Frank Ocean

The conclusion of Ca Va Cool’s best albums of 2012 picks up where the first half left off, featuring old favourites and brave new sounds side by side: indie pop sits next to a “post-internet” patchwork sound; thematically-advancing hip-hop sidles up to our beloved indie rock. Without further ado, here are our writers’ ten favourite albums of the past year.

Photograph by Kristin Lidell

10. Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t

How could anybody break up with Jens Lekman? Unfathomable as it may be, the Swedish songwriter is no stranger to frank relationship-ending songs; ‘I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You’ from his 2007 orchestral pop magnum opus Night Falls Over Kortedala could be seen as a prequel to this year’s ‘She Just Don’t Want to Be with You Anymore’. On the former, he seemed to be trying his hand at a long tradition of breakup pop songs (from ‘Breaking Up Is Hard to Do’ to ‘A Case of You’; from ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ to ‘Ms. Jackson’), whereas now you can tell he has experienced heartbreak firsthand. I Know What Love Isn’t never wavers from its main theme as the stages of recovery play in chronological order: the difficulty in forgetting on ‘Every Little Hair Knows Your Name’, the sadness of imagining his lover with another on ‘Become Someone Else’s’, and after some time, a joyous moving on during the title track. This sad bastard music doesn’t sound like a particularly fun way to spend 38 minutes, but with the sincerity, warmth, and goofball humour that have always characterized Lekman’s music, he delivers an album that’s insightful, upliftingly melodic, and ironically, hilarious at points. In the end, he may have learned what love isn’t, but he hasn’t given up on love, because, well, he’s Jens Lekman. — Daniel Hernandez

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— , December 31, 2012    3 Comments

All Photographs by Jan Kucic-Riker

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.

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— , June 20, 2011    Comments Off on Primavera Sound Festival 2011

Photograph by Max Weiland

Concluding our list of the best albums of the year, today we bring you our top ten. Though the airwaves are currently plagued by some kid from Stratford, Ontario with a terrible haircut, these are ten albums that will have a lifespan far beyond 2010. As always, thanks for reading, we hope you’ve enjoyed visiting our site this past year as much as we’ve enjoyed making it. See you in 2011.

Released on 4AD

10. The NationalHigh Violet

Not much has changed for The National since Boxer, for better or worse. Matt Berninger still sings about drugs in an apathetic baritone, while Antony and Bryce Dessner layer drum hooks below guitar hooks below lugubrious three or four-note melodies. High Violet is a statement that the band have pretty much found their sound, and it’s very good listening, though it isn’t the high-water mark Boxer was. It features no ‘Fake Empire’-style polyrhythms, nothing quite as quizzically heartbreaking as ‘Brainy’; if anything, it’s cleaner and slightly louder than earlier releases, adding a touch more of Springsteen by way of The Hold Steady. The epic thickness of their sound is as comforting as ever. Clap your headphones on, dial the volume up, and lie back for 48 minutes on a road trip through your mind. Who cares exactly what a lemonworld is? It sounds good. — Josh Penslar

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— , December 24, 2010    1 Comment

Photograph by Johan Stolpe

November 24, 2010 – On a chilly London evening there is something comforting about just sitting and watching a guy and his guitar. This particular evening, Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man on Earth, played to a capacity Electric Ballroom, located in the heart of Camden Town. The venue is a modest size and very historical, playing a large role in the early UK punk scene. It is quite interesting going to shows here where you know such influential bands have had their beginnings. As usual in London, everybody cues up politely and the show starts early.

Opening on the current tour is Idiot Wind, the stage name of Amanda Bergman, also from Sweden. She possesses an extremely raspy yet somehow angelic voice backed only by her playing what seemed to be a vintage Rhodes piano. Her music is simple and moody, but at the same time manages to be very emotional. She played for just a short while, as she has only a released a few songs on her brief EP. It will be interesting to watch her career progress, as she is quite compelling to watch, and being linked romantically to Kristian can’t hurt as well.

The Tallest Man on Earth took to the stage alone as well with an array of guitars. You know what you’re going to get with him: distinct vocals, sad songs, and complex guitar playing. He certainly didn’t disappoint on all three counts. From a song perspective, we were treated to an even selection of his career, spanning his two albums, Shallow Grave and The Wild Hunt, along with his latest EP, Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird. Tunes such as ‘King of Spain’, ‘Love Is All’ and ‘I Won’t Be Found’ essentially became sing-alongs which he didn’t seem to mind. On the more guitar intricate songs such as ‘Where Do My Bluebirds Fly’ you can witness how masterful he is on this instrument. The physical space as well lent itself nicely to his heavy use of echo and reverb.

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— , November 27, 2010    1 Comment

Photograph by Johan Stolpe

Each year there is an artist that softly and gently creeps their way into my world in the middle of a season filled with hard-banging electro, power guitar riffs and boom bap drums, offering a little taste of what my Fall and Winter will sound like. In 2007 it was Bon Iver’s unorthodox melodies and haunting vocals; in 2008 it was the poetry of Kings of Convenience; in 2009 it was the intimacy of the debut album from The xx; and in 2010 it has been Kristian Matsson’s project The Tallest Man on Earth. From the moment I heard ‘King of Spain’ from Matsson’s second full-length The Wild Hunt, released earlier this year, I knew that Sweden had birthed yet another modern musical gem. Obvious Dylan comparisons aside, Matsson’s rasp and folksiness immediately give his music a texture which has been all but forgotten in the European music scene, and which has largely fallen out of vogue internationally.

To cap off his breakout year, Matsson will release the perhaps unfortunately-titled Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird EP, which is an emotionally dense, but empirically short, journey – a brief 17 minutes over 5 tracks. When I first put it on, I remember pulling out a magazine – as the album drew to a close, I was still staring at the same page. It had me fully captivated, supplanting any desire to cloud my mind with extra-sensory stimuli. The feeling was refreshing as it’s been months since I just sat down and listened to music without doing anything else. Hearing the first notes of ‘Little River’, I suppose I was completely blind-sided and found myself unexpectedly entrenched.

Matsson recalls the genre that he’s become most associated with on tracks like opener ‘Little River’ and the paysage-painting ‘Tangle in the Trampled Wheat’; then ventures into plugged in territory, flipping a bluesy pedal on ‘The Dreamer’, where his vocals make the track distinctly unpop. My favourite moment comes on what I believe to be his best track to date ‘Like the Wheel’. From the tender acoustic notes to the longing and elegiac lyrics, I can’t help but empathize with a mourning I haven’t felt before. “I said oh my Lord, why am I not strong? Like a branch that keeps, hangmen hanging on, like a branch that will take me home.” Let these 17 minutes spin on repeat through your Fall and Winter, but try not to listen to them while operating heavy machinery.

The Tallest Man on Earth – Little River
The Tallest Man on Earth – Like the Wheel

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— , October 4, 2010    4 Comments