We’re back again and this year going straight for the heavy hitters. Amongst our 10 favourite albums of the past year you’ll find American rap finding a new voice and hitting its poetic stride, both timeless and timely mini-symphonies, stripped-back and emotive electronic albums from England and Australia, and your required dosage of slacker rock. Without further ado, please enjoy Ca Va Cool’s best albums of 2015.
10. Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down…
At Pitchfork Festival this past summer, after torrential downpour followed by inhumane sun, Kurt Vile attempted to reclaim the mood from a harried audience. Despite an equipment malfunction, he still took time to greet his audience down in the muck, shaking hands and sharing smokes. It’s this personal appeal that fills his newest, most accessible record, b’lieve i’m goin down. On standout track, “Pretty Pimpin”, Vile rides a cascading guitar riff and speaks of his inability to recognize himself in the mirror and his detachment from the world around him, as swirling keyboards contemplate his panting vocals. Despite this emotional jumping off point, “Kidding Around” then talks about the meaninglessness of his lyrics and the importance of the “sound of the song.” True, his guitars twang and echo through the ambient heartland Vile has cultivated over his career, but his stinging sentiments about his place in the world are impossible to ignore. Despite his protests (or relentless rain), we can’t help but “care about the meaning of [his] songs”; Kurt Vile is here at his most affective and personal. — Anthony Boire
YouTube: Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin
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.
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
As Ca Va Cool concludes its fifth year and the arbitrary music-ranking period of 2011 comes to a close, the gang assembled (virtually) once again to bring you our twenty favourite albums of the year. The bottom half of our list features riot grrrls old and new, an R&B resurrection, and, interestingly, most of the Philadelphia rock scene. Stay tuned for the conclusion of our list with the ten best albums of 2011, when we get around to it.
20. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing
Arriving in the dead of winter early this year, Departing lived up to high expectations by not really departing at all from the rock ‘n’ nostalgia formula that powered the Rural Alberta Advantage’s 2009 debut Hometowns. A new batch of crafty songs from Nils Edenloff continues to blur the line between homesickness and heartbreak; Paul Banwatt’s manic beats continue to provide the gasoline. Feeling more and more comfortable in their shoes as a dedicated three-piece ensemble, Edenloff, Banwatt, and keyboardist Amy Cole focus on what they’re best at: compelling, unpretentious indie-folk drawn through the emotional mesh of all that we must leave behind. Plus some kickass drums. — Josh Penslar
UPDATE: This contest is now closed, the winner has been notified by email.
Flawlessly able to cross back and forth between reverb-ridden classic rock and low fidelity sludge, Kurt Vile’s presence alone would be enough to make this a classic show, but completing the best one-two punch tour of recent memory are New Jersey natives and fellow lo-fi stalwarts Real Estate. If you’re the type that was slightly disappointed by Dum Dum Girls, eagerly await Best Coast, and don’t think there’s anything ridiculous about Chillwave besides the title, then this is definitely the show for you. There have been some truly phenomenal releases in the past couple of years on labels like Woodsist, In the Red, Captured Tracks, and eventually Matador for some, but at the forefront of all these new acts you’ll find Vile and Real Estate, who have managed to release accomplished albums without losing any of their DIY sensibilities.
To win a pair of tickets to see Kurt Vile and Real Estate at the Great Hall next Tuesday, July 20, send an email to email@example.com with “The Great Kurt Vile” in the subject line and your full name in the body. This contest closes Sunday, July 18 at midnight. To find other great shows, check out Collective Concerts.
The twenty albums included in our Best Albums of 2009 list can only cover so much of the music we’ve enjoyed, so to share some more of our favourites from the past year, we present the Ca Va Cool Mixtape for 2009, just in time to close off the year. As always, we thank you for reading and hope you stick around in the new decade. Happy new year.
Download | The Ca Va Cool Mixtape 2009
01. A.C. Newman – Submarines of Stockholm
02. Yeasayer – Tightrope
03. Dog Day – Happiness
04. The Very Best – Warm Heart of Africa feat. Ezra Koenig
05. Think About Life – Havin’ My Baby
06. Beirut – My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille
07. Tegan and Sara – Someday
08. The Thermals – Now We Can See
09. Timber Timbre – Demon Host
10. Engineers – Song for Andy
11. You Say Party! We Say Die! – Laura Palmer’s Prom
12. The Drums – Let’s Go Surfing
13. Fanfarlo – Luna
14. Julie Doiron – Nice to Come Home
15. Kurt Vile – Freeway
16. Freelance Whales – Ghosting
17. Japandroids – Young Hearts Spark Fire
18. The Raveonettes – Last Dance
Tags: A.C. Newman, Beirut, Dog Day, Engineers, Fanfarlo, Freelance Whales, Japandroids, Julie Doiron, Kurt Vile, Tegan and Sara, The Drums, The Raveonettes, The Thermals, The Very Best, Think About Life, Timber Timbre, Yeasayer, You Say Party! We Say Die!