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 Chris Graham

Who are Library Voices? They are a seven-piece pop group from Saskatchewan whose new album Summer of Lust should be popping up on a number of Best of 2011 lists. They are fun-loving literary types who will probably kick your ass at shot chess. They write with one foot in the 1960s and the other in the not-too-distant future. In short, they’re a bit like Vampire Weekend, except that they’re Canadian and don’t give you a mild urge to punch them in the face.

As they endeavour to spread their name (memorably misremembered by a friend-of-a-friend as “The Shushing Librarians”), the live act should help. Library Voices bring serious weapons-grade energy to every show. Eoin Hickey-Cameron (above: top centre), for example, isn’t a bassist out of Central Casting lurking in the corner in a hoodie. He’ll jump up on a monitor or kick drum, get soaked with sweat by the end of the third song, trade stupid faces with the sax player, flop his hair back and forth like a really gross shampoo commercial—and there are seven of these guys. The notoriously dance-averse Horseshoe crowd at their recent Toronto show even showed moments of bopping and swaying, if not, you know, actual dancing.

I sat down with 28.6% of the band, namely songwriter/synth player Mike Dawson and guitarist Brennan Ross (above: far right and far left, respectively), to talk about audiobooks and how to get kicked out of one’s apartment.

Josh: How’s the tour been so far?

Brennan Ross: It’s great. It’s hard to really tell when it started—it’s been sort of perpetually going on. We went out to Victoria and Halifax and back, we’re starting to go into the States.

Josh: How do you find it touring in the States as a Canadian band?

Mike Dawson: It’s sort of like starting over. We’ve been feeling really well accepted when we meet people down there, when they discover our band, but people aren’t aware. In Canada people are a little spoiled because having access to bands from the States is second nature. They might as well be from down the road. It’s not the case the other way round—because there are so many incredible bands in the States, they’re not always so aware of what’s going on in Canada. So in that capacity it sort of feels like a first tour sometimes, building crowds and meeting people, sleeping on the floor at the sound guy’s house. With his six roommates. But it’s awesome. It helps you keep yourself in check.

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— , November 13, 2011    Comments Off on Library Voices

Photograph by Alex Cairncross

As summer dies down, Library Voices return with their second LP, Summer of Lust. Produced by the Besnard Lakes’ Jace Lasek, who is becoming the go-to guy for Canadian indie rock, Summer of Lust feels more reined in and focused than Denim on Denim, which is surprising for a band of seven people. On Summer of Lust, Library Voices have managed to maintain their pop sensibilities and make another solid, if brief, album.

Playing up their literary moniker, the album is introduced and closed by a narrator, and a multitude of allusions that go completely over my head are included. ‘The Prime Minister’s Daughter’, however, is a clear rebuke of recent cuts to art funding, which may be lost in the lightness of the song. The album’s highlight comes with the first song, ‘If Raymond Carver Were Born in the 90’s’, with a surprisingly poignant theme of coming to grips with the people around you growing up, while remaining in a sort of arrested development. In a recurring motif, the melancholy lyrics are paired with bouncy background music. Even ‘Generation Handclap’, the most upbeat song on the record, seems to have a bit of sadness to it.

At just over a half-hour in length, Summer of Lust comes and goes rather quickly. It’s usually a good sign if a band leaves you wanting more, and it looks like that desire will have to be satiated with their perpetual touring. It’s a wonder they aren’t more well known, but hopefully Summer of Lust will bring Library Voices the respect they deserve.

Library Voices – If Raymond Carver Were Born in the 90’s
Library Voices – Generation Handclap

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— , September 22, 2011    Comments Off on Library Voices: Summer of Lust

Photograph by Sabrina Diemert

Toronto’s North by Northeast – or NXNE – is the younger cousin and orienteering opposite of the behemoth Austin music extravaganza South by Southwest. Over its 17 years, the festival has swollen to 7 days of concerts (ranging from cozy church acoustic sets to sprawling punk moshing at Yonge and Dundas Square), films (mostly music-centric documentaries, including this year’s highly touted Better Than Something: Jay Reatard) and interactive conferences (if you were a musician and could get advice from Brian Wilson, wouldn’t you?).

As with any event attempting to cram >600 bands into a few rock-filled days, it has its downsides. As per the SXSW model, the majority of sets are hosted by bars instead of outdoor stages; between dreaded line-ups, safety capacity, and city sprawl, show hopping presents some challenges. Some shows had limits on wristband admittance, require patiently camping out in cue or purchasing additional tickets for entry.

The festival concert becomes a new challenge for the hometown crowd. Unlike insouciant visitors – free of other responsibilities and able to party through the night and recover in the daytime – locals have to play the balancing act between maximum music absorption and minimal sleep/work disruption. Thus, we opted for a version of NXNE for the slightly risk-averse Toronto music fan: mostly music we knew, with a couple of wildcards. As a change of pace, this festival is presented through two points-of-view (sometimes coalescing, sometimes contradicting): Kevin Kania and Sabrina Diemert. We tried to keep our snark to a minimum.

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— , July 28, 2011    3 Comments

Photograph by Handsome Joel Hansen

The holidays tend to be rife with tension, and our Ca Va Cool family is no exception. Picking only 20 albums from 2010’s offerings is tricky; every year, some fantastic records/EPs/tracks are overlooked. Our super-secret ranking process starts from civilized debate and degenerates into name-calling, tantrums and sulking. To pacify the whiners and to give you, the readers, more awesome music, we present our 2010 mixtape. Happy 2011!

Download | The Ca Va Cool 2010 Mixtape – Disc One

01. School of Seven Bells – Windstorm
02. Titus Andronicus – Theme from “Cheers”
03. Sharon Van Etten – Love More
04. Harlem – Someday Soon
05. Baths – Hall
06. Gorillaz – Empire Ants feat. Little Dragon
07. The Black Keys – Unknown Brother
08. Wye Oak – My Creator
09. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Can’t Hear My Eyes
10. Superchunk – Everything at Once

Download | The Ca Va Cool 2010 Mixtape – Disc Two

01. Library Voices – Haunt This House
02. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Drink Drank Drunk
03. Young Man – Up So Fast
04. Owen Pallett – Scandal at the Parkade
05. Future Islands – Long Flight
06. The Morning Benders – Excuses
07. Gold Panda – India Lately
08. Jenny and Johnny – My Pet Snakes
09. Lindstrøm & Christabelle – Lovesick
10. Spoon – Got Nuffin’

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— , December 31, 2010    Comments Off on The Ca Va Cool Mixtape 2010