Sometimes, there’s too much good music. Mixtapes are a chance to pick and choose from the spectrum of too muchness and bring friends and readers some of the best of what I’ve heard recently. But sometimes there’s still too much, which is why I decided to split this mix into 2 parts, or ‘sides’, if you will. Part 1 is California Sunrise, because as you’ll learn quickly in the captions below, California has inadvertently become a major theme in my listening choices as of late. Like past mixes, this one’s heavily influenced by how I feel with the on-set of my favourite time of year, and is an effort to share a soundtrack perfect for your sun-kissed days and sweaty nights. Stay tuned for part 2 next week.

Download | California Sunrise Mixtape

Blackbird Blackbird – Sunspray

As promised, this mix comes chock-full of Californian inspiration. ‘Sunspray’ starts the trend, with band Blackbird Blackbird hailing from San Francisco. Since March of last year, they’ve steadily released a series of EPs leading to this March’s Summer Heart full-length. My favourite track by the band comes from their second EP Let’s Move on Together. The unintelligibly faint vocals layered overtop synths create a delicate yet danceable tune, seemingly made for an intimate slow dance in a sea of raging fast-dancers.

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— , July 11, 2011    3 Comments

Photograph by Steven Walter

South by Southwest is kind of like the Twitter of music festivals. It’s peppy, popular, easy to mock, highly corporate and desperate to hide that fact with little stabs at techy subversiveness. The scene on the ground is as though social networking itself was suddenly given life by a trickster god, as musicians of every flavour and every level of grunginess mingle with industry suits and club kids on spring break. Iffy metaphors aside, the festival deserves its widespread reputation as a hipster-heavy network-a-thon that saturates Austin from downtown to the sticks with more man-hours of music than could possibly be experienced in a standard human year. It’s fun.

I arrive in Austin before the official beginning of the music festival, while the interactive tech and film expos are still in full swing, and before you can say “Wes Anderson” I’m comfortably installed on a patio, chatting with a group of Portlanders about different brands of free-range chicken. I’m off to a comfortable head start on all my stereotypes.

The main drag on Sixth Street is already fairly happening, though it’ll get exponentially more clogged as the week goes on. I spy a familiar face through the open window of the Bat Bar: it’s icon of awkwardness Michael Cera, playing bass with his supergroup-of-a-sort Mister Heavenly. The band is rounded by members of the Unicorns, Man Man, and Modest Mouse, but it’s pretty clear who the gaggle of college girls are crowding around to see, cell phones straining upwards for photos like a curious herd of electric giraffes.

Mister Heavenly – Mister Heavenly

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— , May 10, 2011    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 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