Since the early days of its conception, POP Montreal has provided an international platform to emerging independent artists, highlighting Montreal's underground cultural scene. Now in its 18th edition, POP Montreal has evolved from a 5-day festival to approximately 250 year round events worldwide. When taking a closer look at the earlier headliners at POP, you can start to recognize how much the festival played a role in showcasing what we now identify as household names. As POP Montreal continues to reach for new audiences, the festival remains rooted in the community that it was built around. In a way, the festival has always been rooted in love; love for its community, love for independent artists, love for music. For the sake of Valentine’s Day, let’s take a trip back in time and explore the various expressions of love, longing, and heartbreak by some of POP’s past heroes.
“Autotomy” by The Dears
POP Montreal made its inaugural debut in the summer of 2002, where the Dears headlined amongst bands like Interpol, Broken Social Scene, and the Walkmen. The track “Autotomy”, off the EP “Orchestral Noir Romantique”, was released in 2001 by Shipbuilding Records. The song is apocalyptic in its dark and catastrophic undertones, which oppose the romantic and sentimental lyrics, a perfect subversion of Britpop and 80s new romantic.
“Papier mache or crazy alongside acts like glue
We stick together me and you
And while the world falls apart
You've got my soul I've got your heart”
“Jellybones” by The Unicorns
The Unicorns stick out in POP Montreal’s 2003 lineup as an incredibly unique act, just as fascinating and otherworldly as their band name sets them out to be. Their album “Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?” which was first issued by Alien8 Recordings, possesses an endearing naivety that envelopes its more profound themes like the fear and acceptance of death. “Jellybones” alludes to the anxiety, despair, and, well… the case of “jellybones” that love can so often bring on.
“Jelly, jelly, jelly, jelly
Jelly, jelly, jelly, jelly
But this is love, so we'll survive
This is love, so we'll survive
But this is love, so we'll survive
This is love, so we'll survive”
“Take me anywhere” by Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara’s timing at POP Montreal couldn’t have been more perfect, with their Juno Award-winning album “So Jealous” having been released on September 14th 2004, only two weeks before the festival. “Take me anywhere” perfectly sums up the feeling of accepting unconditional love despite all of the imperfections and flaws one might attribute to themselves.
“I think I’m in love” by Beck
Beck’s presence at POP Montreal in 2005, according to Exclaim; “summed up much of what makes the festival work: healthy eclecticism, nods to the new”. A year later, Beck came out with his seventh studio album “The Information”, merging hip-hop songs with Beck’s classic stripped down introspective style. “I think I’m in love” perfectly captures the uneasiness of love over a steady beat and an of array experimental sounds.
“Saltwater” by Beach House
Released early October of 2006 through Carpark Records, Beach Houses’ self-titled album was named 16th on Pitchfork's Best Albums of that year. “Saltwater” incorporates all of the dreamy and melancholic elements that we love about beach house’s music.
“Love you all the time
You're not mine
Love you all the time
Dreaming in the saltwater
Timing's gone all bad
Broken thing and a broken wing”
“This Thing About You” by Miracle Fortress
Released by Secret City Records in 2007, “This Thing About You” exudes an admirable certainty about love that can’t be held back by doubt or fear.
“Undeclared” by The Dodos
POP’s 2008 lineup featured acts that pushed the envelope in many ways, featuring genre bending and experimental acts like The Death Set and Chad VanGaalen. The Dodos’ album “Visiter” came out in March of 2008, which featured “Undeclared”. The song addresses the unspoken longing and desire for someone with its simple and compelling lyrics.
“Sweet Sixteen” by Think About Life
“Sweet Sixteen” is an ode to young love and the uncertainty that comes with it. Their album “Family” makes a spectacular contribution to the era infectiously catchy indie dance music and lo-fi electro funk in Montreal.
“It’s not quite quite what I expected from you
“I never thought that you even even liked me
But it was just a little kiss, little kiss, little kiss
Now I’m ready for more, we made out on the pier”.
“Offend Maggie” by Deerhoof
Like love itself, what makes Deerhoof such a magnificent band is their ability to create the unexpected. In a 2010 recap of the festival for Maclean's, Michael Barclay wrote: “Deerhoof embodied the cultural collision and iconoclastic spirit that makes POP Montreal one of the greatest musical holidays in the world”. There truly would have been no better time to see such the dynamic and charmingly weird band than at POP Montreal.
“Night After Night” by Laura Marling
Laura Marling’s music seems to delve deeper than just the trivial dilemmas of everyday life. Rather, her songs explore more complex themes through the embodiment of characters and archetypes that exist outside of herself, making her music all the more timeless.
“Somebody That I used to know” by Gotye
“Somebody that I used to know” perfectly sums up the grievance of a past relationship. The song is confrontational in its delivery and speaks to the absurdity of going from lovers to strangers in modern day romance.
“That Feeling” by DIANA
“Perpetual Surrender” might just be the perfect electro-pop album. The track “That Feeling” simply feels romantic in its smoothness. Its catchiness is infectious, as vocalist Carmen Elle infuses the track with a certain cinematic quality.
“Let’s Play/Statue of a Man” by Mutual Benefit
Although this track is not explicitly romantic, it is certainly filled with love - a love that Jordan Lee has masterfully weaved throughout the album “Love’s Crushing Diamond”. “Let’s Play/Statue of a Man” speaks of unwavering love that can be endless, whether “tattered, strained, or torn”.
“You’re the one” by Kaytranada
“You’re the one” delves into the slippery slope of falling head over heels for someone you know isn't right for you. After playing POP Montreal in 2015, Kaytranada took home the Polaris Prize the following year for 99.9%.
“You know I want you, baby, you know I do
I'll give you my heart and the rest is up to you
You ain't no good for me, I know it's true
But you don't have to be”
“Shut Up Kiss Me” by Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen’s performance came shortly after the release of her Album “My Woman”. Olsen’s repetitive and commanding lyrics “Shut Up Kiss Me” make for a humorous yet compelling song that tells us there’s no time for hesitation.
“Only Girl” by Kali Uchis
Kali Uchis is the Queen of Introspective love songs, amongst other things. In “Only Girl”, she explores issues of trust and respect within her romantic relationships.
“A Slice of Lemon” by Molly Nilsson
Here we are in 2018. But somehow, Molly Nilsson always makes us feel like it’s 1985. “A slice of Lemon” feels both extremely personal yet far away, filtered through vocals that create a distance. Molly Nilsson’s latest album, “Twenty Twenty” is an optimistic glance at the future, which has the power to ignite a love for humanity during trying times.