Photograph by Shawn Brackbill

Photograph by Shawn Brackbill

You’ve probably digested quite a few end of year countdowns in the week since we published the first half of our list. You may have seen your tastes reflected in the selections, found some good recommendations, and are now playing catch-up and cramming twelve months of music into your holiday break; but through it all, you just kept wondering what your favourite music blog had to say. Well today that wait is over; lo and behold the 10 favourite albums of the year according to your trusted Ca Va Cool writers. There’s a lot of diversity to the list this year, from bedroom experiments to state of the art studio productions, a Chicago rapper with the weight of the world on his shoulders to a Philadelphia rocker who knows how to chill out, and in the end, a longtime Ca Va Cool favourite deserved the most spins this year. As always, feel free to leave us a comment to tell us where we got it right/wrong and see you in 2014.

Photograph by Shawn Brackbill

Photograph by Shawn Brackbill

10. Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe

It’s hard not to get lost in Julianna Barwick’s music. Nepenthe is a soundtrack for the heavens, a consuming experience built on simple yet moving instrumentation and layered, reverb-soaked vocals. Barwick finds a way to expand her sound from previous release The Magic Place, incorporating strings, piano, and even a girls’ choir, in addition to her trademark bedroom tape-loop experiments. This makes for an angelic listen, yet there is something undeniably human about Nepenthe. When I hear this record I think of the cold, sprawling tundra, and how truly beautiful it is. I think of open fields and cosmic worlds. This record liberates me from my typical day and takes me on an ethereal journey as I leave everything behind. It makes me dream. That Julianna named this album after a drug, and more specifically the drug of forgetfulness, seems quite fitting. I’m not one to pressure my peers, but try Nepenthe. I think you’ll like it. — Sahil Parikh

Julianna Barwick – The Harbinger

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— , December 23, 2013    Comments Off on Best Albums of 2013, Pt. 2

Foxygen - Angel Ceballos

Jagjaguwar’s release of Foxygen’s Take the Kids Off Broadway last year introduced audiences to a duo of psych-pop revivalists that made it their mission to cram as many influences as they could into one album. Although fuzzy and unkempt, it was a laudable endeavor. On We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, Foxygen continue their shtick, but this time around it is much more polished. Crammed-full of familiar melodies and elements of superstars from the ’60s and ’70s – with famed multil-instrumentalist Richard Swift producing – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic is a full-bodied album that is far away from the lo-fi world of their debut.  From Sgt. Peppered album opener “In the Darkness” and “Oh No 2,” to the Dylanisms scattered across “No Destruction” to  Bowie, Lou Reed (in the Velvet Underground days), and all eras of Mick Jagger – especially on the title track – Foxygen are appreciative of the sound that defines them, and they do their upmost not to mimic, but to pay tribute.

There have been plenty of bands that would fall into the realm of reconstruction, but Foxygen spans two decades of past musical high notes, quite the accomplishment for a band that have been recording under their current name since the age of fifteen. Countless bands before Foxygen have dabbled with quick change and cosmic patchworks of older influences, but few have succeeded in crafting songs as moving and catchy as these. The thick accents and psychedelic swirl of “San Francisco” walk the line of being patronizingly nostalgic until the hook-heavy chorus comes in.  Singer Sam France is a nostalgic virtuoso, who can not only throw his voice into any era, but can do so while always maintaining the flow of the song. Foxygen are in complete songwriting control.

We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic is a beautiful, non-stop convergence of ideas, some borrowed, some original, some revised, and some outright plagiarized. In the end, however, the album’s coherence comes in its incredible architecture of all these ideas, and the way the band sells them with a carefree, fun-loving attitude.  France and bandmate Jonathan Rado give it everything they’ve got, taking a project that could have very well ended in disaster and allowed their nostalgic hearts to fully grasp the predecessors that shaped them, creating a delightfully frantic, yet playful ode to the yesteryears.

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— , February 21, 2013    Comments Off on Foxygen: We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic