Photograph by Anna M. Campbell

As Ca Va Cool concludes its fifth year and the arbitrary music-ranking period of 2011 comes to a close, the gang assembled (virtually) once again to bring you our twenty favourite albums of the year. The bottom half of our list features riot grrrls old and new, an R&B resurrection, and, interestingly, most of the Philadelphia rock scene. Stay tuned for the conclusion of our list with the ten best albums of 2011, when we get around to it.

20. The Rural Alberta Advantage Departing

Arriving in the dead of winter early this year, Departing lived up to high expectations by not really departing at all from the rock ‘n’ nostalgia formula that powered the Rural Alberta Advantage’s 2009 debut Hometowns. A new batch of crafty songs from Nils Edenloff continues to blur the line between homesickness and heartbreak; Paul Banwatt’s manic beats continue to provide the gasoline. Feeling more and more comfortable in their shoes as a dedicated three-piece ensemble, Edenloff, Banwatt, and keyboardist Amy Cole focus on what they’re best at: compelling, unpretentious indie-folk drawn through the emotional mesh of all that we must leave behind. Plus some kickass drums. — Josh Penslar

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— , December 19, 2011    1 Comment

Photograph by Sam Javanrouh

There’s a day in June that occupies a special place in Torontonians hearts every year. Originally known as the Olympic Island Festival, the recently re-named Toronto Island Concert, is what many of my friends call their “favourite day of the summer”. Curated by Broken Social Scene and their label Arts&Crafts, the day-long mini-fest takes place South of the city, just a few kilometres off-shore from Toronto’s modest and un-scenic harbourfront, on one of the city’s most heavily protected natural gems, Olympic Island. With only a community in the hundreds that inhabits the Toronto Islands, their parks are some of the city’s most beautiful, their few domiciles are some of the city’s most demanded and their concert is one of the city’s most memorable.

After a two-year break from any performances on the island, one because of an unfortunate scheduling conflict last year, and the other unexplained the year previous, the memories of the day are starting to get fuzzy. Remember the year when Feist opened and played all of ‘The Reminder’ before anyone knew that ‘1,2,3,4’ would be a Sesame Street jam? Or how about that year when Canada’s music scene was finally en vogue internationally, after over a decade of indie rock triumphs domestically? Remember how this celebration was marked by Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene being on the same bill, collectively shouting back at the world “the kings are taking back their throne,” a phrase which packed so much punch, years before it found its home on Neon Bible’s ‘Intervention’? Oh, and then there was the time that J. Mascis joined a stage ramshackled-full of 8 electric guitarists and three drummers, spilling out into the audience, and played a song to close the night called ‘Guitar Symphony’ which has never seen the light of day, but was perhaps the strongest reminder of the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll the city has ever seen.

Indeed, the day-long festival has been home to some of the most memorable and important moments in Toronto’s music history. It’s also been home to some of the most memorable and important moments for this writer, personally. One way or another, the Island Concert marks a moment in the Summer around which old friends plan trips back to the city and everyone finds each other, ready to celebrate anything they can. The reunions start early in the day over beers and hugs, and end with the back-drop of a lit-up city, slow-dancing as long as you can before running to make the last ferry back to mainland.

Pavement – Cut Your Hair
Broken Social Scene – Cause = Time
Band of Horses – Our Swords
Beach House – Zebra

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— , June 18, 2010    5 Comments

Photograph by Meqo Sam Cecil

Welcome back to Ca Va Cool’s countdown of the 20 Best Canadian Albums of the 2000s. By now you’ve read the first half of our list which included everything from cult favourites to mainstream hits which truly answered the question “Old world underground, where are you now?”. The conclusion of our list offers you ten undeniable, bonafide, outright classics of Canadian indie. These albums showed that Canada was host to some of the most vibrant musical movements on the planet and for the first time, instead of borrowed nostalgia from our parents’ record collections, this was the music we lived. These are the albums which made us sing, dance, rock out, think, love, and pick up instruments to do it all again. It’s been one hell of the decade, here are the Best Canadian Albums of the 2000s.

Death from Above 1979

10. Death from Above 1979You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine (Last Gang, 2004)

When I first listened to You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, I wasn’t sure what it was. It was kind of like metal and kind of like dance music, but it was surely like nothing I had heard before. It was a breath of fresh air in the Toronto scene which captured such a diverse group of listeners. You could dig this album if you liked rock, punk, dance, metal, just about anything that could be sold in an alternative section of a mainstream music store. ‘Romantic Rights’ even got its fair share of play on MuchMusic. I was hopeful to see what would come next from the duo, which unfortunately would be a statement from bass player Jesse Keeler saying that they’ve called it quits. The two members now have their own separate projects, where appropriately one makes dance music (MSTRKRFT), and one makes rock music (Sebastien Grainger and The Mountains). — Kyle Sikorsi

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— , December 11, 2009    22 Comments
Photograph by May Truong

Photograph by May Truong

As the decade comes to a close and music magazines and blogs publish their “Best Albums of the Decade” lists, we here at Ca Va Cool decided to take a different direction. Sure, we could tell you that Kid A or Is This It is the greatest album of the last ten years, but you’ve already heard that. Instead, we’ve decided to make a list of something we hold very close to our hearts, Canadian music. By counting down the 20 best albums of the decade, we hope to pay respect to truly classic albums and shine a light on some underappreciated gems which can be enjoyed no matter where you come from. From regional hits to international sensations, our list showcases the best albums that music scenes all over Canada, from Vancouver to the Maritimes, have released this past decade. Here, in all its glory, is Ca Va Cool’s Best Canadian Albums of the 2000s.

Photograph by Chris Smith

Photograph by Chris Smith

20. Joel Plaskett EmergencyTruthfully Truthfully (MapleMusic, 2003)

When thinking of the greatest Canadian music genres/scenes of this past decade, it’s seemingly impossible to forget the influence of East Coast pop music. We begin our list with Nova Scotia’s best indie musical export, Joel Plaskett. Carrying the torch from ’90s legends Sloan, Joel Plaskett maintained the chugging electric guitar of 70’s power pop, incorporating the lyrical romanticism of his father’s folk idols, all from his hometown Halifax. On the Emergency’s second album, Truthfully Truthfully, Plaskett’s showcases the best of his charmingly witty lyrics and hook-ridden guitar work. As lovably awkward as Jonathan Richman, Plaskett nonetheless seemed as comfortable rocking out as Angus Young. Following the release, Joel Plaskett became a household name to Canadian music fans. He has been nominated twice for the Polaris Music Prize for his later work, produced countless albums for young East Coast bands, including the wonderful Little Jabs by Two Hours Traffic, and he still lives in Nova Scotia. — Daniel Hernandez

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— , December 7, 2009    7 Comments

All Photographs by Paul Shin

This concert was not broken. On July 11, 2009, 18 Torontonians got together to do something they’d all done before. Arriving in town from disparate locations, they met at Toronto’s Harbourfront and went on to play a concert which will undoubtedly be forever engrained in Toronto music history. One of a kind, symbolic, chaotic, harmonious, an end and a start – and to think, it was all born out of an extended apology.

The day was meant to host an annual festival curated by Arts&Crafts Records on Olympic Island. A few months after announcing the show, to the chagrin of many, the festival was cancelled due to worries of competing with the noisy Molson Indy 500 cars racing on the Gardiner Expressway, across the lake only a few kilometres away. In its place, Captain Kevin Drew announced that his band would play a free show on that same evening at the Harbourfront Centre and hoped, with a cherry on top, that this show “with special guests” would be enough to redeem themselves for not cross-checking their dates with David Miller’s calendar first. I was lucky enough to be there, and let me tell you, it was most definitely enough.

From the moment I got there, seeing the multiple cameras rolling, gathering footage for the upcoming concert documentary This Movie Is Broken…I knew that something out of the ordinary was about to happen. For starters, the setting felt more right than any other venue I’d seen them or any derivative of the collective at. Don’t get me wrong, I love Olympic Island, but everything about an experience on the islands feels separate and distinct from an experience in Toronto-proper.

Standing at the Toronto shoreline for a free concert in the nano-sized amphitheatre, I looked around and realized that this wasn’t the typical audience that I’d seen at past BSS shows. Sure, the tweed jackets, fedoras, ironic t-shirts, plaid shirts and dirty-man beards were all there, but they were all interspersed among a crowd including families, young and old, black and white, yellow and brown, from neon-coloured hipsters to urban b-boys, and more. Did these people even know who Broken Social Scene are? I sent a text to a friend, as I settled into a space I found apt, saying that I was praying to the rain gods to wash the riff-raff spectators away, so that I could get closer to the band that I loved more than they did. But rain clouds refused to appear, and I soon ate my e-words.

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— , July 23, 2009    16 Comments