From multicultural Montréal to the folky north, Quebeckers are making really good rock music that draws from Québec’s place at the confluence of Francophone and American worlds. Here are some Québec rock songs you should check out.
Arcade Fire — Ready to Start
This inspiring indie rock anthem was the number one single off Arcade Fire’s 2011 Grammy Album of the Year. The song requires seven musicians playing at once, but it all combines smoothly into one unerringly positive and jamming riff. It’s hard not to smile from start to finish.
Okoumé — Dis-moi pas ça
This legendary ‘90s breakup song kicked off a Québec rock and folk-rock revival. An emotional rollercoaster, the soft, folky opening gives way to a raw and decisive chorus that is very rock. The song ends on a wistful harmonica-guitar duo.
Mononc’ Serge — Mon droit à l’incohérence
Mononc’ Serge is well known in Quebec for his irreverent and vulgar comedy rock and poetry. “My right to incoherence” is an impressive lyrical feat, which is as much a retrospective on his career as a witty poke at societal trends.
Obey the Brave — Raise Your Voice
You’ll want to raise your voice after listening to this pick-me-up hardcore banger. Complex beats from drummer Stevie Morotti drive the song through anger and despair into the inspiring call-and-response chorus.
Les Cowboys Fringants — Plus rien
Les Cowboys Fringants are well known for their fierce politics and “néo-trad” style which draws heavily from traditional Québecois music and folklore. This folk-rock song is sung from the perspective of the last human alive in a world ravaged by global warming.
Vulgaires Machins — Compter les corps
Most Québecois punk rockers sing in English — Vulgaires Machins is the most popular French-language exception. This angry hit about public ignorance has a refreshingly hopeful end and haunting, evocative lyrics.
Pépé et sa guitare — Poney
It’s hard not to dance to this wacky song from guitar virtuoso Philippe Proulx. The emotive singing, strong harmonica and complex guitar chords feel as fresh and young as the song’s supposed “frustrated young boy” protagonist, who just really wants to see a pony.
Priestess —Talk To Her
Hard rock with a decisively retro feel, Priestess is a band of Montréal punks inspired heavily by Frank Zappa and AC/DC. Talk to Her feels like a reflection on the best parts of ‘70s and ‘80s rock, with classic chords and singing coming together to make an all-around solid tune.
Les Respectables — Amalgame
This melancholic soft Québec rock song about the monotony of working life, sung in a mix of French and Spanish, dominated French-Canadian radio waves at the turn of the century. The song feels like a dream, soft and beautiful singing floating over airy guitar.
Les Trois Accords — J’aime ta grand-mère
Les Trois Accords sound like a cross between ‘90s Québecois punk and California surf-pop. This comedy rock song leans pop, with a boppy guitar and slow drums.