Photograph by Jon Bergman

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 FursSound 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

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— , December 25, 2011    Comments Off on Best Albums of 2011, Pt. 2

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

I want to start by saying that Kaputt – Dan Bejar’s ninth full-length release under the Destroyer moniker – is my favourite Destroyer album, and that it might well be yours too. And not just because that seems like a perfectly adequate way to kick off a review. No, I want to tell you that up-front because I’m afraid that if I don’t and you read on, you’ll never believe me. See, the problem is, while I’m certain that Kaputt will feel to you like an “album” in the classic sense, and while I’m hopeful it will become a favourite, I’m less confident you’ll even believe that this is a Destroyer album in the first place.

What should Destroyer sound like? I used to think I had him more or less pegged. And you might have your own Destroyer box, too. But the first striking thing about Kaputt is that it forced me to revisit some of those earlier Destroyer releases, and to realize that this coherent, linear musical narrative I had in my head was a lot more superficial than I had thought. Sure, structurally, it’s not tricky to identify that unique Destroyer sound; and, indeed, it’s really not that difficult to pick it out all over Kaputt here either. What matters, however, about this fresh new direction – and, as it turns out, about all those previous directions – is the vastly different places they have taken me to.

Kaputt could certainly take a listener many places. To you, it might be the soundtrack to a gritty police procedural. It might be Twin Peaks. Hell, it might even be The Red Shoe Diaries. But however it feels to you, it’s certainly the kind of thing you only expect to see if you find yourself on the wrong channel at the right time of night (or vice versa). And once you’re there, you’ll hardly notice it, even though you won’t really have to look for it either. There’s Kaputt, a little ways down the dimly-lit street, past the puddles and the piles of refuse, rising up into the night with the steam from the manholes.

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— , January 25, 2011    3 Comments