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

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

Due to the joys of peer-to-peer technology, Veckatimest, the latest from Grizzly Bear, has already made its way into many hard drives and hearts. Like other highly anticipated releases from this year, namely Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s It’s Blitz!, these leaks have allowed anxious, obsessive fans such as myself the pleasure of previewing the record before its proper release and figure out whether we’ll shell out the $13.50 at HMV on that special Tuesday. After having Veckatimest on repeat for the better part of 2 Weeks (pun intended), I will be paying top dollar once it drops in May.

I’ve been a big fan of Grizzly Bear since Yellow House was released, and have been drawn to the lush arrangements, beautiful harmonies, and highly emotive atmospherics that characterize the band’s sound. While I loved Yellow House, I often felt that the record’s reverb-heavy sound and dense orchestration often obfuscated the contribution of each of the players. Put simply, it felt more like a studio record, and less like a band record.

On Veckatimset, Grizzly Bear sound much more like a band than on their previous release. Tracks like ‘Cheerleader’ and ‘Ready, Able’ emphasize this. However, Grizzly Bear are able to maintain the psychedelic tones that define their sound, creating a combination of strong musicianship and meticulous recording techniques that makes this record truly incredible. The best example of this is the much buzzed about ‘2 Weeks’, a track which finds Grizzly Bear applying swirling harmonies and lush soundscapes to a sweet sounding pop song that wouldn’t sound out of place on Pet Sounds. While Horn of Plenty demonstrated Grizzly Bear’s potential and Yellow House defined the band’s sound, Veckatimest will likely prove to be the record that ‘breaks’ Grizzly Bear into a wider fan-base. It’s simply the best record Grizzly Bear have yet released.

I often find myself comparing Veckatimest to the Merriweather Post Pavilion, due to the high degree of music-blog love going towards each record, the new pop-focus of each record, and, simply, how incredible each record is. It will be interesting to see how 2009 best-of lists turn out come December, as each record is so impressive. Where Merriweather was defined by its transcendence of simply being an ‘electronic’ record, Veckatimest is defined by its transcendence of being a ‘folk’ or ‘indie’ record. When 2010 comes around and Ca Va Cool picks its favorite records from the past year, I’m placing even money on these offerings, the same even money I’ll be paying in penance for downloading the leaks of both records.

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— , March 15, 2009    5 Comments

The Brooklyn-based, hard to classify Grizzly Bear, after taking a year from releasing 2006’s lauded “Yellow House”, filled the gap in their discography earlier this month with their “Friend” EP. Overall, this is a pretty solid release, but I’ll append that with a disclaimer that I’m more forgiving of EPs (since they seem to usually crop up due to impatience from execs/fans or excess of material lying around). Except for a few tracks that play like early Elephant 6 recordings (read: pre-“Avery Island” Neutral Milk Hotel’s cacophonous collection of noise, lo-fi in the bad way), “Friend” spans musical boundaries and is bound to strike a good chord on at least one song. The original material may be a little lacking – almost all of the songs are reworked versions of earlier cuts, and they included a considerably more mournful cover of the Mo-town sweethearts The Crystals “He Hit Me (and it Felt Like a Kiss)”. Old lyrics aside, they score a lot of hits: a plucky banjo-driven cover by Band of Horses adds some country variety, the electric version of “Little Brother” is phenomenal,  and the choral version of Alligator manages to sound lo-fi symphonic (in the good way). Although, the crowd fav is probably going to be the CSS cover of Knife. I know David just posted the Girl Talk version, but I couldn’t resist. It took all my restraint not to post the Born Ruffians version too (not from this EP, but from my personal reserve of Knife covers… apparently, I like that song a lot).

Grizzly Bear – Knife (Covered by CSS)

On a different (indie-pop) note, I also wanted to post a video from the Canuck band Mother Mother, who were in Kingston last month performing with Dragonette and The Most Serene Republic. This hodgepodge group of hipsters pull off the acoustic stuff in a slick, edgy way and incorporate some twangy-ness as well. It’s toe-tapping, lyrically-witty, fun music. And the music video involves merpeople. What more could you ask for?

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— , November 16, 2007    Comments Off on Grizzly Bear: Friend EP