Arcade Fire on Olympic Island in Toronto effectively closed out this summer concert season. Our first trip to the island saw Beach House, Band of Horses, Broken Social Scene, and Pavement serenade Torontonians as we rushed between shows at NXNE and Island Fest. A few weeks later and for roughly the same ticket price – barring a donation to Partners in Health – the Sadies, Janelle Monáe and Arcade Fire welcomed us. A torrent of whispers in line for the ferry argued the value of Win Butler and company, some chastising Arcade Fire for charging such exorbitant fees while others refuting that the Canadian faces of indie were worth each penny. I believe Arcade Fire had a deeper motivation than aggrandizing their sense of self-worth: to disseminate their latest record, The Suburbs. What better way than to fill an island with well-to-do cosmopolitans and charge a price we could all too easily afford. In terms of gathering a target audience to sing-along to the “emotional hopelessness of being a privileged young person in a developed country,” as Sabrina put it, the band hit the bulls eye. But if your heart is set on seeing Arcade Fire, whether you’re there for the message or the music, it matters little if they charge ten dollars or a hundred; when it comes down to it, the band knows how to put on a fine show.

Janelle Monáe served as a curious choice for an opener as it was hard to imagine any musician on Bad Boy Records opening for a group of Québécois baroque singers. The audience received Monáe’s mix of afro-punk and hip-hop enthusiastically as her beehive-like hairstyle bobbed in harmony with each strut and shimmy. As her set wrapped up and the sun dipped lower on the city skyline a sea of black and white balloons floated through the crowd and into their untimely demise at the hands of the “Balloon Guy,” who was determined to purge the island of inflatables. Arcade Fire’s intricate set rose from the rubbery remains with a life-size projection of twisting highway serving as a backdrop for an array of floodlights.

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— , August 30, 2010    Comments Off on Arcade Fire: Olympic Island

With the short list announced coincidentally close to Canada Day, the Polaris Music Prize has been cleverly disguised as an icon of national pride. The saga of Polaris says that not only are we geographically gargantuan as a nation, but musically we’re in fine proportion to our size. It takes time to look at all the details, since we as a nation put out an obscene amount of music, but an award like Polaris gives us great cause to wear out our Canadian vinyl through the summer months. From the Besnard Lakes to Broken Social Scene and from Shad to the Sadies, the short list has once again rolled out a tight batch of competition spanning a wide array of genres. Splicing and comparing the ten albums selected for the short list this year can be a daunting task, so we at Ca Va Cool have decided to divide and conquer, to leave you more time to enjoy and celebrate not only the ten albums on the short list or the forty albums on the long list, but as many Canadian albums from the past year as you possibly can.

Broken Social Scene – All to All
Radio Radio – Tomtom
Shad – Rose Garden

Photograph by Chris Gergley

The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night (Jagjaguwar)

If there’s a dark horse in the Polaris race, it may just be the Besnard Lakes. The second-time shortlist nominees are once again looking to take home the big prize. An album blending shoegaze, progressive rock, and psychedelic rock, The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night harkens back to the 1970s, drawing comparisons to bands like Fleetwood Mac and the Alan Parsons Project. Husband-and-wife team  Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas trade vocals throughout.  Goreas takes centre stage on album highlight ’Albatross’, bursting through the droning guitars, singing of a heartfelt remembrance of an age long since passed. ‘And This Is What We Call Progress’ eschews that beauty, preferring a condemnation of the darkness of the surrounding world, soundtracked by a workman-like drumbeat and some of the sweetest guitar licks heard since the days of classic rock. Their world is on fire, and the Besnard Lakes channel that intensity into 10 tracks of Polaris-worthy goodness. — Kevin Kania

The Besnard Lakes – And This Is What We Call Progress

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— , July 31, 2010    8 Comments