Photograph by Ben Rayner

Photograph by Ben Rayner

Hearing Parquet Courts’ frontman Andrew Savage describe the title of their first non-cassette release, “like this unnamed feeling, or sensation that we all have — it’s the thing everyone is looking for,” might make a weary indie rock listener brace for yet another album of sanguine twee. Chirpy indie pop, dreamy shoegaze-turned-electronic and forays into acoustic guitar are all good in the correct dosage, but some of us are pining for the new rock revolution of the early 2000s when musicians nostalgically mimicked the heydays of garage and punk. In a pleasant contrast to the music of the day, Light Up Gold instead delivers whip-sharp rock: a revival of post-punk revival replete with tight guitar-laden tracks and tongue-in-cheek stoner youth musings.

Written with an attention-deficit-addled population in mind, the individual songs are short; the 14-track LP clocks in at barely 33 minutes. This positions the New York (via Houston, mostly) musicians in the vein of other prolific slacker bands like Pavement or Guided by Voices — in fact, the soaring vocals and wordplay trickery on “Picture of Health” could easily fit in Robert Pollard’s ever-expanding repertoire, although with considerably more hi-fi polish. Fittingly, the longest track — “Stoned and Starving,” topping just over 5 minutes — is a distracted reflection on a quest for munchies. The tunes aren’t terribly complex structurally to a net benefit: songs propelled by dual-layered vocals, simple chords, prominent catchy melodies and driving beats.

Parquet Courts’ spastic nature spills over to the lyrical content. In the opening track, they jump from drawled idle proclamations (including the opening track’s repeated eye-rolled dismissive declarations of “Forget about it”) to clever ruminations on the emptiness of capitalism with too much of a sense of humour to be angsty (“Death to all false profits, around here we praise a dollar”). Themes of 20-something crises and related musings weave through the album, with references to failed psychotherapy and empty minds, self medication against the quotidian drudgery of life, excess and luxury, and the landscapes of broken wastelands. Forget bouncy ballads or folk fusion or trance-y electronica, Light Up Gold is the rock soundtrack for our quarter-life crises.

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— , February 11, 2013    Comments Off on Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold

Photograph by Nick Helderman

As a fan of one-person music projects and guitars layered with lyrics of love, Montreal-based Miracle Fortress dovetailed perfectly into my music collection. The summer of 2007 was bathed in the melodies of Five Roses, a beautifully dense album which made it on our list of top 20 Canadian albums from the aughts. When Van Pelt returned to Toronto in March for Canadian Music Week, the difference was striking. Accompanied by a drummer and effect lighting, he provided a danceable live preview of Was I the Wave?, his second full-length, released on April 26 by Secret City Records. I recently spoke with Graham over a static-ridden Skype connection about his new album and old influences.

Miracle Fortress – Raw Spectacle
Miracle Fortress – Maybe Lately

Sabrina: It’s exciting that you have some new material coming out; we haven’t heard from Miracle Fortress in a couple of years. In the hiatus, you have been doing a lot of touring and recording with Think About Life. What’s the future looking like for that band?

Graham Van Pelt: We’ve been working on a new record; we’re in the recording phase now, just getting some songs mixed. The group has been writing pretty steadily for a couple of years since Family.

Sabrina: I read that you deliberately avoided any influence of music from after 1980 while recording Five Roses. Immediately upon listening to Was I the Wave? it seems like you have turned full circle on that quest.

Graham: Wouldn’t a full circle mean that I’m still the same?

Sabrina: This is true. I guess I should say a semi-circle. Do you feel like it was an active decision to change your approach?

Graham: It definitely was not an active choice to focus on any particular era. I started adding different elements and sounds into the music, especially drums and drum patterns. It ended up leading things into new territories. But there wasn’t any real premeditation about where I wanted to arrive. It’s always a goal of mine to explore something else every time I work on a piece of music. I just keep myself occupied by finding new challenges and combinations. A lot of it is just experimenting: setting up a bunch of gear up and not really knowing what you’re going to do. Let the experiment progress, and in the end if there’s a germ for a song then you’re pretty lucky. I take it from there.

Continue Reading ‘Miracle Fortress’ Feature Interview »

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— , May 14, 2011    1 Comment

Photograph by Nick Helderman

I feel a tinge of artistic failure when I dislike something that I know to be beautiful, like an ancient Greek sculpture or a Coen brothers movie. I recognize the appeal and appreciate the aesthetic, but it’s just not for me, which is why I was a bit nervous to discuss my thoughts on the Luyas’ Too Beautiful to Work. The group has a veritable pedigree of Montreal musicians: Jessie Stein is a member of Graham Van Pelt’s band when Miracle Fortress plays live gigs, Pietro Amato plays in Torngat, has contributed to Arcade Fire albums, and is a member of Bell Orchestre alongside Luyas bandmate Stefan Schnieder. Expectations were high for the band’s first release.

The title track of the album suckered me in, obfuscating the album’s ultimate decent into the realm of post-rock with a catchy opening. I proceeded listening with ill-placed expectations of pop/rock perfection, which explains my frustration halfway through the album. The detracting factor is that unlike standard pop, many tunes in Too Beautiful to Work don’t go anywhere: they reject the idea of hitting an apex in favour of precise instrumental work. It’s like riding a very shallow escalator that reverses directions prior to reaching the floor; you follow along dutifully in the rising action and momentum of the music, but then the song retreats into a fading anticlimax, dashing any hope of reaching a peak. While I recognize that it’s the escalator ride that should be enjoyed, with its musical complexity and building mood, I tend to lose sight of these details and keep hoping to reach that climax.

For example, ‘Canary’ is an ensnaring song which brings focus to Stein’s gentle and idiosyncratic voice, but it lacks the final push which could have kicked listeners in the heart. The layered percussion of ‘Tiny Head’ feel psychedelic, but tapers off  without satisfying. Most songs contain unique soundscapes from Amato’s french horn and incredible texture from Stein’s moodswinger (a custom-built modified electric zither), but rarely bring forth a dominant melody using either instrument.

Continue Reading ‘Too Beautiful to Work’ Album Review »

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— , March 7, 2011    Comments Off on The Luyas: Too Beautiful to Work

Photograph by Sarah Cass

When asked about the lack of musical originality in independent music during an interview a few years ago, Deerhoof’s charmingly awkward Greg Saunier responded, “Music does not need to be saved.” His belief in the art form’s unwavering creativity may be a matter of perspective: being a member of an underrated and consistently unpredictable experimental rock group makes Saunier et al de facto fighters of inferior tunes, trite lyrics, and tired indie pop clichés. In their self-aware superhero manner, Deerhoof released their aptly titled tenth album this past week, Deerhoof vs. Evil.

Many of the band’s trademark sounds remain intact: the blunt, simple, and often comically unique lyrical stylings of Satomi Matsuzaki, the melodic guitar layering, the occasionally chaotic noise sequences, and the band’s penchant for peculiarity. All of which are evident in the album’s opening track, as Matsuzaki launches with a wink into Catalan in ‘Qui Dorm, Només Somia’ (“He who sleeps, only dreams” – am I correct, Barcelonan friends?).

Since the addition of Ed Rodriguez in 2008, Deerhoof’s guitar work has become more complex; the interplay between John Dieterich and Rodriguez allowed for flirtation with different genres and pushed the stringed instrument to be showcased within their songs. Deerhoof vs. Evil is no exception, with their mingled strumming ranging from the Flamenco-esque ‘No One Asked to Dance’, the bluesy progression of ‘Secret Mobilization’ and bouncy-to-crunchy tangential jams accented by Saunier’s epic drumming in ‘Behold a Marvel in the Darkness’.

Continue Reading ‘Deerhoof vs. Evil’ Album Review »

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— , January 31, 2011    Comments Off on Deerhoof vs. Evil

Photograph by Vanessa Heins

Here at Ca Va Cool, we love PS I Love You. The eclectic, catchy, metal-reminiscent musical project of Paul Saulnier and Benjamin Nelson that is, not the silly romantic comedy. Since our interview with Saulnier back in September, a lot has changed for the duo. Their debut LP, Meet Me at the Muster Station, has been lauded since it’s October 5 release and they’ve been tearing up the Canadian and American legs of their tour, despite the minor hiccup of some temporarily stolen guitars in Toronto. 

As an added bonus for fans, Paper Bag Records has been steadily releasing The Kingston Sessions, a collection of six live PS I Love You videos, shot by Mitch Fillion of Southern Souls in random locations around Kingston, Ontario. Today, we’re bursting with excitement to premiere part 5 of the series, ‘2012’. There’s something apt about Saulnier and Nelson belting out their apocalyptic anthem underneath an off-kilter statue at the Kingston waterfront, which, according to rumours, was designed to meet in the middle but ended up askew. Chaos under chaos. Check it and the previous Kingston Sessions out below. 

The Kingston Sessions
Part 1 – ‘Butterflies & Boners’ at Pitchfork
Part 2 – ‘Scattered’ at Herohill
Part 3 – ‘Little Spoon’ at Quick Before It Melts
Part 4 – ‘Meet Me at the Muster Station’ at YouTube

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— , November 15, 2010    Comments Off on Video Premiere: PS I Love You – “2012”