Photograph by Sabrina Diemert

Toronto’s North by Northeast – or NXNE – is the younger cousin and orienteering opposite of the behemoth Austin music extravaganza South by Southwest. Over its 17 years, the festival has swollen to 7 days of concerts (ranging from cozy church acoustic sets to sprawling punk moshing at Yonge and Dundas Square), films (mostly music-centric documentaries, including this year’s highly touted Better Than Something: Jay Reatard) and interactive conferences (if you were a musician and could get advice from Brian Wilson, wouldn’t you?).

As with any event attempting to cram >600 bands into a few rock-filled days, it has its downsides. As per the SXSW model, the majority of sets are hosted by bars instead of outdoor stages; between dreaded line-ups, safety capacity, and city sprawl, show hopping presents some challenges. Some shows had limits on wristband admittance, require patiently camping out in cue or purchasing additional tickets for entry.

The festival concert becomes a new challenge for the hometown crowd. Unlike insouciant visitors – free of other responsibilities and able to party through the night and recover in the daytime – locals have to play the balancing act between maximum music absorption and minimal sleep/work disruption. Thus, we opted for a version of NXNE for the slightly risk-averse Toronto music fan: mostly music we knew, with a couple of wildcards. As a change of pace, this festival is presented through two points-of-view (sometimes coalescing, sometimes contradicting): Kevin Kania and Sabrina Diemert. We tried to keep our snark to a minimum.

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— , July 28, 2011    3 Comments

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.

Released on Secret City Records

20. Diamond RingsSpecial 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

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— , December 20, 2010    1 Comment

Most mixtapes are tied together with a cohesive theme, some on the topic of love for a special someone, others with fury for that bad day. Some mixtapes are lush with clever wordplay and focus on connections in the lyrics, titles, and hooks of songs. We make mixtapes to wake us up, to bang our head to at parties, to celebrate a change in season, to commemorate a break-up, or dance to while cleaning our house. I considered all these options while piecing together complex lists of tracks and sifting through records searching for songs that would convey a sought after message. Finally, while speaking to a friend about my dilemma, he offered a simple solution “People just want to listen to awesome music,” he said, “put together a mixtape with new jams you enjoy and don’t worry about the concept.” So this mixtape is to you friends, treasure these thirteen tracks knowing that I’ve spent the past few weeks dancing in front of the air conditioner, lip-syncing on the bus to work, and vacuuming the house wearing only underpants to.

To those personal friends I share music with regularly and are away for the summer, I miss your presence and your concert update text messaging is appreciated, I look forward to many future iPod swaps, coffee house exchanges, and shout-out-loud new release celebrations. To those readers I haven’t been fortunate enough to meet yet, if you enjoy Ca Va Cool and find yourself twisting and shouting to this bunch of tracks know that we’ve already made the first step to a super-best-friendship. So whether it’s a bad day, a blossoming romance, or just a picnic in the sun, remember to spread the love and share, because sharing is caring. Without further ado, Ca Va Cool says cheers to friends, summertime, and awesome music.

Download | Dear Friends Mixtape

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— , August 7, 2010    2 Comments