Photograph by Yasmeen Ghebari

Photograph by Yasmeen Ghebari

Every October, about two weeks after Thanksgiving, the city of Halifax transforms as 180 bands play in over 20 bars across five days for the Halifax Pop Explosion. You may wonder whether it’s practical for the city, as images of Coachella and Osheaga come to mind, but Halifax is home to the highest amount of bars per capita in Canada and the city is quite small, 262.65 square kilometres to be exact. Walking from bar to bar is an easy feat and there is even a free festival bus to get around the city. The Halifax Pop Explosion hosts a variety of events, including digital workshops and art markets during the day, and in the evenings the city is filled with music. Here is a first hand account of some shows with photos to entice you to visit Halifax next year.

The Zolas

The Zolas were a perfect start to the festival with their upbeat indie tunes. The Zolas epitomize the Canadian indie rock scene with sing-along melodies and some enthusiastic musicians, causing vivacious singing and dancing from the band and the crowd. They played in the intimate Gus’ Pub in the north end of Halifax, letting the crowd get within arms reach, and instigating Zachary Gray (vocals/guitar) to jump out into the crowd.

Bandcamp: The Zolas – Ancient Mars

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— , November 19, 2013    Comments Off on Halifax Pop Explosion 2013

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 Eric Kayne

For the past six years, fellow Canadian music blog i(heart)music has polled Canadian music writers, bloggers, and photographers to publish its annual Hottest Bands in Canada list, summarizing, well, Canadian bands that are hot. This consensus building seems to have worked as top honours in past years were given to critically fawned-over acts such as the Rural Alberta Advantage, Chad VanGaalen, and Feist.

Since the only two rules stated are that bands submitted must be Canadian, however one defines that, and that they be hot, however one defines that, I put together my own criteria for my top 10 submission. I gauged the quality of the band’s recorded output, in most cases their album release, along with the quality I saw and reverence I perceived towards the act’s live show. I also took into consideration if I think they’ve entered or stayed at the height of their careers, and if we can expect big things to come. Most of all, this list answers the completely subjective question of which bands I found most exciting in 2010.

For more of a scientific consensus, check out the full list and for reviews throughout the year of pretty much every Canadian album of the moment, be sure to check out i(heart)music’s feature section.

10. Basia Bulat

Canada’s folk sweetheart continues to bring her orchestrated indie pop to the masses with the steady touring of her second album, Heart of My Own. A talented songwriter with a keen ear for classic melodies, Bulat has garnered a following larger than anticipated for her humble personality.

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— , November 10, 2010    6 Comments

October 9, 2010 – It was a drizzly night as we arrived at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The weather had only just turned sour, but Vancouverites seemed to have already resigned themselves to their rain-filled fate for the next several months. I for one was okay with that, because the change in the weather signalled a move from backyards, BBQs, and beaches into the indoor spaces of the city. The bill for the evening captured this sentiment pretty well, a kind of anger-tinged celebration of fall’s arrival. Or was it a celebratory-tinged protest of fall’s arrival? Either way this three-way between acts on the avant-garde of Canadian (post-)rock – Japandroids, Ladyhawk and PS I Love You – gave us good reason to let off a little steam, even if it was just the moisture in our damp clothes evaporating.

The Rickshaw Theatre really was a theatre at one point, although unfortunately not in any grand sense of the word, a more recent victim of the rise of the cineplex, or perhaps the unfortunate circumstances of its infamous environs. The seats at the front of the theatre have been removed, making room for both a large stage and a decently-sized standing area which was not even half full when PS I Love You took the stage. The set seemed like the perfect prelude to Vancouver-natives, Japandroids. Both acts rock a similar brand of loud, yet thoughtfully soundscaped rock. Both acts are meat and potatoes combinations of drums and distorted guitar that manage to sound like so much more. And both acts are relatively recent additions to the Canadian musical landscape, with Japandroids debut album being a little over a year old, and PS I Love You dropping theirs earlier this month.

PS I Love You – Breadends

Ladyhawk was actually the question mark for me in this line-up. I had their latest album, 2008’s Shots, on heavy rotation when it came out, but with no records released since, and the bulk of their catalogue leaning a lot more towards a Dinosaur Jr. sound than the two edgier acts they were sandwiched between, I was not sure how it would turn out. In the end, they used their two-man advantage so that their set packed a lot more punch than I expected. They rose to the occasion, but despite being one of two local acts on stage that night, it never really seemed like this was their audience.

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— , October 15, 2010    2 Comments

Photograph by Tim Snow

Maybe I’m getting too old for festival concerts. Between slathering myself with SPF60, eating $5 hot dogs, running spastically between stages, cursing the overlapping schedule, being inundated with corporate sponsorship and drinking watery beer, I was caught between disillusionment and laughter toward the predictable pattern of music fests.

The Osheaga Music and Arts Festival is in its fifth year, and has swelled from 25,000 to over 50,000 attendees. Despite my opening tirade, Osheaga has plenty to offer: a grassy hill with convenient stage view, venues of varying size (from cozy small sets to mega concerts), performances for many tastes (from small Quebecois bands to…Snoop Dogg?), the ability to walk freely with your drinks (goodbye, beer tent!) and free underwear to anyone willing to provide American Apparel with their email address.

When surrounded by so much chaos, I seem to morph into a reactionary skeptic. I should subtitle this post “The Festival Concert in which Sabrina Becomes a Huge Indie Music Cynic.” So, I apologize ahead of time if any readers take my grumbling opinion personally. But here it is, Osheaga 2010.

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— , August 17, 2010    3 Comments