Once a year, the Ca Va Cool writing team packs their favourite records from the past twelve months into the trunk of the car and journeys to an unassuming silo somewhere in the Ontario countryside to duke it out.* Today, we emerge from this lost weekend with a consensus: our twenty best albums of 2013. With 10 writers contributing to the list, the bottom half is as eclectic as ever; from rap veterans to young folk songstresses, noisy British debuts to even noisier British follow-ups 20 years in the making, Ca Va Cool heroes of studio and stage developing their sound to breakout bands to look out for, and yes, even Danny Brown. Listening to the entire album is always ideal, but we’ve included links to our top tracks to enjoy as you read. Check back later this week for the conclusion of our list.
*It’s 2013, people; we just argued in a Facebook thread.
20. Run the Jewels
Considering it only took a year for El-P and Killer Mike to release another collaboration following the latter’s 2012 album R.A.P. Music, it’s hard to be surprised by the potency of this free 33 minute digital release. Really, all they needed to solidify their newfound friendship and undeniable chemistry was a name – Run the Jewels. It’s the mutual respect and admiration these two have for one another that has them consistently delivering such fluid and often staggering jabs. Mike bluntly declares how highly he thinks of El-P on second track “Banana Clipper”: “Producer gave me a beat, said it’s the beat of the year. I said El-P didn’t do it, so get the fuck outta here.” Despite the unmistakeable fury that can be found on any release by either artist, the pleasure they tuck in with that cynicism has never been more evident than when the two share rap duties. With both underground veterans’ wit on display throughout, boosted by some extra playful brutality, Run the Jewels is an album that both Company Flow and early Killer Mike fanatics and new fans can enjoy. — Jay Winer
Rather than having a semantic argument about whether 2009 or 2010 was the end of the last decade, Ca Va Cool yet again brings you its top albums of the year. Through our patented, painstaking, super-secret process, we have separated the wheat from the chaff to bring you twenty of this year’s finest albums (and Sufjan Stevens). Albums 20 to 11 come today, with the top ten being revealed on Friday. Without further ado, here is the bottom ten.
20. Diamond Rings – Special Affections
The first of several one-man bands in our 2010 list, Diamond Rings is the brainchild of John O’Regan of the D’Urbervilles. In his Diamond Rings persona, Johnny O discards the post-punk mentality of his primary band with a spunkier, glam-rock approach. Special Affections strikes a fine balance of new wave pop with darker moments, distinctly glam but without the corniness that dogged the genre in the ’80s. The catchy hooks are never lost behind the synth, driven by punchy and endearingly DIY GarageBand drum beats. All of this punctuated by O’Regan’s direct and personal lyrics, emoted with his surprisingly throaty voice. In the end, Diamond Rings’ debut sounds like a less punky Pete Shelley, or a less cheesy Gary Numan, and ultimately a more fun John O’Regan. — Sabrina Diemert
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.
Tags: Caribou, Edward Sharpe, Japandroids, Laura Marling, LCD Soundsystem, Local Natives, MGMT, Patrick Watson, Phantogram, Sasquatch Music Festival, The Mountain Goats, The National, The New Pornographers, The Tallest Man on Earth, tUnE-yArDs, Vampire Weekend
In the fall of 2007 Brooklyn-natives were privy to the exciting new synth-filled sounds of the duo now known as MGMT. The Management, as they were then known, were so unabashedly open about their hipsterness that they quickly began to fill the void that the Steve Aokis and Ed Bangers were losing ability to (because of their newly found mass appeal). MGMT found its way into obscurest playlists, 2007 year-end lists, every festival on the face of the planet and lemon-flavored-soda commercials, all within months. By the time their debut album Oracular Spectacular actually came out in 2008, it was already being given the “2000 and late” seal by hip youth-gangs who were “into them last year”.
In early 2008 word started spreading like wildfire that the year’s best album had already arrived in Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut. Music blogs, including our very own, all lit up with excitement about the fresh afro-boho-indie-pop-rock from 4 kids pretentious enough to make any prep-schooler feel like they went to Boston Public and kicked it with the hard knocks – it was just so smashingly original. The tremendous hype was followed quite closely by a backlash strong enough to make it fetch, much like in MGMT’s case, to dislike VW before their album actually came out just weeks later. As this backlash was given time to marinate in music consumers’ minds for months, it was now only socially acceptable to like Vampire Weekend as a guilty pleasure – like these guys were a post-sex tape R. Kelly or something – which resulted in an otherwise great album being left off many year-end best lists, ours notwithstanding.
This brings me to our latest potential victims. Since sometime last Fall, the blogosphere has been atweet about Passion Pit, mostly because of the infectious single ‘Sleepyhead’ off their debut, dorm room-recorded EP, Chunk of Change. Originally recorded by Michael Angelakos as a Valentine’s Day gift for his girlfriend, the disc made its way around the Emerson College campus pretty quickly. Soon enough, Passion Pit had landed a record deal at Frenchkiss, a spot in several “bands to watch” lists in respected publications, and a track feature on a MTV show soundtrack and in an electronics commercial. Since then, they’ve readied their full-length debut, Manners.
This year’s mixtape is ready for you to download. The two disc set is packed with 2008 favourites from all of our writers.
Download: The Ca Va Cool Mixtape 2008 – Disc 1
01. She & Him – Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
02. Hot Chip – Ready for the Floor
03. Chad VanGaalen – TMNT Mask
04. Bloc Party – Signs
05. Mystery Jets – Young Love feat. Laura Marling
06. TV on the Radio – Family Tree
07. DeVotchKa – Transliterator
08. Wilco w/ Fleet Foxes – I Shall Be Released
09. Wolf Parade – Soldier’s Grin
10. M83 – Graveyard Girl
11. Albert Hammond, Jr. – GfC
12. Vampire Weekend – Walcott
13. Brendan Canning – Churches Under the Stairs
14. Cut Copy – Lights and Music
15. Los Campesinos! – This Is How You Spell…
Download: The Ca Va Cool Mixtape 2008 – Disc 2
01. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
02. Passion Pit – Sleepyhead
03. Born Ruffians – Little Garçon
04. The Clips – Space Kidz
05. The Radio Dept. – Freddie and the Trojan Horse
06. Bon Iver – Re: Stacks
07. Lykke Li – Dance Dance Dance
08. Portishead – Machine Gun
09. No Age – Eraser
10. Plants and Animals – New Kind of Love
11. Bodies of Water – Gold, Tan, Peach, and Grey
12. Fleet Foxes – Oliver James
13. Deerhunter – Never Stops
14. Santogold – Creator
15. Beast – Ashtray
Tags: Albert Hammond Jr., Beast, Bloc Party, Bon Iver, Born Ruffians, Brendan Canning, Chad VanGaalen, Cut Copy, Deerhunter, DeVotchKa, Fleet Foxes, Hot Chip, Los Campesinos!, Lykke Li, M83, MGMT, Mystery Jets, No Age, Passion Pit, Portishead, Santogold, She & Him, The Radio Dept., TV on the Radio, Vampire Weekend, Wilco, Wolf Parade