Photograph by Matt Jacoby

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

The Morning Benders have a knack for beautiful symphonic arrangements. Christopher Chu’s voice rings with elegance atop bellowing drums and swelling guitars. Their album, Big Echo, sounds energetic and eager, and with an eleven day production time, breathes a sense of urgency. The quartet harmonizes like a folk band and resonates like a baroque ensemble. The Morning Benders possess a versatility that embraces jangly psychedelia and indie pop sensibilities. The result is a surge of unavoidable exuberance and graceful instrumentation.

On Friday, November 5, the Morning Benders will be joined by Twin Sister and Oberhofer at Toronto’s Mod Club. If their debut record was any indication, the Morning Benders are apt to hit the city with a big sound and an even bigger echo. Ca Va Cool has a pair of tickets to give away for the show, courtesy of Collective Concerts. To win, send an email with “Big Sound Big Echo” in the subject line and your full name in the body to This contest closes this Wednesday, November 3 at midnight.

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— , October 31, 2010    Comments Off on The Morning Benders: The Mod Club

Arcade Fire on Olympic Island in Toronto effectively closed out this summer concert season. Our first trip to the island saw Beach House, Band of Horses, Broken Social Scene, and Pavement serenade Torontonians as we rushed between shows at NXNE and Island Fest. A few weeks later and for roughly the same ticket price – barring a donation to Partners in Health – the Sadies, Janelle Monáe and Arcade Fire welcomed us. A torrent of whispers in line for the ferry argued the value of Win Butler and company, some chastising Arcade Fire for charging such exorbitant fees while others refuting that the Canadian faces of indie were worth each penny. I believe Arcade Fire had a deeper motivation than aggrandizing their sense of self-worth: to disseminate their latest record, The Suburbs. What better way than to fill an island with well-to-do cosmopolitans and charge a price we could all too easily afford. In terms of gathering a target audience to sing-along to the “emotional hopelessness of being a privileged young person in a developed country,” as Sabrina put it, the band hit the bulls eye. But if your heart is set on seeing Arcade Fire, whether you’re there for the message or the music, it matters little if they charge ten dollars or a hundred; when it comes down to it, the band knows how to put on a fine show.

Janelle Monáe served as a curious choice for an opener as it was hard to imagine any musician on Bad Boy Records opening for a group of Québécois baroque singers. The audience received Monáe’s mix of afro-punk and hip-hop enthusiastically as her beehive-like hairstyle bobbed in harmony with each strut and shimmy. As her set wrapped up and the sun dipped lower on the city skyline a sea of black and white balloons floated through the crowd and into their untimely demise at the hands of the “Balloon Guy,” who was determined to purge the island of inflatables. Arcade Fire’s intricate set rose from the rubbery remains with a life-size projection of twisting highway serving as a backdrop for an array of floodlights.

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— , August 30, 2010    Comments Off on Arcade Fire: Olympic Island

Most mixtapes are tied together with a cohesive theme, some on the topic of love for a special someone, others with fury for that bad day. Some mixtapes are lush with clever wordplay and focus on connections in the lyrics, titles, and hooks of songs. We make mixtapes to wake us up, to bang our head to at parties, to celebrate a change in season, to commemorate a break-up, or dance to while cleaning our house. I considered all these options while piecing together complex lists of tracks and sifting through records searching for songs that would convey a sought after message. Finally, while speaking to a friend about my dilemma, he offered a simple solution “People just want to listen to awesome music,” he said, “put together a mixtape with new jams you enjoy and don’t worry about the concept.” So this mixtape is to you friends, treasure these thirteen tracks knowing that I’ve spent the past few weeks dancing in front of the air conditioner, lip-syncing on the bus to work, and vacuuming the house wearing only underpants to.

To those personal friends I share music with regularly and are away for the summer, I miss your presence and your concert update text messaging is appreciated, I look forward to many future iPod swaps, coffee house exchanges, and shout-out-loud new release celebrations. To those readers I haven’t been fortunate enough to meet yet, if you enjoy Ca Va Cool and find yourself twisting and shouting to this bunch of tracks know that we’ve already made the first step to a super-best-friendship. So whether it’s a bad day, a blossoming romance, or just a picnic in the sun, remember to spread the love and share, because sharing is caring. Without further ado, Ca Va Cool says cheers to friends, summertime, and awesome music.

Download | Dear Friends Mixtape

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— , August 7, 2010    2 Comments

Photograph by Victoria Jacob

Suckers play indie rock. They play it at dizzying speed. Suckers are the answer to “hipsters don’t dance.” Their recently released full-length Wild Smile has an immediate familiarity to it, their buoyant melodies keep you guessing – just when you think you’re getting bouncy Clap Your Hands Say Yeah synth lines you’re lifted into a roaring Yeasayer chorus and barraged with tribal drums à la Dodos. Suckers gravitate around booming anthems, experimental melodies, and harmonizing that would turn Robin Pecknold’s head. Their music is afloat in colourful rhythm sections and catchy to the point that this review is being written at 120 BPM. Frenchkiss Records has a knack for picking-up our favourite bands, as it was with Passion Pit and the Antlers last year, we now have a gem in Suckers.

Wild Smile is a reason to sing along, stomp your feet, and remember why you love music. The album is a scrapbook of pop sensibilities, free from pretense, glowing in energy, and ballooning in scope. The album draws from such a wide array of influences that it doesn’t simply reinvent a genre but breathes new life into the ways we can approach music. Admittedly, Quinn Walker lead singer of Suckers may not have been aiming for such far-reaching effects, but it would be hard to say Wild Smile doesn’t transcend indie rock, moving into a realm of philosophy, art, and ushering in an age of two-stepping hipsters.

The eleven precociously crafted tracks that comprise Wild Smile bare an unsettling energy. The album opens with the unsuspecting track ‘Save Your Love for Me’ with slowly building guitars and a refined piano for the first three minutes and fifteen seconds. At which point the track heavily punches with Walker’s vocal schizophrenia and devolves to an unshakable falsetto battle between thundering percussion and ripped guitars. The opener provides a foundation for ‘Black Sheep’ a track that ignores any hint of subtleties and takes shape as an urgent rhythm section provides a stage for shrieking guitar riffs drowning in a bubbling sea of mayhem.

Suckers – Save Your Love for Me
Suckers – Black Sheep
Suckers – A Mind I Knew

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— , June 23, 2010    1 Comment
Photograph by Caroline Desilets

Photograph by Caroline Desilets

The latest record from Plants and Animals proves with striking clarity that rock ‘n’ roll need not be convoluted and tedious. La La Land focuses on the twist and shout, sweaty psychedelia, and roaring guitars. The record opts to be played at full volume to an empty room rather than having to be throttled to an audience of thousands. Following up Parc Avenue, Plants and Animals have found a way to balance a louder, ripped-up sound while creating a tight collection of ballads that inherit the spirit of their memorable first effort. Their second album released by Secret City Records last month feels bigger and rowdier. La La Land sounds like Parc Avenue went to a night at the opera and decided to bring a six-pack and foam finger. I recently had the chance to speak with Warren Spicer and we discussed everything from Canada’s status in the music world and the new Plants and Animals record to whimsical CFL dreams and three-legged dog hybrids.

Plants and Animals – Feedback in the Field
Plants and Animals – The Mama Papa
Plants and Animals – Tom Cruz

Jan: Are you excited for how La La Land will be received, how did you approach this album after the success of Parc Avenue?

Warren Spicer: You just hope for the best. I think we’ve made another record that we we’re happy with and it was done around Christmas time. So we’ve been sitting around and waiting for it to come out for a while, you kind of lose track of where it actually is. Then people start to get their hands on it and it takes on a life of its own – a more public life.

Jan: So when did you start work on La La Land?

Warren: I guess about last December.

Jan: So was most of the writing done in Montreal or while you were on tour?

Warren: I would say most of it was done in Montreal; some of it was done in France, too. We recorded half the record in a studio outside of Paris. We wrote and recorded some stuff while we were out there as well, but most of it was done in Montreal.

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— , June 14, 2010    Comments Off on Plants and Animals