UPDATE: This contest is now closed, the winner has been notified by email.

With their first single – the brooding, electronic ‘Beat and the Pulse’ – slowly building steam and debut album Feel It Break set to be released by Paper Bag Records on May 17, Austra have quickly become one of the most promising new Canadian acts of 2011. It’s difficult not to get excited as singer Katie Stelmanis’ detached vocals recall the Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson and haunt listeners with the same intensity. After Young Galaxy did an about face on their latest album with the help of Studio mastermind Dan Lissvik, and our recent obsession with interviewing Swedish bands, it’s no secret that a growing Scandinavian influence in Canadian music would be a more than welcome treat.

Courtesy of Embrace, we’ve got two tickets for you to see Austra in Toronto at their Canadian Music Week showcase on Thursday, March 10 at Wrongbar with support from Metz, Monolithium, Little Girls, and a few others. More info here. To enter to win, email contests@cavacool.com with “Beat and the Pulse” in the subject line and your full name somewhere in the body. Contest closes Monday, March 7 at midnight.

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— , March 1, 2011    1 Comment

Photograph by Max Weiland

A lot has changed for the Radio Dept. since we interviewed them in 2009. Last year, they delivered their long-awaited third album Clinging to a Scheme, which managed to surpass even absurd expectations, eventually becoming one of our favourite albums of 2010. This January, they released the career-spanning singles compilation Passive Aggressive, which illustrates the Swedish band creating some of the most accomplished pop music of the past decade, all while never compromising their seemingly impossible to realize musical principles, or as Labrador Records head Johan Angergård puts it, remaining “indie as fuck.”

I caught up with the trio during their stay in Toronto near the start of their first North American tour to discuss their sprawling obsession with pop, passive aggressive tendencies when dealing with press, and their insistence on having complete control of all releases. At the height of their popularity, I found the Radio Dept. constantly looking forward, restless to record, and tirelessly designing ways to piss off any expectations with their next, as yet untitled, album.

Daniel: Where does the band record?

Johan Duncanson: At home. At my apartment, Martin’s apartment, or we borrow a rehearsal space sometimes. We’re very mobile; it’s just a PC really. We have this small guitar amp that I also use live as a pre-amp that we plug everything into. We were interviewed by a Swedish magazine a couple of years ago called Studio, which is a magazine for sound engineers and people like that. They wanted to look at our studio. We warned them that they’re not going to be impressed, but they wanted to come anyways.

Martin Larsson: To our “studio” [Laughs].

Johan: When they walked into that room in my apartment they were taken aback that there wasn’t anything there. It was just a guitar, an amp, and a toy keyboard. He was asking a lot about the vocals. We actually told them all the way to the apartment that there was nothing, that we don’t have anything. They said “no, we’ve seen small studios, it’s cool,” then they were like…

Martin: …”what?” [Laughs]

Johan: It’s just a matter of taste nowadays, because if you know where you want to go with your music, you can get there because it’s becoming easier and easier to record at home.

Continue Reading ‘The Radio Dept.’ Feature Interview »

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— , February 14, 2011    1 Comment

Photograph by Eric Kayne

For the past six years, fellow Canadian music blog i(heart)music has polled Canadian music writers, bloggers, and photographers to publish its annual Hottest Bands in Canada list, summarizing, well, Canadian bands that are hot. This consensus building seems to have worked as top honours in past years were given to critically fawned-over acts such as the Rural Alberta Advantage, Chad VanGaalen, and Feist.

Since the only two rules stated are that bands submitted must be Canadian, however one defines that, and that they be hot, however one defines that, I put together my own criteria for my top 10 submission. I gauged the quality of the band’s recorded output, in most cases their album release, along with the quality I saw and reverence I perceived towards the act’s live show. I also took into consideration if I think they’ve entered or stayed at the height of their careers, and if we can expect big things to come. Most of all, this list answers the completely subjective question of which bands I found most exciting in 2010.

For more of a scientific consensus, check out the full list and for reviews throughout the year of pretty much every Canadian album of the moment, be sure to check out i(heart)music’s feature section.

10. Basia Bulat

Canada’s folk sweetheart continues to bring her orchestrated indie pop to the masses with the steady touring of her second album, Heart of My Own. A talented songwriter with a keen ear for classic melodies, Bulat has garnered a following larger than anticipated for her humble personality.

Continue Reading ‘Hottest Canadian Bands’ Feature List »

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— , November 10, 2010    6 Comments

UPDATE: This contest is now closed, the winner has been notified by email.

Given the string of classic albums that Teenage Fanclub released in the ‘90s, including personal favourites Bandwagonesque, Grand Prix, and Songs from Northern Britain, I was recently surprised to hear that the band’s current tour would be making its Toronto stop at the relatively small Horseshoe Tavern. Not to knock the Horseshoe, where I’ve enjoyed a great many concerts, but could a venue of this size possibly do justice to the enormous chiming guitars and layered vocal harmonies of the Scottish power pop heroes? Honestly, have Toronto music fans forgotten the band whose debut album was chosen by the then-reputable Spin magazine above Nirvana’s Nevermind as their best album of 1991? Obviously, I was quite distressed.

Since that announcement, and with the help of Teenage Fanclub’s new album, Shadows, I’ve calmed down substantially. It’s just something about the perfect pop melodies which the band has thankfully never felt the need to stray from, which forces listeners to abandon any negative feelings they may be harbouring. Lead track ‘Sometimes I Don’t Need to Believe in Anything’ and first single ‘Baby Lee’ remain as charming, effortless, and just plain pleasant as older tracks, such as ‘The Concept’ and ‘Start Again’. In a more positive state of mind, I realize that seeing Teenage Fanclub in such an intimate setting is actually a dream. To misappropriate a Ginger Rogers quote, “there are no small venues, only small bands.” And Teenage Fanclub are no small band.

Courtesy of Collective Concerts, we’re giving away a pair of tickets to see Teenage Fanclub rock the Horseshoe Tavern next Wednesday, September 22. To enter, email contests@cavacool.com with “Teenage Fanclub” in the subject line and your full name somewhere in the body. This contest closes Monday, September 20 at 10pm.

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— , September 16, 2010    1 Comment

UPDATE: This contest is now closed, the winner has been notified by email.

Flawlessly able to cross back and forth between reverb-ridden classic rock and low fidelity sludge,  Kurt Vile’s presence alone would be enough to make this a classic show, but completing the best one-two punch tour of recent memory are New Jersey natives and fellow lo-fi stalwarts Real Estate. If you’re the type that was slightly disappointed by Dum Dum Girls, eagerly await Best Coast,  and don’t think there’s anything ridiculous about Chillwave besides the title, then this is definitely the show for you. There have been some truly phenomenal releases in the past couple of years on labels like Woodsist, In the Red, Captured Tracks, and eventually Matador for some, but at the forefront of all these new acts you’ll find Vile and Real Estate, who have managed to release accomplished albums without losing any of their DIY sensibilities.

To win a pair of tickets to see Kurt Vile and Real Estate at the Great Hall next Tuesday, July 20, send an email to contests@cavacool.com with “The Great Kurt Vile” in the subject line and your full name in the body. This contest closes Sunday, July 18 at midnight. To find other great shows, check out Collective Concerts.

Kurt Vile – Freeway
Real Estate – Fake Blues

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— , July 12, 2010    2 Comments