Photograph by Anna M. Campbell

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

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— , December 19, 2011    1 Comment

Photograph by Caroline Desilets

The Polaris Music Prize was first awarded in 2006, serving as the Canadian equivalent of Britain’s Mercury Prize, or the United States’ short-lived Shortlist Music Prize. 40 eligible Canadian releases are chosen for the longlist by the Polaris Jury, who then pare the group down to a 10 album shortlist before the final vote. Previously, the award has been given to Final Fantasy, Patrick Watson, Caribou, Fucked Up, and Karkwa. The disparity between those winners suggests little rhyme-or-reason is involved with the eventual winner, so the list-making process remains entertaining as ever, as it’s usually anyone’s game.

The most recent winners have come with some stigma attached. Both Fucked Up and Karkwa came completely out of left-field as winners, making many question the final 10-person vote. However, having seen both acts live within the past few months, with Fucked Up making for one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve seen in a long time, and Karkwa completely stealing the show from Plants and Animals, I can no longer say their wins were completely undeserved. I will make no defence for Patrick Watson.

The 2011 shortlist was released yesterday, and despite boasting eight first-time shortlist nominees, it seems to be eliciting more grumbling than previous years. We’re not on the jury, but Ca Va Cool favourites PS I Love You, The Rural Alberta Advantage and Young Galaxy inexplicably did not make the jump from the longlist, and we’re scratching our heads at some of the inclusions. So, without further ado, the artists on the Polaris Music Prize 2011 shortlist:

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— , July 7, 2011    Comments Off on Polaris Music Rant

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