The conclusion of Ca Va Cool’s best albums of 2012 picks up where the first half left off, featuring old favourites and brave new sounds side by side: indie pop sits next to a “post-internet” patchwork sound; thematically-advancing hip-hop sidles up to our beloved indie rock. Without further ado, here are our writers’ ten favourite albums of the past year.
10. Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t
How could anybody break up with Jens Lekman? Unfathomable as it may be, the Swedish songwriter is no stranger to frank relationship-ending songs; ‘I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You’ from his 2007 orchestral pop magnum opus Night Falls Over Kortedala could be seen as a prequel to this year’s ‘She Just Don’t Want to Be with You Anymore’. On the former, he seemed to be trying his hand at a long tradition of breakup pop songs (from ‘Breaking Up Is Hard to Do’ to ‘A Case of You’; from ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ to ‘Ms. Jackson’), whereas now you can tell he has experienced heartbreak firsthand. I Know What Love Isn’t never wavers from its main theme as the stages of recovery play in chronological order: the difficulty in forgetting on ‘Every Little Hair Knows Your Name’, the sadness of imagining his lover with another on ‘Become Someone Else’s’, and after some time, a joyous moving on during the title track. This sad bastard music doesn’t sound like a particularly fun way to spend 38 minutes, but with the sincerity, warmth, and goofball humour that have always characterized Lekman’s music, he delivers an album that’s insightful, upliftingly melodic, and ironically, hilarious at points. In the end, he may have learned what love isn’t, but he hasn’t given up on love, because, well, he’s Jens Lekman. — Daniel Hernandez
Like we always do at this time, today Ca Va Cool presents the 20 albums we collectively overplayed and played loud in 2012. The first half of our list includes some faithful R&B from the unlikely state of Colorado, past CVC favourites both noisey and subdued, psychedelic rock from the West coast of Australia, cinematic Neil Young covers, coming-of-age rap from the city of Compton, a new indie rock superduo of sorts, and turn of the century hipsters growing up. Don’t read too much into that last one, we’ll continue our list-making ways for years to come.
20. How to Dress Well – Total Loss
It’s quite possible that 2012 will be remembered as the year that R&B re-entered the zeitgeist. It’s not only been an important year for the genre on a commercial level, but for the first time in decades we’ve been reminded of just how advancing it can be. Tom Krell, like his contemporaries Frank Ocean, Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd), Miguel, and Solange, is a vanguard, and Total Loss, his second LP, is a turning point, where R&B became less about a type of content and more about a type of sound, less rooted in the story of a race and more rooted in the story of a person. Krell is a white guy from Colorado who learned about R&B through a childhood affinity for Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. On Total Loss he not only creates a beautiful and wrenching exploration of chronic depression, he also manages to deliver the single best ode to Houston since her passing, on album standout ‘& It Was You’. — Sal Patel
With no obvious favourite as in past years, we here at Ca Va Cool were left to our own devices when choosing the ten best albums of 2011. Much like the first half of our list, the top ten features a stylistic array from the year’s offerings. Plenty to enjoy, from sincere and contrived chill vibes to literary-rock, dubstep to soft-rock verging on quiet storm, and our first top album to be a debut. As always, thanks for reading. See you in 2012.
10. Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry seem forever changed by their travels throughout Eastern Europe and Asia. They’ve created a sparse, yet pulsating album in Sound Kapital, inspired by the kids in regions of the world who love music so much that they risk imprisonment by making it. The album is dark, loud, and penetrating with a focus more on beats and vocals than the duo’s earlier, more guitar-based offerings. Boeckner’s voice remains simply one of the most authentic and powerful around, and one only has to see the Handsome Furs live to witness their commitment to the music and those that inspired it. Songs like ‘Serve the People’, ‘Cheap Music’ and ‘No Feelings’ seem to embody not only the headspace they were in when creating the album, but make me believe that the demise of Wolf Parade was worth the tears. — Christian Kraeker
As Ca Va Cool concludes its fifth year and the arbitrary music-ranking period of 2011 comes to a close, the gang assembled (virtually) once again to bring you our twenty favourite albums of the year. The bottom half of our list features riot grrrls old and new, an R&B resurrection, and, interestingly, most of the Philadelphia rock scene. Stay tuned for the conclusion of our list with the ten best albums of 2011, when we get around to it.
20. The Rural Alberta Advantage - Departing
Arriving in the dead of winter early this year, Departing lived up to high expectations by not really departing at all from the rock ‘n’ nostalgia formula that powered the Rural Alberta Advantage’s 2009 debut Hometowns. A new batch of crafty songs from Nils Edenloff continues to blur the line between homesickness and heartbreak; Paul Banwatt’s manic beats continue to provide the gasoline. Feeling more and more comfortable in their shoes as a dedicated three-piece ensemble, Edenloff, Banwatt, and keyboardist Amy Cole focus on what they’re best at: compelling, unpretentious indie-folk drawn through the emotional mesh of all that we must leave behind. Plus some kickass drums. — Josh Penslar
Concluding our list of the best albums of the year, today we bring you our top ten. Though the airwaves are currently plagued by some kid from Stratford, Ontario with a terrible haircut, these are ten albums that will have a lifespan far beyond 2010. As always, thanks for reading, we hope you’ve enjoyed visiting our site this past year as much as we’ve enjoyed making it. See you in 2011.
10. The National – High Violet
Not much has changed for The National since Boxer, for better or worse. Matt Berninger still sings about drugs in an apathetic baritone, while Antony and Bryce Dessner layer drum hooks below guitar hooks below lugubrious three or four-note melodies. High Violet is a statement that the band have pretty much found their sound, and it’s very good listening, though it isn’t the high-water mark Boxer was. It features no ‘Fake Empire’-style polyrhythms, nothing quite as quizzically heartbreaking as ‘Brainy’; if anything, it’s cleaner and slightly louder than earlier releases, adding a touch more of Springsteen by way of The Hold Steady. The epic thickness of their sound is as comforting as ever. Clap your headphones on, dial the volume up, and lie back for 48 minutes on a road trip through your mind. Who cares exactly what a lemonworld is? It sounds good. — Josh Penslar