You’ve read the first half of our best albums of the year, but in the final hours of 2014, we’ll be listening to the music that really gets us going. This past year that meant Scandinavians of both the funky and bleak variety, an existential stoner from Montreal, and an aging punk with dance moves made for broadcast television. There were modern classic albums of sumptuous techno minimalism and the Philadelphia power chords that soundtracked the year. But it was a Canadian indie stalwart who after a decade of fine releases has finally, truly come in to his own – getting points from every one of our writers and solidly becoming Ca Va Cool’s best album of 2014.
10. Ought – More Than Any Other Day
For a short while, Montreal’s Ought have burnt brightly, if a little coldly. On their previous EP New Calm, they sounded like a strained David Byrne backed by Joy Division. Now, shouting life-affirming mantras like, “Today more than any other day I am excited to go grocery shopping!” seems be a staple of Ought’s music. With their uplifting LP debut More Than Any Other Day, Ought firmly cement themselves as a positively unmissable act. Throughout both of their latest Toronto shows, Tim Beeler, who commits his talent to guitar and vocals, flailed and shimmied his way through their rhythmic and hypnotic set. Ought affirms that they are, as they put it, a “Habit”, and their frantic energy is palpable in each note and groove they bring on More Than Any Other Day. — Anthony Boire
Primavera Sound is an overwhelming and vastly stimulating music pilgrimage made each year to Barcelona, Spain. Over two hundred bands across eleven stages and timetables that schedule sets well past five in the morning make the musical mecca a monstrous undertaking. Fortunately, 140,000 music lovers joined me over the course of the three main days and two satellite events to dance, sing, and even swim at the Parc del Fòrum and Poble Espanyol. The eclectic line-up saw everything from unabashed hip-hop to captivating folk ballads and electronic DJ sets. Though the scheduling and sheer volume of music can make it difficult, somehow we found time to sleep amid the madness.
Getting any rest was a predicament owing to the tension of anti-government protests consuming Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya over the course of the week. Demonstrators voiced their concerns over the political and economic situation in Spain emphasizing the growing problem of unemployment amongst youth in the country. Primavera Sound also overlapped with the UEFA Cup Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United. As a result, the Saturday night schedule saw a two-hour gap in music as fans flooded the Llevant stage to watch the match on enormous screens. Whether or not you were a football fan, Barcelona’s victory was instantly apparent as celebrations ripped through the streets and onto La Rambla well past the closing sets at Primavera that night.
Outside its musical aspects, Primavera held an array of meanings. The festival had its transformative qualities, for instance, the colour and amount of wristbands one donned was the founding rule of social hierarchies over the duration of the week. Wrist apparel, stickers, and swipe cards, clung, stuck, and hung off fans as they hustled across the festival grounds. The photo areas provided amusement by way of disgruntled Spanish photographers who complained of poor lighting throughout various sets. Ultimately, the true meaning dawned as I watched a communal dance break out during ‘Summertime Clothes’ by Animal Collective as they closed out the festival at 2AM on the San Miguel Stage. It is my hope that the following images, sounds, and commentary will help convey the innumerable untellable sentiments of Primavera Sound 2011 with you.
Tags: Animal Collective, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Baths, Belle & Sebastian, Caribou, Cults, Deerhunter, Emeralds, Fleet Foxes, Gang Gang Dance, Glasser, James Blake, Primavera Sound, Sufjan Stevens, The Flaming Lips, The National, The Tallest Man on Earth, tUnE-yArDs, Twin Shadow, warpaint
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
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.
After my one year hiatus from this city, I returned to witness the fifth edition of the London Ontario Live Arts Festival, affectionately referred to as LOLA. Each September, the hipsters of the city descend on Victoria Park to witness four days of free music and art installations. While I missed out on seeing Yoko Ono’s billboard, I was focussed on the musical portion of the festival. What follows is a brief overview of this year’s LOLAfest.
LOLA kicked off Thursday night with a double bill from Zeus and Jamie Lidell at Rum Runners. Although unlike the rest of the festival it was a pay event, it seemed to offer the most value. It’s a wonder more bands don’t play Rum Runners, aside from some poorly placed columns, it’s a fairly intimate venue, and the upper balcony offers an alternate perspective. During NXNE, I saw Zeus perform at El Mocambo following the Golden Dogs as a secret act. I hadn’t listened to them at the time, so I didn’t feel terrible leaving midset, as I was tired and amped for Pavement the next day. Perhaps feeling remorse for the slight, I thought I would give them another shot. Zeus’ classic rock-inspired style was a bit odd considering the headliner, but I found I enjoyed them much more when not half-asleep. The band members frequently traded vocals as well as instruments, adding great variety and spontaneity to the set. Leaving the stage with shouts for an encore, the band could have easily been a headliner, as there were just as many people coming to see them as Jamie Lidell.