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

Kanye West

It should be known first off, that I am a huge Kanye West fan. I realize that this is pretty controversial given that it’s become increasingly en vogue to dislike him, and relish the opportunity to use him as a punch line, while laughing at the outrageous weekly sound bites that he provides the media with about, at once, being a modern day Phil Collins, the Mike Jordan of music, or the love-child of Prince and MJ. One such bombastic statement of Ye’s, was his recent account that with his 4th album, 808s & Heartbreak, he was approaching retailers about classifying the album under the genre “Pop Art” rather than what they would have defaulted to, “Hip Hop”. “Where does this douche get off??” I read in a piece reacting to this news. Well, while I won’t sit here and try to defend the idea that in a modern day re-write of the Bible, Kanye would be a central character because of his importance to the human race, I will try to shed some light on why his likening his Senior-effort to a can of soup in Warhol’s kitchen might be legitimate. But first some background…

The College Dropout (West’s debut album) is responsible for cementing his place in Hip Hop history. It was his impassioned fight to be taken seriously as a rapper in a world dominated by the 21st century’s rapper turned hustler, embodied most aptly by his future SoundScan Nemesis Mr. Curtis Cent. In a sense, West’s clash with 50 (though I realize that it was never actually a clash) began with the release of this album. West’s introduction to rap was at once exciting, and controversial – a return to back-pack rap, set over sped-up soul beats with infectious drums, all constructed by a dude rich enough to go to University of Chicago who wore pink polos and shopped at the GAP. No one knew what to make of him, but the album etched out his place in the industry, and within two short years, he released a follow-up, in Late Registration, which pounded-out a dent over-top of whatever etch his freshman disc was able to create. The sound was bigger, so to were the collaborations. Miri Ben Ari’s modest strings were replaced with Jon Brion’s. GLC’s modest hooks were replaced by the Game’s, and instead of being out-rapped by his collaborators (see: Kweli’s verse on Get’Em High) he was proving his lyrical skill was on a new level by rapping on par with the likes of Paul Wall, Killa Cam and (big bro) Jay-Z. With this album, Kanye’s world opened up. He found himself touring with the Stones and U2, and in the same way that he learnt “how to make rapping about ‘real stuff’ sound cool” from Mos Def and Kweli when he first moved out to New York in 2002, his new tour-mates taught him how to make his songs and messages more universally accessible – or as West calls it, gave him “stadium status”.

Graduation, West’s celebration album, was born out of this. The album is laced with a new sense of worldliness and a sense of achievement in the music industry and belonging in the rap game that he only seemed to wish for on his previous efforts. Coupled with his change in style, came swagger and bravado in his public image and song lyrics, which replaced lyrics of being “brought-down” or held back from shining. West no longer sounded “so self-conscious” but rather expected others to bow, “in the presence of greatness” or if they preferred, “so hard until their knees hit their foreheads”.  This time the strings were replaced with heavy synths, the samples were even more bold (see: Elton John, John Holt, Steeley Dan and Phillip Mitchell) and the collaborations were few and far between – a sign that Kanye now had the confidence to stand alone on (virtually) an entire album. All of a sudden the guy that no one wanted to sign to a rap label in 2003, was thrust into the international spotlight with the highest selling album of the year, and a supporting tour which did numbers that no other Hip Hop act has even come close to. Kanye was living the good life, and his grand mama wasn’t the only girl calling him baby.

Fast-forward one year and he sings the lyric “chased the good life my whole life long, now I look back on my life … and my life gone,” on 808s second track, “Welcome to Heartbreak”.

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— , December 1, 2008    15 Comments