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
Primavera Sound is an overwhelming and vastly stimulating music pilgrimage made each year to Barcelona, Spain. Over two hundred bands across eleven stages and timetables that schedule sets well past five in the morning make the musical mecca a monstrous undertaking. Fortunately, 140,000 music lovers joined me over the course of the three main days and two satellite events to dance, sing, and even swim at the Parc del Fòrum and Poble Espanyol. The eclectic line-up saw everything from unabashed hip-hop to captivating folk ballads and electronic DJ sets. Though the scheduling and sheer volume of music can make it difficult, somehow we found time to sleep amid the madness.
Getting any rest was a predicament owing to the tension of anti-government protests consuming Barcelona’s Plaça de Catalunya over the course of the week. Demonstrators voiced their concerns over the political and economic situation in Spain emphasizing the growing problem of unemployment amongst youth in the country. Primavera Sound also overlapped with the UEFA Cup Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United. As a result, the Saturday night schedule saw a two-hour gap in music as fans flooded the Llevant stage to watch the match on enormous screens. Whether or not you were a football fan, Barcelona’s victory was instantly apparent as celebrations ripped through the streets and onto La Rambla well past the closing sets at Primavera that night.
Outside its musical aspects, Primavera held an array of meanings. The festival had its transformative qualities, for instance, the colour and amount of wristbands one donned was the founding rule of social hierarchies over the duration of the week. Wrist apparel, stickers, and swipe cards, clung, stuck, and hung off fans as they hustled across the festival grounds. The photo areas provided amusement by way of disgruntled Spanish photographers who complained of poor lighting throughout various sets. Ultimately, the true meaning dawned as I watched a communal dance break out during ‘Summertime Clothes’ by Animal Collective as they closed out the festival at 2AM on the San Miguel Stage. It is my hope that the following images, sounds, and commentary will help convey the innumerable untellable sentiments of Primavera Sound 2011 with you.
Tags: Animal Collective, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Baths, Belle & Sebastian, Caribou, Cults, Deerhunter, Emeralds, Fleet Foxes, Gang Gang Dance, Glasser, James Blake, Primavera Sound, Sufjan Stevens, The Flaming Lips, The National, The Tallest Man on Earth, tUnE-yArDs, Twin Shadow, warpaint
Rather than having a semantic argument about whether 2009 or 2010 was the end of the last decade, Ca Va Cool yet again brings you its top albums of the year. Through our patented, painstaking, super-secret process, we have separated the wheat from the chaff to bring you twenty of this year’s finest albums (and Sufjan Stevens). Albums 20 to 11 come today, with the top ten being revealed on Friday. Without further ado, here is the bottom ten.
20. Diamond Rings – Special Affections
The first of several one-man bands in our 2010 list, Diamond Rings is the brainchild of John O’Regan of the D’Urbervilles. In his Diamond Rings persona, Johnny O discards the post-punk mentality of his primary band with a spunkier, glam-rock approach. Special Affections strikes a fine balance of new wave pop with darker moments, distinctly glam but without the corniness that dogged the genre in the ’80s. The catchy hooks are never lost behind the synth, driven by punchy and endearingly DIY GarageBand drum beats. All of this punctuated by O’Regan’s direct and personal lyrics, emoted with his surprisingly throaty voice. In the end, Diamond Rings’ debut sounds like a less punky Pete Shelley, or a less cheesy Gary Numan, and ultimately a more fun John O’Regan. — Sabrina Diemert
“I’m sorry we’re so all over the place tonight,” Sufjan Stevens conceded to a sold-out concert hall in Boston recently, his forehead accented with fluorescent tape. “The future, and hippies, and the ‘80s, and Lady Gaga, and Lindsay Lohan. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
He could just as well have been talking about his costume—it involved fairy wings and a silver lamé space-blazer—as about the grab-bag aesthetics of his show. Or he could have been talking about the new album he’s touring to support. The Age of Adz (sounds like “odds”) is the work of an unbelievably talented musician and aesthete who doesn’t appear to have worked out quite who or what he wants to be.
The answer to that question seemed to be fairly clear in the aftermath of 2005’s Come On! Feel the Illinoise!, an epic, introverted baroque-folk mess and a consensus masterpiece of the ‘00s. Since then, the few releases we’ve heard from Stevens (2009’s The BQE symphony, this year’s All Delighted People EP, and an excellent contribution to the Dark Was The Night compilation) have sketched a steady migration toward aggressive, chaotic sounds and synths, further and further away from the banjo and the endearingly impossible 50 States Project. Those of us who hoped for a breathy acoustic undressing of Oregon or West Virginia can now officially go home disappointed, and Stevens knows it—it’s a happy tradition, after all, for folk artists to go electric and get flak for it—but it’s far from clear from this new album exactly where he wants to go instead.
Adz sounds remarkably raw considering how much tinkering must have gone into it, with an abrasive texture and a stubborn refusal to sound pretty. Persistent flutes are a returning fixture from Illinois, as is Stevens’ wicked ability to write naturally in 7/4, and that’s about it. The subject matter of Adz (insanity, the Apocalypse, and love, among other things) is plenty fascinating, but it’s taken Stevens away from songwriting as such and into the darker waters of synthetic soundscapes. This movement is clearly key to his development, but it plays away from his skills as an orchestrator and wordsmith; the lyrics on Adz are more confessional and less sophisticated than they’ve ever been, even a little cringeworthy at times.
Tags: Sufjan Stevens