Photograph by Jon Bergman

With no obvious favourite as in past years, we here at Ca Va Cool were left to our own devices when choosing the ten best albums of 2011. Much like the first half of our list, the top ten features a stylistic array from the year’s offerings. Plenty to enjoy, from sincere and contrived chill vibes to literary-rock, dubstep to soft-rock verging on quiet storm, and our first top album to be a debut. As always, thanks for reading. See you in 2012.

10. Handsome FursSound Kapital

Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry seem forever changed by their travels throughout Eastern Europe and Asia. They’ve created a sparse, yet pulsating album in Sound Kapital, inspired by the kids in regions of the world who love music so much that they risk imprisonment by making it. The album is dark, loud, and penetrating with a focus more on beats and vocals than the duo’s earlier, more guitar-based offerings. Boeckner’s voice remains simply one of the most authentic and powerful around, and one only has to see the Handsome Furs live to witness their commitment to the music and those that inspired it. Songs like ‘Serve the People’, ‘Cheap Music’ and ‘No Feelings’ seem to embody not only the headspace they were in when creating the album, but make me believe that the demise of Wolf Parade was worth the tears. — Christian Kraeker

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— , December 25, 2011    Comments Off on Best Albums of 2011, Pt. 2

Photograph by Will Govus

Two years ago, Atlanta, Georgia-based multi-instrumentalist Ernest Greene, going by the name Washed Out, released Life of Leisure. The EP was an admirable laptop-created debut for Greene, and he was widely acknowledged as one of the pioneers of the chillwave genre alongside like-minded Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick, Small Black’s Ryan Heyner and Josh Kolenik, and Teen Daze’s Teen Daze (who prefers to not go by his name). Now, signed to a major indie label and enjoying the true in-studio process it entails (including working with Ben Allen of Merriweather Post Pavilion and Halycon Digest fame), Washed Out has returned with Within and Without, one of the most infectious albums of the summer, and possibly 2011.

Aside from the advances in recording, which resulted in a more polished sophomore effort, it is the duality of Within and Without that makes it outshine other electronic acts that have the tendency to fall into a static motif. The upbeat tracks slowly flood your ears, while the more somber tracks leave you in a melancholy, yet appreciative state. Whether under the shine of the sun or the glow of streetlights, Within and Without’s rich electronic dreamscapes provide the perfect music for a drive this time of year. ‘Amor Fati’ is the epitome of a summer song. With its pulsating synth, a steady beat, and some of the most uplifting lyrics ever, the track encourages its listeners to understand that the world is theirs and that they can decide their own fate.

The attention paid to balance in the album is noteworthy. The opening of ‘Far Away’ sounds similar to a Chromatics song, but then morphs into the unfamiliar sound of cellos over a minimalistic bass that leaves your ears vulnerably and cautiously awaiting what’s next to come. Fortunately, lifting you out of that trance is the sunny disposition of ‘Before’, but before long you are placed right back into the darker corners of Washed Out’s repertoire with ‘You and I’.

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— , August 10, 2011    1 Comment

Last week I posted twelve of my recent favourite tracks, seven of which were by Californians, earning the mixtape the name California Sunrise. It varied from electropop to reggae and soca-infused funk and there’s an equal variety to be found in part 2 of the Summer mixtape series. If part 1 was the build-up, then part 2 is the break-down. I’ve tried to stack this mix with a few more mellow jams on the back-end, to pair with those inevitable late-July lamentations of the “summer’s half over already!” variety. Youth Lagoon is a fantastic band name and a fictitious place that I’d like to go to one day. If I did, here’s what I imagine it would sound like:

Download | Youth Lagoon Mixtape

Trey Songz vs. Cut Copy – Invented You Now (The Hood Internet Mash-Up)

I don’t think I know how to make a mix without a good Hood Internet mash-up. Here the duo take Cut Copy’s ‘Need You Now’ from their fantastic new album Zonoscope and mix it with R&B crooner Trey Songz’ immortal ‘You Gon Think I Invented Sex’. I watched an interview where Songz decoded his metaphorical lyrics for the audience, explaining that “the song is about how I lay pipe so good that you gon think I invented sex, even though I didn’t, feel me?” Yes Trey, we feel you. Particularly when the vocals from your track with Canadian-pride Drake are over-top of this brilliantly chopped up Cut Copy beat.

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— , July 20, 2011    2 Comments

It should be quite clear to anyone who has been following my mixtapes over the last year that I suffer dearly from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). While I’ve tried many a remedy, the only medication that seems to work is a carefully constructed playlist which bridges the transition from one season to the next. So what you’ll find in this installment of my seasonal mixtape series is a trip through the denial of the season’s change to a few songs that sound like the early Winter months, some that echo the deepest doldrums of January, and a few sweet tunes to welcome Spring along. Thank you for allowing me to spread my med-cin with you all once again.

Download | The Soul’s on Ice Mixtape

1. Jonathan Boulet – A Community Service Annoucement

Jonathan Boulet came onto my radar a few months ago when Kanye West took a break from blogging about uncomfortable but aesthetically immaculate lounge chairs and scantily clad video ho-fessionals, long enough to plug Boulet’s video for ‘A Community Service Announcement’. The video is justifiably sick, playing like a game of capture the flag gone horribly wrong, though I have no idea how it, or the song’s lyrics and title, relate. Boulet’s first album is making its rounds in Australia, and will likely see the light of day sometime up-over, this year.

2. Empire of the Sun – Without You

Staying in Australia, and propelling the denial of Winter along, is ‘Without You’, my favorite track from Empire of the Sun’s – now old – debut. Drawing comparisons to MGMT, Empire of the Sun have been everywhere as of late, showing up on Jay-Z’s Blueprint III last year and getting a shout-out on HBO’s Entourage as being Jamie-Lynn Siegler’s favorite band, which really begs the question “is Entourage the new ‘OC’?” in terms of it’s music referring power – and is Jamie-Lynn the new Marissa Cooper, in that leaving the show may find her as an actor out of work (via St. Vincent). Think about it.

3. Gorillaz – On Melancholy Hill

The ever-secretive and animated Gorillaz have a new album out this Spring, and this is my favourite track on it. The track is mellow synthpop that can be read as a commentary on over-consumption and materiality leading to doldrums, or simply as a jam that can be jived to no matter what you’re feeling. I prefer the latter. Dance now, deal later.

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— , March 30, 2010    10 Comments

Kings of Convenience

Where did all the birds go? And more importantly, where did all the skirts go? Fall is probably the most confusing time of year for me. While a part of Summer’s celebrations linger on, Winter’s doldrums are also starting to set in. While I haven’t become a total recluse and curled up into hibernation mode via cable TV and hot cups of coco just yet, I did pass up an opportunity to grab an ice cream cone by the waterfront in favor of a rerun of How I Met Your Mother last week, and I love the Harbourfront! Things aren’t looking good. I’m cold and contemplative and in search of soul food. I think I might either have H1N1 or schizophrenia, and I blame it on the damn season. As I do with all seasons, I’ve put together a mixtape that I hope might capture some of these feelings, and help you cope with them by enabling your transition from synth-filled Summers to Bon Iver-filled Winters. And Fall, I only ask of you, be kind.

Download | The ‘Fall Be Kind’ Mixtape

01. The Hood Internet – Anyway You Want (Ducksauce vs. Consequence)

The Hood Internet, who were featured prominently on my Summer in Synths mixtape, have continued on their sweltering streak with at least a couple mashups this Fall which have made me want to bust out the sandals and have a MuchDance. On ‘Anyway You Want It’ they take a mediocre (at best) song by Consequence and Kanye West, speed up the vocals and place them over one of the most infectious beats of the year from Ducksauce. Ducksauce, by the way, is a project to keep an ear on the grindstone for. A collaborative effort between Armen Van Halen and DJ gold medalist/Kanye’s on-tour DJ/Chromeo’s brother, DJ A-Trak, they’re inevitably going to be making fire together, and their first video is proof in the pudding.

02. Think About Life – Havin My Baby

One of my best friends told me recently that he’s starting a new playlist entitled Happy Songs and that this song was the inspiration for it. Escape the fall of Fall, share a hug with a friend and dance your face off to this infectious Avalanches-meets-TV on the Radio style banger from Canadians Think About Life.

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— , November 11, 2009    10 Comments