Photograph by Chris Frampton

To reiterate a common cliché; the fear with a sophomore release is always the expectations listeners have built-up from the first album. This is especially problematic for the instantly-adored indie sensations, the Bloc Partys and the MSTRKRFTs of the world. For these bands future releases often fall flat just by virtue of the success of the debut. This however is not the case with the second full-length from Toronto-based, dance-rockers Woodhands.

The duo’s debut Heart Attack was not an album that garnered much immediate attention from myself or that internet echo-chamber of the blogosphere. It was an under the radar release, mostly known by CBC3 devotees and other passionate followers of Canadian indie. However, as understated as the band’s publicity may have been, their music and their live act was anything but.

The pair, comprising of synth and keytarist Dan Werb (a west-coaster and originally the band’s only member) and drummer Paul Banwatt of the Rural Alberta Advantage, began packing small venues in university towns across the country in 2008. The shows were an over the top performance of electro-pop energy. It was as though they knew they had to work twice as hard to relay the same kind of energy as your average four person act. This tactic seemed to pay real dividends however, with the act’s stage presence being accurately described as “super-human.”

Super-human strength worked well to deliver Heart Attack’s material to live audiences. The music was emotionally charged, but the object was to sweat out those emotions in a mass of bodies gyrating to the infectious electro offerings. Remorsecapade has not lost any of that raw energy or emotionality, but it fails to capture and record that energy for the at-home listener. The album comes on too strong and a little too unpolished for a recorded effort.

Woodhands – Dissembler
Woodhands – Coolchazine
Woodhands – I Should Have Gone With My Friends

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— , February 2, 2010    2 Comments

Photograph by Sarah Cass

Welcome back to Ca Va Cool’s best albums of 2009. The first half of our list featured Wolf Parade off-shoots, a band experiencing a grand reunion, and an array of talented newcomers. Our top ten features the heavy hitters, the very best 2009 had to offer. Our contributors battled mercilessly to formulate this list. We emerge bloodied and bruised, confident that these are ten albums that will stand the test of time. Without further ado, here are Ca Va Cool’s top albums of ’09.

Photograph by Annie Powers

Photograph by Annie Powers

10. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Slumberland)

Gather around children and let me tell you the tale of four New York indie poppers who dubbed themselves The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. In their sugar-coated world all songs were dreamy, dense melodies drenched in saccharine sweet vocals and jangly guitar. Lyrics were emotional proclamations with dark undertones disguised beneath cute refrains and gumdrops. Teenage angst, sexual yearning, misdirected emotions, drug analogies and scattered profanities flowed with their overt sweetness and apparent levity in a musical dichotomy; the battle against light and dark arranging itself into aural beauty. Nothing less could be expected from a troupe of troubadours named after a children’s book and channeling broken hearts of the past into a C86 revival. What will become of the courageous quartet in the new year? The story is to be continued. In the meantime, we can lose ourselves in my favourite track about library love from their self-titled debut album released this year on Slumberland Records. — Sabrina Diemert

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— , December 26, 2009    2 Comments
Photograph by Vincent Wong

Photograph by Vincent Wong

UPDATE: This contest is now closed.

If you’re a regular reader of Ca Va Cool, by now you’re well aware that we absolutely love the Rural Alberta Advantage. We followed them back when they were “Canada’s best unsigned band” and caught up with them again in July for an interview at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto when they were newly-signed and the most talked about band in the Canadian indie scene. Well, now they’re back! The Rural Alberta Advantage will begin their Fall Canadian tour this Wednesday, November 11.

In order to celebrate their return, the fine people at New Prey have given us two passes for their show at Lee’s Palace in Toronto on November 20 and a signed copy of their debut album, Hometowns. To enter to win the RAA prize pack, send an email to contests@cavacool.com with “The Ballad of the RAA” in the subject line and your full name in the body of the email. This contest closes on November 18 at midnight. Good luck!

The Rural Alberta Advantage – The Ballad of the RAA

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— , November 10, 2009    8 Comments

The tenth annual Wolfe Island Music Festival is happening in Kingston, Ontario this weekend. Interestingly enough, it will take place on Wolfe Island, one of Kingston’s most beautiful places and probably the world’s most perfect spot for a small indie music festival. I’m obviously biased, but if you’ve ever had the chance to catch the free ferry that goes from downtown Kingston right through to where the Cataraquai River empties into Lake Ontario, across to where the ferry docks right on the island’s main street, well, you’ll know what I mean. Add some excellent music to the mix, some drinks, some camping and some good friends and there’s actually nothing better you could ask for. Actually.

I’ve only made it to the festival once before, but I am still forever talking about the experience. It usually runs for two days – the Friday and Saturday of the second weekend in August – and features awesome Canadian indie bands. Last year I had the privilege of catching Handsome Furs, the Abrams brothers, Land of Talk, the Acorn, and Plants and Animals among many others.

If you don’t have plans to come pitch a tent over here for the weekend and kick back with a cold one, bring your laptop outside (if it’s not raining) and chill out with my Wolfe Island Musicfest ’09 playlist.

Sarah Harmer

Sarah Harmer

To start is Sarah Harmer. A Kingston local, she’s always sure to turn up at a rocking indie show as a guest drummer or vocalist. This weekend she’s got her own gig at the General Wolfe Hotel and it’s sure to be breathtaking. This is the first Sarah Harmer song I ever heard, and once I heard it I was hooked for life.

Sarah Harmer – I Am Aglow



Next is Ohbijou, who will be playing on Saturday, set up in the island’s baseball diamond while we lucky listeners will either be getting baked in the sun or drenched in the rain. The forecast doesn’t look too good, but nothing will keep me from catching these phenomenal Toronto-based musicians; especially not from their soulful layers or Casey Mecija’s unique vocals. This track is from their latest release, Beacons.

Ohbijou – Wildfires

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— , August 7, 2009    4 Comments

The Rural Alberta Advantage

With my heart seized in the prairies, held captive by songs of mining disasters, summertime in the Rockies, and romance in wheat fields, I found the answer to my fixations with the Rural Alberta Advantage. Celebrating the release of their debut album Hometowns on Saddle Creek Records, the band brought the beauty of the country’s wild rose, tales of the oil boom, and accounts of frozen winters on the farm to the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on July 30, 2009. Paul Banwatt, Amy Cole and Nils Edenloff greeted the crowd before the show with welcoming smiles, a light-hearted air, and free vegetarian samosas. The charming trio nestled backstage with guitars blaring and drums booming from opening acts The Wilderness of Manitoba and Hooded Fang to speak about their newly formed label, provincial ties, and Monty Python ska covers. For more on the Rural Alberta Advantage, read their Spotlight, and for photographs from their record release party at The Horseshoe Tavern, explore Flickr.

The Rural Alberta Advantage – The Dethbridge in Lethbridge
The Rural Alberta Advantage – Frank, AB
The Rural Alberta Advantage – In the Summertime

Jan: There was this huge fuss about The Rural Alberta Advantage being Canada’s best-unsigned band so how does it feel getting it sorted out now that you are on Saddle Creek?

Nils Edenloff: We signed ourselves in Canada, we remain Canada’s – I don’t even want to say it.

Paul Banwatt: Self-signed band.

Nils: Yeah, we’re now trying to vie for that title. We’re signed to Saddle Creek in the United States, but we’re releasing the album ourselves in Canada.

Jan: Is all the distribution and management in Canada under your control?

Paul: Yeah, we have our own label started up. It’s called John, Dear [Laughs].

Jan: And thus far, Rural Alberta Advantage is the only one on the label?

Paul: Yeah, it’s pretty busy right now – considering we’re the only people running it.

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— , August 2, 2009    6 Comments