I want to start by saying that Kaputt – Dan Bejar’s ninth full-length release under the Destroyer moniker – is my favourite Destroyer album, and that it might well be yours too. And not just because that seems like a perfectly adequate way to kick off a review. No, I want to tell you that up-front because I’m afraid that if I don’t and you read on, you’ll never believe me. See, the problem is, while I’m certain that Kaputt will feel to you like an “album” in the classic sense, and while I’m hopeful it will become a favourite, I’m less confident you’ll even believe that this is a Destroyer album in the first place.

What should Destroyer sound like? I used to think I had him more or less pegged. And you might have your own Destroyer box, too. But the first striking thing about Kaputt is that it forced me to revisit some of those earlier Destroyer releases, and to realize that this coherent, linear musical narrative I had in my head was a lot more superficial than I had thought. Sure, structurally, it’s not tricky to identify that unique Destroyer sound; and, indeed, it’s really not that difficult to pick it out all over Kaputt here either. What matters, however, about this fresh new direction – and, as it turns out, about all those previous directions – is the vastly different places they have taken me to.

Kaputt could certainly take a listener many places. To you, it might be the soundtrack to a gritty police procedural. It might be Twin Peaks. Hell, it might even be The Red Shoe Diaries. But however it feels to you, it’s certainly the kind of thing you only expect to see if you find yourself on the wrong channel at the right time of night (or vice versa). And once you’re there, you’ll hardly notice it, even though you won’t really have to look for it either. There’s Kaputt, a little ways down the dimly-lit street, past the puddles and the piles of refuse, rising up into the night with the steam from the manholes.

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— , January 25, 2011    3 Comments

Photograph by Caleb Beyers

As the newest New Pornographer, Kathryn Calder faces a special hell of a challenge in dropping her solo debut, Are You My Mother?. It never was going to be easy to stand out among the sea of side project jewels that emerge with welcome regularity from the individual members of that West Coast indie pop institution. A.C. Newman’s The Slow Wonder and Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone, to pick a couple, have earned sales figures and critical fawning that set the bar in the stratosphere for any solo New Pornographer project, but especially so for Calder.

Hired by the New Pornographers to replace Case’s yowling vocals on tour when her exploding solo career often left her otherwise engaged, Calder missed out on some of the band’s most productive years in the first half of the 00s, though she does appear on each album since 2005’s Twin Cinema. What’s more, she’s Mr. Newman’s niece, and you couldn’t fault her for her being a little intimidated at the prospect of having her own project stacked up against those of her uncle and the indie Goddess Queen she was hired to understudy for — not to mention the catalogue of terminally hummable New Pornographer hits that has built up over the last decade largely without her.

It’s probably more fair to compare this project to her own, earlier work than that of her current supergroup mates — to ask how far she’s come and whether she can make it on her own and all those lovely questions. In this she succeeds to a reasonable degree. Are You My Mother? is possessive, intimate, warm and cold by turns. It measures up to the better work she’s done with New Pornographer label/tour mates Immaculate Machine. It offers hope that she’s not doomed to be “the girl in the New Pornographers who isn’t Neko Case”, at least not forever.

Kathryn Calder – Arrow
Kathryn Calder – If You Only Knew

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— , August 24, 2010    3 Comments

Photograph by Christopher Nelson

Though not the first of the major summer festivals, Sasquatch! sure felt like early summer. The Gorge Amphitheatre is nestled in the eastern foothills of the Cascades just outside George, Washington (really), the mountains to the west managed to keep the coastal rains at bay, but the altitude and dry air made for some sunburnt days and brisk nights. We were woefully unprepared for these climatic factors, not to mention the sheer scope of this year’s lineup. Festivals like this one lure you in with a laundry list of bands you would love to see, and then dash those dreams when the schedule is announced and you realize you will only be able to see approximately a third of them – given you’re still standing at the end of the day.

Some tough choices were made to give you the best coverage we could, that is we made game-time decisions and saw whatever we felt like. It would have been lovely to have seen more up and comers but schedule conflicts and the occasional sleep-in (see Day Three) conspired against that notion. Sasquatch!, despite its laid-back west coast feel, is still a commercial festival. If you want cutting edge, beg one of our Toronto writers to cover NXNE, you probably won’t have to beg too hard. What follows is our take on the best of Sasquatch! Music Festival 2010, day by day.

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— , June 9, 2010    3 Comments

Photograph by Jason Creps

UPDATE: This contest is now closed, the winner has been notified by email.

Sure, the “supergroup” moniker is thrown around a bit too often, but it’s kind of unavoidable when talking about The New Pornographers, who have established themselves as an institution of Canadian indie rock. You can keep yourself pretty busy just listening to the Pornographers’ side/main projects, from the A.C. Newman solo albums, Neko Case, Immaculate Machine, Destroyer, Swan Lake, etc., but for me nothing beats a good listen to Mass Romantic, their debut album released in 2000. And who can ignore Twin Cinema, which we ranked as our eighth greatest album of the last decade. There is no shortage of great music released by the collective and what’s more they’ve just released a new album, Together, and are ready to tour Canada once again.

To win two tickets to see The New Pornographers perform with The Dodos and The Dutchess and the Duke at the Sound Academy on June 15, bashfully send an email to contests@cavacool.com with “I love porn, but only the new stuff” or something like that in the subject line and your full name somewhere in the body. Your secret will be safe with me. This contest closes Sunday, June 13 at midnight. For more info or to see the ridiculous amount of great shows coming up in Toronto this summer, visit Collective Concerts.

The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic
The New Pornographers – Crash Years

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— , June 4, 2010    1 Comment

Photograph by Meqo Sam Cecil

Welcome back to Ca Va Cool’s countdown of the 20 Best Canadian Albums of the 2000s. By now you’ve read the first half of our list which included everything from cult favourites to mainstream hits which truly answered the question “Old world underground, where are you now?”. The conclusion of our list offers you ten undeniable, bonafide, outright classics of Canadian indie. These albums showed that Canada was host to some of the most vibrant musical movements on the planet and for the first time, instead of borrowed nostalgia from our parents’ record collections, this was the music we lived. These are the albums which made us sing, dance, rock out, think, love, and pick up instruments to do it all again. It’s been one hell of the decade, here are the Best Canadian Albums of the 2000s.

Death from Above 1979

10. Death from Above 1979You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine (Last Gang, 2004)

When I first listened to You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, I wasn’t sure what it was. It was kind of like metal and kind of like dance music, but it was surely like nothing I had heard before. It was a breath of fresh air in the Toronto scene which captured such a diverse group of listeners. You could dig this album if you liked rock, punk, dance, metal, just about anything that could be sold in an alternative section of a mainstream music store. ‘Romantic Rights’ even got its fair share of play on MuchMusic. I was hopeful to see what would come next from the duo, which unfortunately would be a statement from bass player Jesse Keeler saying that they’ve called it quits. The two members now have their own separate projects, where appropriately one makes dance music (MSTRKRFT), and one makes rock music (Sebastien Grainger and The Mountains). — Kyle Sikorsi

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— , December 11, 2009    22 Comments