Like we always do at this time, today Ca Va Cool presents the 20 albums we collectively overplayed and played loud in 2012. The first half of our list includes some faithful R&B from the unlikely state of Colorado, past CVC favourites both noisey and subdued, psychedelic rock from the West coast of Australia, cinematic Neil Young covers, coming-of-age rap from the city of Compton, a new indie rock superduo of sorts, and turn of the century hipsters growing up. Don’t read too much into that last one, we’ll continue our list-making ways for years to come.

Photograph by Florian Reimann

20. How to Dress Well – Total Loss

It’s quite possible that 2012 will be remembered as the year that R&B re-entered the zeitgeist. It’s not only been an important year for the genre on a commercial level, but for the first time in decades we’ve been reminded of just how advancing it can be. Tom Krell, like his contemporaries Frank Ocean, Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd), Miguel, and Solange, is a vanguard, and Total Loss, his second LP, is a turning point, where R&B became less about a type of content and more about a type of sound, less rooted in the story of a race and more rooted in the story of a person. Krell is a white guy from Colorado who learned about R&B through a childhood affinity for Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. On Total Loss he not only creates a beautiful and wrenching exploration of chronic depression, he also manages to deliver the single best ode to Houston since her passing, on album standout ‘& It Was You’. — Sal Patel

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— , December 18, 2012    1 Comment

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
The xx

Photograph by Owen Richards

Following in the footsteps of jj and ZZ Top, the xx are the latest band to draw their name from the highest scoring letters in Scrabble. Every bit as brooding as their appearance, they are also far warmer than looks may suggest. Their debut is both remarkably subdued and highly emotional, an amazing feat for a young band. Droning guitars and synthesized drumbeats serve mostly as background to the shared vocal stylings of  Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. Male/female double vocals are nothing new, but where other bands would play up the melodrama, the xx keep it deliciously understated, with passion bubbling just below the surface.

Album opener ‘Intro’ is likely one of the most effective introductions to a band I’ve heard in recent years. The components of the band are seen in glimpses, whetting the listener’s appetite for the rest of the material. The album is at its strongest on the duets between the co-vocalists, particularly the singles ‘Crystalized’ and ‘Basic Space’. Croft’s soulful vocals contrast with Sim’s more straight-forward delivery, while the simplistic but effective guitars create just the right atmosphere.

Full credit must be given to the production done by multi-instrumentalist Jamie Smith. Eschewing studio trickery, the comparatively minimalistic production allows the band’s strengths to shine through. Having already toured with the Big Pink, another buzzworthy group actually worthy of the buzz, the xx appear to have a bright future ahead of them.

The xx – Crystalized
The xx – Basic Space
The xx – Shelter

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— , October 7, 2009    1 Comment