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

Photograph by Liam Maloney

May 16, 2011, London, England – Sometimes I like to imagine that I’m Bill Murray in Groundhog Day and I can relive fantastic events over and over again for eternity. If this were ever to happen to me I would insist on including a Handsome Furs gig in the mix. The Montreal husband and wife duo of Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry certainly know how to perform and I defy anyone to find a live act with more passion and energy. Essentially, if they were to become a routine part of my life I may be able to quit caffeine.

Handsome Furs played the Lexington, a small pub in London’s North End known for showcasing acts with a little edge that have yet to break into the overwhelming London scene. The venue itself boasts incredible sound and atmosphere, which amplified the band’s penetrating sound. The fascinating thing about the Handsome Furs is that they play every show as if it were their last ever. They own the stage and sweat more than I have ever seen at a live show before.

With a new album Sound Kapital set to be released on June 28, the show was almost entirely dedicated to new material. On occasion this can be disappointing, but on this night it couldn’t be further from the truth. From what I’ve heard, the new album promises to be very good indeed. The new material is fast, hard and much more electronic than previous offerings. Some tracks are void of guitar and rely heavily on pulsating beats. A few songs from Face Control, including ‘I’m Confused’, ‘All We Want, Baby, Is Everything’ and ‘Radio Kaliningrad’ were scattered throughout the new material while songs from 2007’s Plague Park were noticeably absent. It seems the Handsome Furs are moving on, and in all fairness their earlier more sparse music might have dampened the energetic mood.

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— , May 28, 2011    Comments Off on Handsome Furs: The Lexington

All Photographs by Jan Kucic-Riker

Halifax Pop Explosion is a marked change from the summer festival scene. While there are no beer gardens, Keith’s is never in short supply. The festival swaps the colossal stage of Toronto Island for the warmth of packed bars. Rather than tents, picnic blankets, and sunscreen, festivalgoers arm themselves with scarves, mittens, and umbrellas. Music-lovers inherit a mosaic of stamps connected with permanent marker that forms an impromptu tattoo to symbolise their nights of barhopping. The festival is a mere secret whispered between bus stops as fans travel from one venue to the next. Scheduling is made more complicated by coat-checks, ID checks, and checking out that girl from your ecology class dancing next to Dan Boeckner. Halifax Pop Explosion did not provide the scenic beauty of Sasquatch, the free American Apparel underwear of Osheaga, or even the toddlers sporting oversized ear protection of Toronto Island. What it did provide however, was an unadulterated intimacy. An intimacy only felt in the Pack A.D.’s spittle as they belt out songs no less than two feet away from you or the Handsome Furs spiritual cleansing and confessional at St. Matthew’s Church. The following is a record of those intimacies at HPX2010.

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— , November 5, 2010    1 Comment

Photograph by Meqo Sam Cecil

It’s really not Wolf Parade’s fault. Five years ago, when the Canadian rock fetish was just getting sexy and every new act seemed to be named after some kind of Canis lupus, Apologies to the Queen Mary rocked our cores before lighting our own hearts on fire. With a debut album that stellar and a wave of hype washing across the continent, there really was nowhere else to go but down.

While 2008’s At Mount Zoomer may have been more of a commercial success, it suffered the sophomore slump status simply by not being as exceptional as Apologies. It comes as no surprise, then, that songwriters Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner have spent the past few years doing their best work with side projects Sunset Rubdown and Handsome Furs, respectively.

Expo 86 finds the guys stuck in the same style but lacking the stripped down vulnerability and frantic feeling that marked their debut. Krug’s compositions have abandoned the jangly, Modest Mouse rawness that made tracks like ‘Grounds for Divorce’ and ‘I’ll Believe in Anything’ so affecting, instead spending the majority of his tracks wadding through excess. His affection for prog rock heaviness, sadly, weighs down the otherwise sparkling melodies of ‘Cloud Shadow on the Mountain’ and What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)’. Minimalism, this ain’t.

The best parts of Expo 86 owe more to Boeckner, who delivers the album’s standout tracks: the synth-driven dance number ‘Ghost Pressure’ and ‘Yulia’, the record’s poppiest and most catchy cut. While Krug’s Sunset Rubdown got all the attention and accolades last year with Dragonslayer, Boeckner more than pulls his weight here.

Wolf Parade – Ghost Pressure
Wolf Parade – Yulia

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— , July 14, 2010    2 Comments

Photograph by Annabel Mehran

The year 2009 will be remembered for many things, including the divorce of Jon and Kate Gosselin, Tiger Woods’ infidelity, and of course, the introduction of Keyboard Cat. But aside from those momentous events, some decent music was released. As the year draws to a close, we here at Ca Va Cool continue our list-making ways to bring you our favourite albums of 2009. Through an intense, scientific process, we have distilled the vast amount of quality releases into an essential brew of twenty such albums. Old favourites share space with relative newcomers in the first half of our list.

Sunset Rubdown

20. Sunset RubdownDragonslayer (Jagjaguwar)

Spencer Krug has solidified his position as wizard of the indie world with the release of Dragonslayer. Conjuring up mythical beasts and inspiring a belief in whimsical folklore, all while contorting vocals entangled with punchy keyboards. Dragonslayer is Sunset Rubdown’s white rabbit in the top hat. The witty experimentation paired with outstanding hooks forms an album that is both accessible and multifarious. Dragonslayer compiles an unparalleled consistency as the eight tracks serve as standalone sensations while weaving an outlandish fairytale. The record has the capacity to immerse listeners and encourage exploration. Sunset Rubdown uncovers a new adventure with each thumping refrain of ‘Idiot Heart’ or the possessed chanting of ‘You Go on Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)’. The quintet’s unpolished finish on the album prides itself on the kinks in their armour and much like a good fairytale, each scrape, bruise, and bump has its own merit when fighting dragons. — Jan Kucic-Riker

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— , December 21, 2009    Comments Off on Best Albums of 2009, Pt. 1