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

Toronto alt-folk group Fort York are having a busy month. With an Indiegogo campaign in full flight to help fund the recording of a new album and shows planned all over the city, I asked the guys to take over mixtape duties for me and tell me what they’re listening to as they write new songs for their upcoming EP. The result is a mix so eclectic that I can only assume their new album will strive to be all things to all people. From J Dilla to Dirty Projectors, and Bob Lind to King Tubby, I was excited to see some of my personal favourites and discover some new songs that have been on heavy rotation since. Below you’ll find Conor and Rory Lavelle, Nick Kewin and Kyle Fulton’s choices with some brief thoughts on what they like about each of their picks. When asked to contribute anything further, drummer Dan Lefebvre simply said “I think y’all got it covered” – I’d have to agree.

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— , August 24, 2012    Comments Off on Guestlist: Fort York

UPDATE: This contest is now closed, the winner has been notified by email.

Take a chance on Givers. This fine quintet from Lafayette, Louisiana began with long-standing friendships predicated on their musical inclinations dating back to high school, but through the years had never managed to share a stage or studio together. When a last minute cancellation at a friend’s gig created a slot for an opener, the group took a chance and hopped on stage for a completely improvised first set together. The chemistry was insane, and after a few months of playing and recording together, indie deities Dirty Projectors took a chance on them bringing the band on tour in the Fall of 2009. This proved to be the break they needed, as Givers went from obscurity to appearing on several “bands to watch” lists all over this very internet in early 2010. The buzz is going strong as Givers released their debut album In Light this week.

So join the good company of Givers, Dirty Projectors, the Internet, and myself in taking a chance on these guys. Courtesy of Embrace, we’ve got two tickets for you to see Givers in Toronto at their show with Pepper Rabbit and 1, 2, 3 at the Garrison on Tuesday, June 21. More info here. To enter to win, email contests@cavacool.com with “Up Up Up” in the subject line and your full name somewhere in the body. Contest closes Friday, June 17 at midnight.

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— , June 8, 2011    1 Comment

Photograph by Sarah Cass

Welcome back to Ca Va Cool’s best albums of 2009. The first half of our list featured Wolf Parade off-shoots, a band experiencing a grand reunion, and an array of talented newcomers. Our top ten features the heavy hitters, the very best 2009 had to offer. Our contributors battled mercilessly to formulate this list. We emerge bloodied and bruised, confident that these are ten albums that will stand the test of time. Without further ado, here are Ca Va Cool’s top albums of ’09.

Photograph by Annie Powers

Photograph by Annie Powers

10. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Slumberland)

Gather around children and let me tell you the tale of four New York indie poppers who dubbed themselves The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. In their sugar-coated world all songs were dreamy, dense melodies drenched in saccharine sweet vocals and jangly guitar. Lyrics were emotional proclamations with dark undertones disguised beneath cute refrains and gumdrops. Teenage angst, sexual yearning, misdirected emotions, drug analogies and scattered profanities flowed with their overt sweetness and apparent levity in a musical dichotomy; the battle against light and dark arranging itself into aural beauty. Nothing less could be expected from a troupe of troubadours named after a children’s book and channeling broken hearts of the past into a C86 revival. What will become of the courageous quartet in the new year? The story is to be continued. In the meantime, we can lose ourselves in my favourite track about library love from their self-titled debut album released this year on Slumberland Records. — Sabrina Diemert

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— , December 26, 2009    2 Comments

Dirty Projectors - Dave Longstreth

Listening to Dirty Projectors usually requires your undivided attention to plumb the depths of Dave Longstreth’s labyrinthine musical mind. This is the case whether he is re-imagining a punk album (as on Rise Above) or writing a rock opera paying tribute to Don Henley (The Getty Address). In the group’s latest album, it feels as if Longstreth has emerged from his cerebral musical world to take stock of the simpler things, and found them worth setting to music as well. The result is a sun-drenched tracklist which manages to retain the unexpected rhythms and expansive choral harmonies from albums past, but reconfigures these elements into the band’s most accessible album to date.

To call anything from Dirty Projectors “pop” is using the broadest definition of the word, as each song contains influences from far-flung corners of the musical world. ‘Useful Chamber’ hints at African influences from between its synthesized chords (and in the headbanger breakdown smack dab in the middle of the song). ‘Stillness Is the Move’ interprets R&B as sung by a four-part all-girl chamber choir, lead by Amber Coffman’s gorgeous vocals. Coffman is showcased throughout the album, such as on the sweetly sorrowful acoustic ballad ‘Two Doves’. Longstreth takes lead vocals himself on other tracks including ‘Temecula Sunrise’, which to my mind is best described as a classic summer guitar jam reinterpreted using every time signature available.

Taken as a whole, Bitte Orca is an eclectic collection which surprises and intrigues as a Dirty Projector record should, only this time around Longstreth and company seem to be inviting us to stop thinking so hard and start singing along.

Dirty Projectors – Useful Chamber
Dirty Projectors – Stillness Is the Move
Dirty Projectors – Two Doves

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— , May 11, 2009    3 Comments