Frank Ocean

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.

Photograph by Kristin Lidell

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

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— , December 31, 2012    3 Comments

Rather than having a semantic argument about whether 2009 or 2010 was the end of the last decade, Ca Va Cool yet again brings you its top albums of the year. Through our patented, painstaking, super-secret process, we have separated the wheat from the chaff to bring you twenty of this year’s finest albums (and Sufjan Stevens). Albums 20 to 11 come today, with the top ten being revealed on Friday. Without further ado, here is the bottom ten.

Released on Secret City Records

20. Diamond RingsSpecial Affections

The first of several one-man bands in our 2010 list, Diamond Rings is the brainchild of John O’Regan of the D’Urbervilles. In his Diamond Rings persona, Johnny O discards the post-punk mentality of his primary band with a spunkier, glam-rock approach. Special Affections strikes a fine balance of new wave pop with darker moments, distinctly glam but without the corniness that dogged the genre in the ’80s. The catchy hooks are never lost behind the synth, driven by punchy and endearingly DIY GarageBand drum beats. All of this punctuated by O’Regan’s direct and personal lyrics, emoted with his surprisingly throaty voice. In the end, Diamond Rings’ debut sounds like a less punky Pete Shelley, or a less cheesy Gary Numan, and ultimately a more fun John O’Regan. — Sabrina Diemert

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— , December 20, 2010    1 Comment

Photograph by Jan Kucic-Riker

The Toronto Island Concert had many things working against it. Torontonians were busy constructing fake lakes for the G20 summit, thunderstorms were expected to figuratively and literally rain on our parade, and finally the past two years saw our beloved island at the mercy of public services and scheduling conflicts. But not this year, the show was scheduled, bands announced, and we at Ca Va Cool began planning pancake/beer brunches in anticipation of festival day. We faced hordes of security, eager fans, and sound checks on Queen Street as we thought to ourselves that the crowds must have started heading down to the water early – we soon found that the clamour was instead centered on Miley Cyrus’s recital for the upcoming MMVA’s. So we did what any self-deprecating music-lover would – bought crêpes and stood next to the mass of shrieking tweens to take in the glory that was Ms. Cyrus. Arriving at the waterfront we armed ourselves with SPF 60 sunblock, wristbands, and contempt for those that managed to snag a better spot on the ferry than ourselves.

There we stood in a sea of Converse, Keds, and Wayfarers, each person cooler than the next; we were on our way to hipster heaven. Upon reaching the gates we were greeted by security barking the seemingly endless list of items not permitted – coincidentally they were not wearing Converse, Keds, or Wayfarers and thus labeled pejoratively as “the man”. Determined not to be denied, we downed the contents of our unsealed water bottles, smuggled in chocolate chip granola bars, and argued for blankets as a staple of outdoor festivals rather than fire hazards. We had arrived with good karma; the sun shone brightly, concession stands challenged vast rows of Porta Potties, toddlers sported over-sized ear protection, and concert-goers shared in the joy of brilliant music. We can’t thank Collective Concerts enough for making this event possible, our lovely friends both old and new for stationary head-bobbing along with us, and all the music fans in Toronto for sharing in the sights and sounds of the Toronto Island Concert 2010. – Jan Kucic-Riker

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— , June 28, 2010    3 Comments

Photograph by Sam Javanrouh

There’s a day in June that occupies a special place in Torontonians hearts every year. Originally known as the Olympic Island Festival, the recently re-named Toronto Island Concert, is what many of my friends call their “favourite day of the summer”. Curated by Broken Social Scene and their label Arts&Crafts, the day-long mini-fest takes place South of the city, just a few kilometres off-shore from Toronto’s modest and un-scenic harbourfront, on one of the city’s most heavily protected natural gems, Olympic Island. With only a community in the hundreds that inhabits the Toronto Islands, their parks are some of the city’s most beautiful, their few domiciles are some of the city’s most demanded and their concert is one of the city’s most memorable.

After a two-year break from any performances on the island, one because of an unfortunate scheduling conflict last year, and the other unexplained the year previous, the memories of the day are starting to get fuzzy. Remember the year when Feist opened and played all of ‘The Reminder’ before anyone knew that ‘1,2,3,4’ would be a Sesame Street jam? Or how about that year when Canada’s music scene was finally en vogue internationally, after over a decade of indie rock triumphs domestically? Remember how this celebration was marked by Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene being on the same bill, collectively shouting back at the world “the kings are taking back their throne,” a phrase which packed so much punch, years before it found its home on Neon Bible’s ‘Intervention’? Oh, and then there was the time that J. Mascis joined a stage ramshackled-full of 8 electric guitarists and three drummers, spilling out into the audience, and played a song to close the night called ‘Guitar Symphony’ which has never seen the light of day, but was perhaps the strongest reminder of the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll the city has ever seen.

Indeed, the day-long festival has been home to some of the most memorable and important moments in Toronto’s music history. It’s also been home to some of the most memorable and important moments for this writer, personally. One way or another, the Island Concert marks a moment in the Summer around which old friends plan trips back to the city and everyone finds each other, ready to celebrate anything they can. The reunions start early in the day over beers and hugs, and end with the back-drop of a lit-up city, slow-dancing as long as you can before running to make the last ferry back to mainland.

Pavement – Cut Your Hair
Broken Social Scene – Cause = Time
Band of Horses – Our Swords
Beach House – Zebra

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— , June 18, 2010    5 Comments
Photograph by Jason Nocito

Photograph by Jason Nocito

I was certain I wanted to be a firefighter while growing up. The conviction never materialized, yet the gleam of red fire engines, the whirr of sirens, and Dalmatians delighted me to no end. Despite an acute fear of fire alarms, misinterpretation of complex escape routes, and general dislike for flames– the dream lived on. Daily tasks became romanticized adventures, watering the flowers became extinguishing a dangerous blaze, tree houses were burning high-rises, and each kitten I encountered was in dire need of rescue. Lack of expertise and knowledge was supplemented by a passionate fervour. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally render this lush reminiscence and embrace childhood dreaminess on their latest record. On January 26, the duo also known as Beach House released their third LP titled Teen Dream on Sub Pop.

Following Devotion, the pair has developed stylistically shaking off prior inhibitions and settling on a comfortable withdrawal. The record is their most accessible effort, yet demands an appreciation that is fostered over several spins juxtaposed with Victoria’s haunting words. Beach House flourishes on the opening track ‘Zebra’ with the infectious chant, “Any way you run, you run before us, black and white horse arching among us.” The album approaches simplicity in reverse, synthesizers and snares melt together as each successive play reworks preceding complexity. The effect sounds effortless and hypnotic. Less than three tracks into Teen Dream the familiar swelling hymns of ‘Norway’ leave listeners afloat in youthful idealism. Awash in delicate melodies, the Baltimore duo makes it easy to dream, so much so that reverie is not forfeited on practical circumstances but rather blossoms within castles in the sky.

Teen Dream inspires an adolescent yearning on tracks like ‘Lover of Mine’ falling fittingly into the backseat of your car hidden amongst make-out mixtapes. The record spellbinds in the way you looked at the volleyball team donning knee-high socks and neon gym shorts, it teases like the notes passed between lectures, concealing a subtle sentiment in graceless growth. It beckons the gentle beauty of revisiting rather than heedlessly exploring. Beach House’s brand of dream pop is a sympathetic progression in sound, the fondness of their previous records held dearly at heart tangled with a new patience and understanding. The record has a dynamic flow of droning whispers and playfully plucked chords as it sweeps away static lulls. Beach House may take you to unexpected places, but the trip is far more enjoyable with eyes closed – it leaves more to the imagination.

Beach House – Zebra
Beach House – Norway
Beach House – Lover of Mine

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— , February 15, 2010    3 Comments