The Tragically Hip, The Weeknd, Allison Russell and many more paid homage to Quebec City
Posted on December 24, 2021
Montreal has spawned an incredible amount of musicians – and it has also inspired a parcel songs simply titled “Montreal”. There are so many songs, in fact, that we decided to categorize our seven favorite tracks by the name of the city.
To establish some basic pedantic rules: for this list, we only took into account songs called “Montreal”, so songs like “Montreal -40C” by Malajube or “Montreal $ ud” by Dead Obies were not not in contention. Accents were allowed, so songs titled “Montreal” by Bran Van 3000 or Blue Rodeo were eligible (although none made this list). The instrumental songs were fair game, although none of those made the list either – sorry, Ben Harper and Autechre!
Here are the top seven songs titled “Montreal”.
7. Allison Russell
“Oh my Montreal / Can I dream about you tonight?”
With minor chord flourishes and lyrics that oscillate between English and French, Allison Russell opens her 2021 Grammy-nominated album Outdoor child with a mysterious and theatrical swagger. For the singer, now based in Nashville, it’s a loving tribute to the city where she was born, full of nostalgic lyrics about cathedrals, “azure light” and how “shadows were like loving arms.”
6. Penelope Scott
“Go get fucked in Montreal / The world is so big and I’m too small”
This 2020 lo-fi pop piano song is reminiscent of the cabaret explosion at the turn of the millennium (around the same time Gen Z songwriter Penelope Scott was born). With lyrics and theatricality from Rufus Wainwright or Regina Spektor, “Montreal” is full of self-defeating lyrics about a seemingly abandoned project to go to Montreal. Both depressing and hilarious, Scott sings, “It’s not that it’s a bad plan / No the plan slapped.”
“Took my heart, just to let you go”
With vague lyrics that seemingly hint at a breakup and never mention Montreal by name, it’s not entirely clear what this 2013 single from Berlin beatmaker Roosevelt has to do with the titular city. But don’t overthink it – just dance to the song’s disco groove and the dreamy washouts of the chillwave reverb.
4. Ariane Moffatt
“I’m coming back to Montreal / My heart packed with courage”
Quebec singer-songwriter Ariane Moffatt repeatedly sings “Je reviens à Montréal”, a phrase that translates to “Je reviens à Montréal”. Judging by the tone of “Montreal” – a track from the 2005 album The heart in the head – she arrives in town with a boastful step, as the track struts with reggae beat, dubby echoes and jazzy piano tracks.
3. The tragic hip
“The snow is so merciless / On poor old Montreal”
This Tragically Hip’s live track Saskadelphia EP, captured live in the titular city in 2000, was inspired by the horrific massacre at the École Polytechnique, in which 14 women were killed (and 14 others were injured). The signature muscular rock of The Hip is interspersed with soulful riffs, and rather than crescendoing, the song evocatively becomes calmer when it reaches a haunting end.
2. Kelly McMichael
“When we went to Montreal at that time / The trip took a long time, we found a ride”
Several songs on this list are sepia tributes to Montreal, but none of them are as painfully nostalgic as that of Newfoundland songwriter Kelly McMichael (from her 2021 debut album Waves). On classic pop chords reminiscent of “Crimson and Clover”, McMichael fondly remembers a summer visit to Quebec which was “the best moment of my life”. The subsequent visits to town have been fun, she sings, but “it’s never so good.”
1. The weekend
“Forget about the girls / One day it will be you who will be left”
The weekend Trilogy the era is very ingrained in Toronto – including the real Balloon House – but this Echoes of silence The trail takes listeners 500 km east of Montreal. With lyrics that typically allude to loneliness and a few French passages made almost incomprehensible by the cavernous reverberation, he captures Abel Tesfaye in his strangest and most mysterious way. He has become a huge pop star in the decade since “Montreal” and his songwriting has become more precise, but he has never been so good at world building and creating mood.