9 Favourite Tragically Hip Songs

I’ve never considered myself a Tragically Hip superfan, but in the wake of singer Gord Downie’s passing last night, it is hard not to feel impacted. The group produced many great songs over its three-decade career (as well as a few not-so-great ones) and gradually cemented its status as “Canada’s band.” Downie himself was a fascinating and charismatic figure. He will be remembered for his music, his poetry, and his tireless work for reconciliation.

What follows are my selections for the Tragically Hip’s best songs:

9. Fireworks

A love song centred around the 1972 Summit Series. What could be more Canadian?

 

8. Grace, Too

Slow and haunting. An emotional highlight from performances on the band’s final tour.

 

7. Ahead by a Century

Their best-known song. Exemplifies Downie’s odd “rising inflection” style of singing. You can always tell a Hip song by its melody.

 

6. Bobcaygeon

Introduced in concert as being “about a couple of gay cops that fall in love.”

 

5. Gift Shop

Goes from moody and reflective to a driving rocker.

 

4. New Orleans Is Sinking

Their riffiest song. Just try not to headbang!

 

3. Wheat Kings

A melancholy ballad that doesn’t skimp on the Canadiana.

 

2. Nautical Disaster

A slightly dark one about, well, a nautical disaster.

 

1. Scared

Wikipedia informs me that this song was released as a single in 1995, but I can’t recall ever having heard it on the radio. An underappreciated masterpiece, this quirky acoustic ballad, featuring understated crescendos and Downie’s characteristically head-scratching lyrics, is sad and beautiful.

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Vancouver By-Election Endorsements

File:Vote icon.svgJust in case anyone is wondering how I will vote in this Saturday’s Vancouver municipal by-election, here’s the plan:

City Council:

  • Pete Fry (Green Party)

School Board:

  • Judy Zaichkowsky (Green Party)
  • Allan Wong (Vision Vancouver)
  • Mike Lombardi (Vision Vancouver)
  • Erica Jaaf (OneCity)
  • Estrellita Gonzalez (Green Party)
  • Janet Fraser (Green Party)
  • Diana Day (COPE)
  • Carrie Bercic (OneCity)
  • Joy Alexander (Vision Vancouver)

It pains me not to cast my Council vote for either Judy Graves (OneCity) or Jean Swanson (independent, endorsed by COPE), both of whom are legendary activists for economic justice. However, while both candidates have put forward solid platforms on housing affordability, they are largely silent on most other issues, including the environment. Pete Fry (Green Party), by contrast, while also focusing heavily on housing, presents a more well-rounded program. I sincerely hope that Graves and Swanson will run again during next year’s general election.

On the School Board side of the ballot, a dark shadow is cast by the former provincial government’s anti-democratic decision last year to fire the entire board over its refusal to pass a balanced budget. Five out of nine trustees voted against the budget as presented to them, and of those five, four are trying to re-gain their seats in the current by-election. In the name of democracy, all four will be getting my vote. True, I feel a little uneasy about voting for Janet Fraser (Green Party) after her 2014 decision to cast a deciding vote for an NPA chair, but she partially redeemed herself by switching her allegiance to Vision one year later. The power-sharing rationale of alternating the position of chair between parties carries considerable democratic legitimacy. My feelings on the subject remain mixed, but Fraser’s overall voting record has been fairly progressive.