Photograph by Danielle St. Laurent

January 16, 2011 – Making up for their previous cancellation due to Snowmaggedon 2010, Broken Social Scene’s first concert in London, Ontario was a rousing success. Along for the ride was the Most Serene Republic, who I last saw shortly after the release of their second album, Population. With so many members, their last performance could best be described as chaotic, so I was hoping they would manage to be a little more ordered this night. The band parted ways with vocalist Emma Ditchburn early last year, so I was also curious to see how that void would be filled. Apparently the answer was Adrian Jewett taking over her lead vocals on the former duet ‘Heavens to Purgatory’, while the rest of the band chipped in on backing vocals. They definitely satisfied during their brief appearance, particularly during their debut single, ‘Content Was Always My Favourite Colour’.

My previous Broken Social Scene experiences have both been during their annual Toronto Island Concerts. The general consensus is that this is the best way to see the band, but I was curious to see how they fared without relying on guest appearances from Leslie Feist, Emily Haines, and others. The core members behind Forgiveness Rock Record were all present, and aside from members of the Most Serene Republic occasionally acting as a horn section, it was their night, and it felt remarkably more pure than the festival appearances. There’s something to be said for the spectacle of the island shows, but I much preferred the intimacy of the London Music Hall. From the opening notes of ‘World Sick’, the capacity crowd was on their feet, singing along and having the best Sunday ever. The setlist covered most of Forgiveness Rock Record , but what really impressed were the deep cuts. For the first time in five years, the band played ‘Canada vs. America’, from the EP To Be You and Me, which was unexpected, to say the least.

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— , January 22, 2011    Comments Off on Broken Social Scene: London Music Hall

Photograph by Max Weiland

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.

Released on 4AD

10. The NationalHigh 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

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— , December 24, 2010    1 Comment

Photograph by Eric Kayne

For the past six years, fellow Canadian music blog i(heart)music has polled Canadian music writers, bloggers, and photographers to publish its annual Hottest Bands in Canada list, summarizing, well, Canadian bands that are hot. This consensus building seems to have worked as top honours in past years were given to critically fawned-over acts such as the Rural Alberta Advantage, Chad VanGaalen, and Feist.

Since the only two rules stated are that bands submitted must be Canadian, however one defines that, and that they be hot, however one defines that, I put together my own criteria for my top 10 submission. I gauged the quality of the band’s recorded output, in most cases their album release, along with the quality I saw and reverence I perceived towards the act’s live show. I also took into consideration if I think they’ve entered or stayed at the height of their careers, and if we can expect big things to come. Most of all, this list answers the completely subjective question of which bands I found most exciting in 2010.

For more of a scientific consensus, check out the full list and for reviews throughout the year of pretty much every Canadian album of the moment, be sure to check out i(heart)music’s feature section.

10. Basia Bulat

Canada’s folk sweetheart continues to bring her orchestrated indie pop to the masses with the steady touring of her second album, Heart of My Own. A talented songwriter with a keen ear for classic melodies, Bulat has garnered a following larger than anticipated for her humble personality.

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— , November 10, 2010    6 Comments

With the short list announced coincidentally close to Canada Day, the Polaris Music Prize has been cleverly disguised as an icon of national pride. The saga of Polaris says that not only are we geographically gargantuan as a nation, but musically we’re in fine proportion to our size. It takes time to look at all the details, since we as a nation put out an obscene amount of music, but an award like Polaris gives us great cause to wear out our Canadian vinyl through the summer months. From the Besnard Lakes to Broken Social Scene and from Shad to the Sadies, the short list has once again rolled out a tight batch of competition spanning a wide array of genres. Splicing and comparing the ten albums selected for the short list this year can be a daunting task, so we at Ca Va Cool have decided to divide and conquer, to leave you more time to enjoy and celebrate not only the ten albums on the short list or the forty albums on the long list, but as many Canadian albums from the past year as you possibly can.

Broken Social Scene – All to All
Radio Radio – Tomtom
Shad – Rose Garden

Photograph by Chris Gergley

The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night (Jagjaguwar)

If there’s a dark horse in the Polaris race, it may just be the Besnard Lakes. The second-time shortlist nominees are once again looking to take home the big prize. An album blending shoegaze, progressive rock, and psychedelic rock, The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night harkens back to the 1970s, drawing comparisons to bands like Fleetwood Mac and the Alan Parsons Project. Husband-and-wife team  Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas trade vocals throughout.  Goreas takes centre stage on album highlight ’Albatross’, bursting through the droning guitars, singing of a heartfelt remembrance of an age long since passed. ‘And This Is What We Call Progress’ eschews that beauty, preferring a condemnation of the darkness of the surrounding world, soundtracked by a workman-like drumbeat and some of the sweetest guitar licks heard since the days of classic rock. Their world is on fire, and the Besnard Lakes channel that intensity into 10 tracks of Polaris-worthy goodness. — Kevin Kania

The Besnard Lakes – And This Is What We Call Progress

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— , July 31, 2010    8 Comments

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