty years after the release of Jacksoul's second album, Sleepless, there's still so much to love and admire about Neale's commanding vocal performance, particularly on the record's lead single, "Can't Stop." The whole album is an instant pleasure, dreamy and sensual in a way that manages to be both very 2000 and utterly timeless.
— Andrea Warner
Album: Music @ Work
Artist: The Tragically Hip
Released: June 6, 2000
The Tragically Hip's original plan for the followup to 1998's Phantom Power was to write an album together on a train travelling across North America. While those plans were derailed, the bandmates did eventually produce their 2000 album, Music @ Work. Remembered by frontman Gord Downie as a "generally misunderstood album that you love just the same as your other records," the album did find success, going double platinum in Canada and earning the Hip a 2001 Juno Award for best rock album.
— Melody Lau
Album: Beauty is a Free Road
Artist: Moka Only
Released: June 15, 2000
"Moby you aint shit" and "Sexually I'm optimistic/ but otherwise a cynic" are two of the first standout lines from Moka Only's wild, weird, and wondrous 2000 release, Beauty is a Free Road. The record is that beautiful balance of timeless and avant-garde, as if created by a time traveller whose grasp of the futuristic is as lived and real as their experience of the past. It embodies the spirit of improv, perfectly nailing the difficult balance of embodying spontaneous genius and informed skill, the gift of found art and precision production that comes from a sonic landscape informed by jazz, soul, funk, underground hip-hop and spoken word. Some of the tired sexual politics of the lyrics don't feel quite as timeless, but Beauty is a Free Road is still worthy of rediscovery 20 years later. — AW
Album: Half Hour of Power
Artist: Sum 41
Released: June 27, 2000
When Ajax, Ont., band Sum 41 released its debut EP, Half Hour of Power, rock fans didn't know where to place them exactly. "I don't know if these guys are trying to be funny, but it's not working," a Punknews review wrote. But that outlandish cacophony of punk, metal and even ska was loud and in your face, and tracks like "Makes No Difference" and "Summer" revealed a skill for crafting catchy melodies. Those who doubted Sum 41 were quickly proven wrong the following year when the band put out their album All Killer No Filler, which was certified platinum in Canada. — ML
Album: Left and Leaving
Band: The Weakerthans
Released: July 25, 2000
The second album from beloved Winnipeg punk-rockers the Weakerthans, Left and Leaving, wasn't just a quintessential album for the Prairie city and its community; it was a quintessential album for all smaller cities across the country that forever beg the same question: will you be left, or will you be leaving? "My city's still breathing (but barely, it's true) through buildings gone missing like teeth/ the sidewalks are watching me think about you, sparkled with broken glass," John K. Samson sings on the title track, quietly continuing his reign as one of the country's best lyricists. Released on local indie label G7 Welcoming Committee (though the band later moved to Epitaph, which re-released the 2000 album), Left and Leaving grabbed a Juno nomination for alternative album of the year, going up against Kid Koala and the New Pornographers — and ultimately losing to the latter.
— Holly Gordon
Album: Affairs of the Heart: Music of Marjan Mozetich
Artists: Juliette Kang, Nora Bumanis, Julia Shaw, CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Mario Bernardi
Released: Aug. 15, 2000. Reissued by Centrediscs in 2015.
When CBC Records released Affairs of the Heart in 2000, people were instantly charmed by Marjan Mozetich's effusively emotional music, backed by rigorous compositional technique, as conveyed by the fine musicians assembled for this project. It struck such a chord that demand for CDs soon exceeded supply and folks resorted to dubious means to get ahold of a copy. Fortunately, in 2015, Centrediscs reissued the album, which is now available on streaming services, so everyone can still enjoy the beautiful performance of these three Mozetich works: Affairs of the Heart, Postcards from the Sky and The Passion of Angels.
— Robert Rowat
Album: You Were Here
Artist: Sarah Harmer
Released: Aug. 29, 2000
After stepping onto the scene as frontwoman of Kingston, Ont. group Weeping Tile, Harmer branched out to release her solo debut, You Were Here, a widely acclaimed folk-rock collection of sincere balladry carried by her distinctly stunning voice. You Were Here is a comforting album about growing up; it's palpably relatable and sonically turn-of-the-millennium Canadian in its uncomplicated but beautiful make-up. Guitar-driven songs like "The Hideout" and "Don't Get Your Back Up" signalled the transition between the Lilith Fair-era reign of adult-contemporary artists and a new class of leading women who would go on to shape mid-2000s indie-rock. Harmer's poetic storytelling is best exemplified in the delicate showstopper "Lodestar," a waltzing, acoustic lullaby that swiftly shifts into anthemic territory, exuding wisdom in both its quietest and boldest moments.
— Jess Huddleston
Album: Ever Since
Released: Fall 2000
Maestro (Fresh Wes) released his sixth studio album exclusively in Canada at the turn of the millennium, two years after his album Built to Last, which featured the top 40, Guess Who-sampling hit "Stick to Your Vision," and a little over a decade after his groundbreaking debut, Symphony in Effect. While Ever Since didn't crack the charts, the album notably hosted guest appearances by the next generation of Canadian rappers — including Kardinal Offishall, Saukrates and Solitair — who were finding success in their own right, therefore building out the collaborative scene on which Toronto hip hop was founded. — JH
Album: The Teaches of Peaches
Released: Sept. 5, 2000
Among the most daring debuts in the history of music, The Teaches of Peaches opens with a throbbing banger of a song called "F--k the Pain Away" and does not let up over the course of 11 unforgettably provocative and political tracks. The song is as relentless, raunchy and fun in 2020 as it was in 2000, just like the rest of this pro-sex, feminist, electro-clash ode to empowerment and agency. From the strutting new wave of the record's lead single, "Lovertits," to the restrained space funk of "Set it Off," The Teaches of Peaches still has vivid wisdom to impart upon the masses. — AW
Album: Free Fall
Artist: Jesse Cook
Released: Sept. 26, 2000
Today, the term "world music" is outdated and should be replaced by a more appropriate and respectful one: music. But back in 2000, world music was a burgeoning movement in Western markets and guitarist Jesse Cook was at its vanguard with his popular neo-flamenco stylings. A virtuoso on his instrument, Cook came by his love of flamenco in Arles, France, while spending time with his father, whose neighbour was the lead singer of the Gypsy Kings — and that set him on his way. Free Fall was Cook's fourth studio album and won the Juno Award for best instrumental album in 2001. Incidentally, Cook is still going strong, producing new music and videos regularly. — RR
Band: The Moffatts
Released: Oct. 2, 2000
The Moffatts released their final album, Submodalities, only two short years after the breakout success of their first pop album, Chapter I: A New Beginning, marking a bright but short run for the country-turned-bubble-gum-pop quartet of brothers Scott, Clint, Bob and Dave Moffatt (the latter three being triplets). Lead single "Bang Bang Boom" reached No. 1 on Canada's singles chart, with the lines "Doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo doo/ my heart goes bang bang boom" solidifying its status as an infuriating earworm. For those who miss the B.C.-born teen group: as adults, they've reunited and released their first new single in 2018. — HG
Album: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
Artist: Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Released: Oct. 9, 2000
The new millennium sparked a creative boom in Canadian indie-rock. In the span of a few years, bands like Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Wintersleep and the Dears would all emerge as some of the country's most seminal acts. But that list would be incomplete without rock-orchestral outfit Godspeed You! Black Emperor and its magnum opus, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven. A mostly instrumental album, Godspeed's sophomore release is an expansive, grandiose statement that acts as a mosaic of sounds that other bands would soon pick apart and make their own: swelling strings; shoegaze; anthemic builds. But still, few have gone on to create an album that reaches the same heavenly heights as this did. — ML
Album: Whoa, Nelly!
Artist: Nelly Furtado
Released: Oct. 24, 2000
With the release of her debut, Whoa, Nelly!, 21-year-old Furtado instantly became one of pop music's quirkiest, most interesting new voices. In a sea of bubblegum stars and manufactured groups, Furtado made her philosophical musings the basis of her melodic, experimental pop, blending folk, trip-hop, R&B and her Portuguese roots to create an otherwise unexplored flavour in the mainstream. Kids who fell in love with the album's optimistic (and accessible) lead single, "I'm Like a Bird," were then treated to the rest of Furtado's lyrically rich, soulful offerings, which explored topics like existentialism, loneliness and integrity. While Furtado's vocals are advanced, they're also endearingly unpolished and playful, leaving you hanging off her every conviction, curious how they'll curve or layer next. The singer's influence is glaringly obvious today in the music of honest, risk-taking storytellers like Jessie Reyez, Dua Lipa and Alessia Cara, proving that while Furtado went on to have more commercial success in subsequent albums, Whoa, Nelly! left a shape-shifting, authentic imprint on Canadian music. — JH
Album: Rob McConnell Tentet
Artists: Rob McConnell Tentet
Released: Oct. 31, 2000
With this album, trombonist and bandleader Rob McConnell introduced us to his tentet, a scaled-down version of his famous Boss Brass, which had such success through the '70s, '80s and '90s playing McConnell's marvellous big band arrangements and famously backing Mel Tormé. The tentet's roster included the cream of Toronto's jazz crop (Guido Basso, Mike Murley, Terry Clarke, to name just a few), whose blazing musicianship gave new relevance to the trad jazz idiom. They'd go on to record two more albums (Thank You, Ted and Music of the Twenties) in quick succession, but we hold a special place in our hearts for their debut, which got us hooked. — RR
Album: Saturday People
Released: Nov. 7, 2000
By the time cartoon duo Prozzäk released its sophomore album Saturday People in 2000, its popularity had started to wane. While lead single "www.nevergetoveryou" still got a fair amount of airplay, and Saturday People was nominated for a 2002 Juno Award for best pop album, the release failed to match the success of the duo's debut, Hot Show. Prozzäk petered out shortly after its 2005 album, Cruel, Cruel World, but when members Jay Levine and James Bryan reunited in 2015, it was clear that devoted fans still held their music in high regard, whether it was nostalgia for the bubblegum-coloured visuals or the truly infectious tunes about characters Simon and Milo's search for love. — ML
Album: My Favourite Headache
Artist: Geddy Lee
Released: Nov. 14, 2000
My Favourite Headache is Geddy Lee's only solo album to date. The Rush singer released it in the middle of the band's hiatus following the death of the late Neil Peart's wife and daughter. While Lee admitted to Ultimate Classic Rock that he never had a specific desire to go solo, he did occasionally wonder: "What's it like out there? What's it like to work with other people?" My Favourite Headache found Lee teaming up with other musicians like Ben Mink (k.d. lang), Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam) and Jeremy Taggart (Our Lady Peace), but Lee wrote much of the album on his bass, which he layered into the tracks. "It turned out to be a very important process personally," he told Ultimate Classic Rock. "It allowed me to work through a lot of things that have been on my mind." — ML
Album: Mass Romantic
Artist: The New Pornographers
Released: Nov. 21, 2000
When the New Pornographers first emerged with their debut album, Mass Romantic, the band was labelled as a "supergroup" of sorts, boasting members from the Evaporators, Zumpano and Destroyer. Of course, its members' credentials grew more impressive over time — Carl Newman, Neko Case, Dan Bejar, John Collins and Kathryn Calder's portfolios have ballooned since — but the band's music did reflect an interesting mashup of influences at the outset. With its throwback gang vocals, '80s new wave and glam rock elements clashing together into a bright collision of pop confection, Mass Romantic established a musical DNA that the New Pornographers could call their own, and in subsequent years have sharpened into even catchier songs. — ML