According to Brendan Canning, his DJ career “started after a Better Days rave back in the 1990s,” explains the Toronto native and Broken Social Scene co-founder. Sasha and Digweed were the headliners, and any further memories of that particular rave are fuzzy at best. (In a hushed voice over the phone line, Canning adds: “I was high.”)
Whether its at this year’s 159 Manning BBQ or the back room of the Piston near Bloor and Ossington, Canning can be heard DJ-ing inbetween his solo gigs. Currently, Canning’s preparing for his upcoming Summerworks one-night-only collaboration with Buddies In Bad Times theatre director Brendan Healy. (And yes! The night’s called “One Night, Two Brendans”.)
Appropriately enough, then, Canning’s exclusive summer playlist for the Drake Hotel and Drake One Fifty has been bumping our summertime revelry, whether it be the Sky Yard to One Fifty’s covered patio. For further insight, we checked in with Canning, and got the scoop on five choice cuts from his playlist.
1. Shalamar - “There It Is”
This late-70s/early-80s Soul Train-manufactured disco, funk and soul group was responsible for not only giving Jodie Watley (at the time, a Soul Train dancer) her start, but also ushering in body-popping to the UK dance floor. For Canning, this four-on-the-floor, straightforward groove is “a fun summertime song”, with “this cute keyboard lick right at the top that’s well-produced,” and especially resonate for a pre-twerking generation. “There’s always one or two people in the crowd over thirty that’ll hear this song and say, ‘Oh, I love that song.’ It’s kind of one of those songs you haven’t heard a million times.”
2. The Tamlins - “Hard To Confess”
If you’re looking to slow down the mood to lovers rock, this reggae number has “the best intro and really sweet melodies” says Canning, who owns this single by one of the most notable back-up singers in reggae — they gained international renown backing Peter Tosh — on 12-inch.
3. Donnie & Joe Emerson - “Baby”
“This is a very entrancing song,” says Canning of this so-called late-1970s “bedroom funk” that was recently re-issued by Light In The Attic Records. “They were these two brothers on the West coast, and their dad built them a studio and a venue in [rural Washington state].” (And not just any venue — it was a 300-capacity concert hall dubbed ‘Concert Jammin’.) For canning, this isn’t “a club banger, but definitely a nice, late night groove. Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” would go really well with this.” Definitely a track then for the cottage wattage road tripping playlist.
4. Camera Obscura - “Let’s Get Out of This Country”
”That’s just a nice cocktail party jam,” explains Canning of this Scottish indie pop nugget. “Very light, great melody. No great story here — I just love that whole [Let’s Get Out of This Country] album. It goes well with any kind of summertime pop — Belle and Sebastian, Feist, Stars or Shins.”
5. Brandy - “I Wanna Be Down”
For Canning, his 1990s music consumption is split by two genres. For the first half, he was steeped in the grunge, alternative era, thanks to being a member of bands like Spookey Ruben, By Divine Right, hHead and more. The latter half, however, was marked by the Ninja Tunes catalogue, some hip hop and house. 1990s R&B, however, is a genre that Canning has only recently uncrated. ”I think this was one of the first 1990s R&B jams that I revisited and then realized, ‘I like these songs,’” says Canning. He likens the production of tracks by Brandy, Monica or even a group 112 or Next as being akin to “classic rock”. (“People just can’t get enough of it.”)