Photograph by Danielle St. Laurent

January 16, 2011 – Making up for their previous cancellation due to Snowmaggedon 2010, Broken Social Scene’s first concert in London, Ontario was a rousing success. Along for the ride was the Most Serene Republic, who I last saw shortly after the release of their second album, Population. With so many members, their last performance could best be described as chaotic, so I was hoping they would manage to be a little more ordered this night. The band parted ways with vocalist Emma Ditchburn early last year, so I was also curious to see how that void would be filled. Apparently the answer was Adrian Jewett taking over her lead vocals on the former duet ‘Heavens to Purgatory’, while the rest of the band chipped in on backing vocals. They definitely satisfied during their brief appearance, particularly during their debut single, ‘Content Was Always My Favourite Colour’.

My previous Broken Social Scene experiences have both been during their annual Toronto Island Concerts. The general consensus is that this is the best way to see the band, but I was curious to see how they fared without relying on guest appearances from Leslie Feist, Emily Haines, and others. The core members behind Forgiveness Rock Record were all present, and aside from members of the Most Serene Republic occasionally acting as a horn section, it was their night, and it felt remarkably more pure than the festival appearances. There’s something to be said for the spectacle of the island shows, but I much preferred the intimacy of the London Music Hall. From the opening notes of ‘World Sick’, the capacity crowd was on their feet, singing along and having the best Sunday ever. The setlist covered most of Forgiveness Rock Record , but what really impressed were the deep cuts. For the first time in five years, the band played ‘Canada vs. America’, from the EP To Be You and Me, which was unexpected, to say the least.

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— , January 22, 2011    Comments Off on Broken Social Scene: London Music Hall
The Most Serene Republic

Photograph by Norman Wong

The Most Serene Republic serve as a reminder to embrace eccentricity wherever you may find it. The Milton, Ontario septet wash out jubilant layers of symphonic pop to capture the delicate grief in growing up. With their third full length release …And the Ever Expanding Universe, released on Arts&Crafts early last year, the band reveals the strange serenity of an archaic soundscape.

Their visit to the Canadian East Coast late last year started with a sound check occasionally punctuated by the communal donair passed around onstage and the inspired vocal ballads chanted while warping levels. In a starlit back alley dominated by a foggy Atlantic panorama, I spoke with keyboardist Ryan Lenssen and indulged in a romanticized intimacy shared amidst the splatter of raindrops and sting of Halifax cold. The conversation held a note of disheartened idealism found in the group’s records as we spoke about the pain of passivity, the finicky superiority of compact cassettes, and plans for the next album.

The Most Serene Republic – Where Cedar Nouns and Adverbs Walk
The Most Serene Republic – Heavens to Purgatory
The Most Serene Republic – (Oh) God

Jan: What band have you enjoyed touring with most?

Ryan Lenssen: Five years ago we really enjoyed playing with Wintersleep a lot. That was before they became massive. They still remain friends of ours. Loel Campbell is one of my favourite people, I love Wintersleep! Touring Canada, no matter where you go, you’re going to get good people that don’t want to step on any toes – it’s because we’re all passive.

Jan: That could be it.

Ryan: No it is. There’s a lot of anger, there’s a lot of hate that people have, but we keep it to ourselves because we don’t know how to deal with it in Canada, because we didn’t grow up with an American sentimentality.

Jan: It’s interesting how each of your albums has had an emotion tied to it. You describe Population as anger, how much of that is based on your sentimentality?

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— , January 13, 2010    Comments Off on The Most Serene Republic

The Most Serene Republic

The Most Serene Republic was a pleasant surprise when I first saw them in 2005. Shortly after signing to Arts & Crafts,  they joined an an all-star line-up on Toronto’s Olympic Island, sharing the stage with Modest Mouse, Broken Social Scene, Metric and Do Make Say Think. The young band’s exuberance and the catchiness of their cheekily titled first single ‘Content was Always My Favourite Colour’ managed to outshine a number of the better-known bands on the playbill. It was certainly a great first impression and Underwater Cinematographer was a solid first effort by an up-and-coming band. I wasn’t even aware that a second album, Population, as well as the tour-only EP Phages (which, given the amount of material could be considered a de facto album) were out when I saw them a second time a few years later, which made for a rather confusing performance of unfamiliar material. While Underwater Cinematographer was immediately accessible, the band shifted into a far more complex style which could be considered outright chaotic to the unfamiliar listener. Looking back, there’s some great stuff if you take the time to let it wash over you.

It’s with some surprise that their third album …And the Ever Expanding Universe is markedly more focused than its sprawling predecessors. I don’t want to say the sound is pared down, as any band with this many members is going to have a lot going on, but the somewhat-organized chaos has been harnessed into, well, serenity. I feel like the production by David Newfeld, who has previously worked on albums by Los Campesinos! and Broken Social Scene, both larger bands themselves, had a big hand in the change.

Resident piano virtuoso Ryan Lenssen opens lead-off track ‘Bubble Reputation’ with yet another display of his impressive skills. You’d expect to see this man performing in some concert hall rather than in a humble indie-rock band.  The band seems determined to keep using song titles seemingly written by clever English majors, but I won’t begrudge them for it.  ‘Heavens to Purgatory’ makes me think of some sort of undead Snagglepuss, which makes me smile. Including the word “gadzooks” only further warms my heart. One of the highlights of the album is the vocal interplay between lead singer Adrian Jewett and guitarist Emma Ditchburn. The contrast between the two voices makes for some pretty melodies, particularly on ‘Vessels of a Donor Look.’

Ending the album with ‘No One Likes a Nihilist,’ an enjoyable song in its own right, can’t help but evoke images of the Big Lebowski in my mind. It’s just another reason this album is such a joy to listen to. Further perfecting their style,  the band is clearly not out of their element.

The Most Serene Republic – Heavens To Purgatory
The Most Serene Republic – Phi
The Most Serene Republic – Vessels of a Donor Look

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— , June 20, 2009    2 Comments

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The leaves are turning green, flowers are blooming and if you live in Toronto the smog is slowly starting to settle in; all signs of spring. With the warmer weather and themes of renewal, growth and romance on the horizon, Ca Va Cool presents a seasonally fitting mixtape. Whether you head outdoors for a weekend escape or you find yourself strolling through the park on a lunch break, take a moment to enjoy the following bands that have clearly nailed the spirit of such a lovely season.

Download | The ‘Under a Cherry Blossom’ Mixtape

Fleet Foxes

01 | Fleet Foxes – Sun It Rises

Fleet Foxes are a five-piece group from Seattle with soothing guitars and mesmerizing vocals. ‘Sun It Rises’ is also the opening track on their acclaimed self-titled album released last June. The variety of carefully plucked acoustic arrangements accompanied by Robin Pecknold’s voice have the ability shake the deepest slumber as Fleet Foxes scoff at hibernation. The band is currently on tour and they’ll be making two stops in Canada – Montréal and Toronto on August 3 and 4, respectively.

air_france

02 | Air France – June Evenings

Based in Gothenburg, Sweden, the blissful electronic duo of Henri and Joel produce rhythmic pop music that quickly carries you away. ‘June Evenings’ off their No Way Down EP is analogous to sensory overload from the sounds of birds chirping to imagery of the first rays of sunshine peering through your bedroom curtains. The group is yet to release a full-length album but to their credit, the music they have produced to date is as close as anyone has reached to dream pop perfection. To quote Air France, “Give in, it’s spring”.

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— , May 18, 2009    4 Comments