You’ve read the first half of our best albums of the year, but in the final hours of 2014, we’ll be listening to the music that really gets us going. This past year that meant Scandinavians of both the funky and bleak variety, an existential stoner from Montreal, and an aging punk with dance moves made for broadcast television. There were modern classic albums of sumptuous techno minimalism and the Philadelphia power chords that soundtracked the year. But it was a Canadian indie stalwart who after a decade of fine releases has finally, truly come in to his own – getting points from every one of our writers and solidly becoming Ca Va Cool’s best album of 2014.
10. Ought – More Than Any Other Day
For a short while, Montreal’s Ought have burnt brightly, if a little coldly. On their previous EP New Calm, they sounded like a strained David Byrne backed by Joy Division. Now, shouting life-affirming mantras like, “Today more than any other day I am excited to go grocery shopping!” seems be a staple of Ought’s music. With their uplifting LP debut More Than Any Other Day, Ought firmly cement themselves as a positively unmissable act. Throughout both of their latest Toronto shows, Tim Beeler, who commits his talent to guitar and vocals, flailed and shimmied his way through their rhythmic and hypnotic set. Ought affirms that they are, as they put it, a “Habit”, and their frantic energy is palpable in each note and groove they bring on More Than Any Other Day. — Anthony Boire
Once a year, the Ca Va Cool writing team packs their favourite records from the past twelve months into the trunk of the car and journeys to an unassuming silo somewhere in the Ontario countryside to duke it out.* Today, we emerge from this lost weekend with a consensus: our twenty best albums of 2013. With 10 writers contributing to the list, the bottom half is as eclectic as ever; from rap veterans to young folk songstresses, noisy British debuts to even noisier British follow-ups 20 years in the making, Ca Va Cool heroes of studio and stage developing their sound to breakout bands to look out for, and yes, even Danny Brown. Listening to the entire album is always ideal, but we’ve included links to our top tracks to enjoy as you read. Check back later this week for the conclusion of our list.
*It’s 2013, people; we just argued in a Facebook thread.
20. Run the Jewels
Considering it only took a year for El-P and Killer Mike to release another collaboration following the latter’s 2012 album R.A.P. Music, it’s hard to be surprised by the potency of this free 33 minute digital release. Really, all they needed to solidify their newfound friendship and undeniable chemistry was a name – Run the Jewels. It’s the mutual respect and admiration these two have for one another that has them consistently delivering such fluid and often staggering jabs. Mike bluntly declares how highly he thinks of El-P on second track “Banana Clipper”: “Producer gave me a beat, said it’s the beat of the year. I said El-P didn’t do it, so get the fuck outta here.” Despite the unmistakeable fury that can be found on any release by either artist, the pleasure they tuck in with that cynicism has never been more evident than when the two share rap duties. With both underground veterans’ wit on display throughout, boosted by some extra playful brutality, Run the Jewels is an album that both Company Flow and early Killer Mike fanatics and new fans can enjoy. — Jay Winer
With every bit of interview footage featuring the members of Denmark’s Iceage, from a cable access children’s dance show to a rare toned-down Nardwuar interview, there seems to be a fair amount of apathy displayed by the band, specifically blank-faced frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt. I think it’s safe to say that their lack of interest in promotional obligations can be attributed to the fact that they aren’t too interested in anything at the moment besides the music they put out and performing at their much buzzed-about live shows. The ferocity that personified Iceage’s debut album New Brigade and the cacophonous mini riots that ensued came at a perfect time for many disinterested indie music listeners, disgruntled by the lack of prompt intensity in many young bands. These same New Brigade admirers need not worry, as You’re Nothing provides the same and more.
We learn early on in You’re Nothing, Iceage’s second full length, that Elias Ronnenfelt has not mellowed much since his band’s abrasive first album. He and his bandmates have, however, evolved their in your face hardcore, post-punk sound in a more emotional and refined way, without losing any bite. Incorporating ambient breaks and even an affecting piano-laden track (“Morals”), it’s clear that Iceage aren’t fearful of straying from their comfort zone. The stellar opening two tracks, “Ecstasy” and “Coalition”, deliver on the group’s reputation for chugging two minute bursts of pure joy, each highlighted with one blaring exclamatory statement, pressure and excess, respectively. Ronnenfelt’s low register groans on “Burning Hand” melt into a more enraged version of a Sex Pistols chorus, while pop-influenced punk bands like Hüsker Dü and even Nirvana can be heard in Ronnenfelt’s vocal tendencies throughout.
While Ronnenfelt’s David Yow-esque sing-scream vocals dominate many of the songs on this record, it is centrepiece “Morals” that shows that Iceage are not simply a punk band from Denmark, but an engaging and emotive group of still very young men focused on their craft. Impassioned singing over piano and a simple thumping bass show an impressive new side of the band. It is Iceage’s distinct uneasiness and concern that is the theme all over You’re Nothing, and these inner conflicts are easily identifiable to your every day Iceage fan. As long as the members of Iceage are still feeling as anxious and fed up as they sound, we’ll likely be hearing a lot more from them.