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

All Photographs by Jan Kucic-Riker

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.

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— , June 20, 2011    Comments Off on Primavera Sound Festival 2011

Photograph by Sean Pecknold

After an outstanding EP, a near-perfect debut album, and ventures into solo territory, Seattle folk troubadours Fleet Foxes have returned with yet another laudable contribution to folk music. The sextet’s sophomore release Helplessness Blues is a beautifully made parade of songs that have successfully avoided the sophomore slump with an album that has its roots in folk and baroque pop.

After their debut album, the boys in Fleet Foxes kept themselves busy. Drummer J. Tillman released a substantial amount of solo albums, while frontman Robin Pecknold focused on solo efforts with White Antelope and Rainbow Fang, a project with his manger/sister Aja. It has been almost three years since the group released new material, but it was well worth the wait. Helplessness Blues – although similar in sound to their previous release – is another perfectly executed effort. With the addition of multi-instrumentalist Morgan Henderson, the multi-faceted Helplessness Blues has moments of serenity, which are paired nicely with the excitement of their louder songs.

Opening the album is ‘Montezuma’, which is a beautiful song, but the presence of pessimism and oppression is evident as Pecknold sings, “Oh man what I used to be, Montezuma to Tripoli.” Montezuma was the Aztec Emperor captured by the Spanish Conquistadors and Tripoli, Libya is a city that has throughout history been subjected to foreign invading customs forced upon their existing culture.

The title track ‘Helplessness Blues’ starts soft and quiet as Pecknold’s truly introspective and heartfelt lyrics lead the Foxes into a mandolin-heavy love song, that shifts again into a well-orchestrated resolution that includes a delectable sound omitting from Skylar Skjelset’s guitar.

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— , April 12, 2011    Comments Off on Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues

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The leaves are turning green, flowers are blooming and if you live in Toronto the smog is slowly starting to settle in; all signs of spring. With the warmer weather and themes of renewal, growth and romance on the horizon, Ca Va Cool presents a seasonally fitting mixtape. Whether you head outdoors for a weekend escape or you find yourself strolling through the park on a lunch break, take a moment to enjoy the following bands that have clearly nailed the spirit of such a lovely season.

Download | The ‘Under a Cherry Blossom’ Mixtape

Fleet Foxes

01 | Fleet Foxes – Sun It Rises

Fleet Foxes are a five-piece group from Seattle with soothing guitars and mesmerizing vocals. ‘Sun It Rises’ is also the opening track on their acclaimed self-titled album released last June. The variety of carefully plucked acoustic arrangements accompanied by Robin Pecknold’s voice have the ability shake the deepest slumber as Fleet Foxes scoff at hibernation. The band is currently on tour and they’ll be making two stops in Canada – Montréal and Toronto on August 3 and 4, respectively.

air_france

02 | Air France – June Evenings

Based in Gothenburg, Sweden, the blissful electronic duo of Henri and Joel produce rhythmic pop music that quickly carries you away. ‘June Evenings’ off their No Way Down EP is analogous to sensory overload from the sounds of birds chirping to imagery of the first rays of sunshine peering through your bedroom curtains. The group is yet to release a full-length album but to their credit, the music they have produced to date is as close as anyone has reached to dream pop perfection. To quote Air France, “Give in, it’s spring”.

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— , May 18, 2009    4 Comments

This year’s mixtape is ready for you to download. The two disc set is packed with 2008 favourites from all of our writers.

Download: The Ca Va Cool Mixtape 2008 – Disc 1

01. She & Him – Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
02. Hot Chip – Ready for the Floor
03. Chad VanGaalen – TMNT Mask
04. Bloc Party – Signs
05. Mystery Jets – Young Love feat. Laura Marling
06. TV on the Radio – Family Tree
07. DeVotchKa – Transliterator
08. Wilco w/ Fleet Foxes – I Shall Be Released
09. Wolf Parade – Soldier’s Grin
10. M83 – Graveyard Girl
11. Albert Hammond, Jr. – GfC
12. Vampire Weekend – Walcott
13. Brendan Canning – Churches Under the Stairs
14. Cut Copy – Lights and Music
15. Los Campesinos! – This Is How You Spell…

Download: The Ca Va Cool Mixtape 2008 – Disc 2

01. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
02. Passion Pit – Sleepyhead
03. Born Ruffians – Little Garçon
04. The Clips – Space Kidz
05. The Radio Dept. – Freddie and the Trojan Horse
06. Bon Iver – Re: Stacks
07. Lykke Li – Dance Dance Dance
08. Portishead – Machine Gun
09. No Age – Eraser
10. Plants and Animals – New Kind of Love
11. Bodies of Water – Gold, Tan, Peach, and Grey
12. Fleet Foxes – Oliver James
13. Deerhunter – Never Stops
14. Santogold – Creator
15. Beast – Ashtray

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— , December 24, 2008    4 Comments