Hearts on Fire: Six Years that Changed Canadian Music 2000–2005

Barclay, Michael

  • An authoritative, unprecedented account of how in the early 2000s Canadian music finally became cool

    Hearts on Fire is about the creative explosion in Canadian music of the early 2000s, which captured the world’s attention in entirely new ways. The Canadian wave didn’t just sweep over one genre or one city, it stretched from coast to coast, affecting large bands and solo performers, rock bands and DJs, and it connected to international scenes by capitalizing on new technology and old-school DIY methods.

    Arcade Fire, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Feist, Tegan and Sara, Alexisonfire: those were just the tip of the iceberg. This is also the story of hippie chicks, turntablists, poetic punks, absurdist pranksters, queer orchestras, obtuse wordsmiths, electronic psychedelic jazz, power-pop supergroups, sexually bold electro queens, cowboys who used to play speed metal, garage rock evangelists, classically trained solo violinists, and the hip-hop scene that preceded Drake. This is Canada like it had never sounded before. This is the Canada that soundtracked the dawn of a new century.

    Featuring more than 100 exclusive interviews and two decades of research, Hearts on Fire is the music book every Canadian music fan will want on their shelf.


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  • Michael Barclay is the author of the 2018 national bestseller The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip. He is also a co-author of Have Not Been the Same: The CanRock Renaissance 1985–95, to which this book could be considered a sequel. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.

  • Published: April 2022

    ISBN: 9781770415874

    Dimensions: 6 x 9 in.

    Pages: 616

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Hearts on Fire is a love letter to a seminal time in our country’s collective music history sometimes forgotten. At nearly 600 pages, ample space is devoted to revealing the rich sonic landscapes these artists created and painting a vivid picture of their divergent paths to success.” — Toronto Star

“A thorough and intriguing history made no less appealing by its length. For pop music historians and fans, particularly of Canadian bands from 2000 to 2005, whether they know it or not.” — Library Journal

Hearts on Fire is an ambitious project from an accomplished journalist, a wellspring of anecdotes and testimony wrought from more than 100 exclusive interviews and two decades of research … While Hearts on Fire spends a portion of its vast length looking at industry trends, the majority is made up of seventeen thematic chapters, each of which displays the research and scope of a master’s thesis, but with better storytelling … This is a bible: an extensive catalogue of who worked in which bar, who slept on whose shabby couch, or which chance encounter ultimately resulted in a generational classic … a time capsule of optimism and creativity, and a reminder of what’s possible.” — Literary Review of Canada

“Barclay is a real reporter, a social historian, a friend to many of these bands, and he explains the social and technological changes (Pro Tools; tour subsidies; cheap-ass rent in post-referendum Montreal) that made it feasible for a generation of artists to reach the world from Canada. Each of his books takes a part of our history seriously that you didn’t even realize you were allowed to take seriously. I couldn’t be happier to commend Hearts on Fire to your attention.” — Paul Wells Newsletter

“Each interviewee adds a warmth and a closeness and a geniality to the shared story. This is a brick of a book that reads featherlight thanks to reportage that’s exhaustive but never exhausting.” — The Bookshelf

Hearts on Fire is nothing less than a tome but is by no means an exhausting read. By choosing to focus his chapters on groups of artists connected by genre, scene, or sometimes both, Barclay gives a good sense of the artistic zeitgeist of the era while also allowing the reader to skip around between sections. The result is a text of interest to anyone nostalgic for the simpler times of the early Aughts and to music fans more generally.” — Broken Pencil

“Barclay does an admirable job of establishing the connections between seemingly disparate artists, be they overlapping personnel, recurring players in the Canadian media landscape.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“This book is catnip for me. There is no Arkells if not for so many of the artists chronicled here. I was a teenager when I started going to clubs to see all of these acts, and it informed so much of the way I think about being in a band. This era of Canadian music is revered in my mind, so it is amazing to have the curtain pulled back to reveal the goals, temperaments, and egos of my heroes. A must-read for anyone who wants to celebrate the golden age of Canadian indie rock music.” — Max Kerman, Arkells

“Sets out the when, why, how and magnitude of the change, with reams of granular details and an eye for practicalities.” — Maclean’s

“Barclay’s personal connection to many of the artists, as well as important moments such as the recording sessions for Arcade Fire’s Funeral and Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot It In People, bring the stories to life as no other writer could, making Hearts On Fire the definitive account of the era.” — FYI Music News

“As the story of Canadian music continues to be written, Hearts on Fire is sure to be a cornerstone for those looking to either learn more or further document the scene, to make sense of that time when a bunch of scrappy Canadians found themselves in the spotlight on the world stage and never looked back.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“Barclay’s extensive notes and personal diaries from the time give him a unique first-person perspective, but the beating heart of Hearts on Fire is Barclay’s interview subjects, all of whom he says have ‘great quotes and juicy stories’ to tell about their experiences.” — Dominionated

“Thanks to music journalist Michael Barclay’s latest book — Hearts on Fire: Six Years that Changed Canadian Music — there’s now an incredibly thorough account of the tunes, the boozing, the brawls, the breakups and many success stories that marked 2000–2005, a whirlwind time for music across the country. It’s a nostalgia trip for those who lived it, and the next best thing for those who didn’t.” — Cult MTL