Coke Machine Glow (Songwriters' Cabal)
The Tragically Hip became Canada’s most beloved band in the ’90s by feeding off the ever-present tension between their eccentric, live-wire singer and the rock-solid players behind him. But after a decade of playing to the masses, frontman Gord Downie cast out for his true home among the misfits. His 2001 solo debut, Coke Machine Glow, sees him supported by a cast of Canadian indie veterans—including avant-rock outfit The Dinner Is Ruined, former Eric’s Trip member Julie Doiron, and the Skydiggers’ Josh Finlayson—for a set of carnivalesque art-folk that captures Downie at both his most graceful (the gorgeous Doiron duet “Trick Rider”) and willfully bizarre (see: “Nothing but Heartache in Your Social Life,” a CB-radioed spoken-word jazz piece seemingly designed to send casual Hip fans scurrying for the exits). Coke Machine Glow’s 20th-anniversary edition supplements the original record with a collection of raw demos and outtakes—dubbed Songwriters’ Cabal—that doubles down on the project’s intimate, off-the-cuff qualities, including a brittle, extra-tender take of “Chancellor” that reconfirms its status as one of the most emotionally wrenching songs Downie ever wrote.