It’s no secret that Ca Va Cool has been relaxing a bit this year, but we’re still listening to the albums and going to the shows; we’ll probably be doing that for life. As the end of year approaches, we realized we couldn’t just sit back and keep our favourite albums and verbose explanations to ourselves. So today, we’ve got a blogger reunion of sorts, 8 CVC writers pick their favourite albums of 2014. Before we get to the heavy hitters later this week in our top 10, today we have the bottom half of the list, which is as eclectic a mix as ever.
20. Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait
Vince Staples is not a concealed weapon. His menace to society attitude has always been present in his music and on Hell Can Wait he raps with his guns drawn, referring to himself as “gangsta god”. Hell Can Wait constantly reminds us that simply living day to day is a feat in an environment deeply influenced by gang culture. The future is bleak, jobs are scarce, but there are ways to earn and provide. Staples refuses to talk about diamonds in his ear or rims on his car. He raps about cheating death and avoiding the LAPD at all costs. Let it be known, Staples is no godsend. But after a slew of hit or miss mixtapes, he has finally found his groove with a team of good producers that have created the next chapter in true West Coast gangsta rap. A special nod goes to Toronto producer Hagler, the beat behind “Screen Door”, “Limos”, and the hypnotic single “Blue Suede”. Hell Can Wait is not pretty, it’s a beautifully ugly EP from a rapper who is deathly serious about his music. — Alec Ross
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 Furs – Sound 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
The best thing to come out of Baltimore since Omar Little, Wye Oak’s recently released Civilian finds Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack taking the reins of production after handing it off for last year’s EP My Neighbour/My Creator. What results is a deeply personal effort. Previous album The Knot was (belatedly) among my favourite records of 2009, and Civilian seems to rank among 2011’s top releases so far.
The formula remains the same: Wasner’s powerful voice and guitar are punctuated by Stack pulling double duty on drums and keys. Though The Knot couldn’t be described as a light album, Civilian is even darker. Civilian is a very dense, insular record, with a central theme of loneliness. The title track and first single is a particular highlight. Alternating between hushed verses and raucous guitar freakouts, ‘Civilian’ shows the range of the band in a quick four minutes. ‘Holy Holy’ has similarly quiet beginnings, ending in a jubilant chorus. Despite having only two members, Wye Oak crams as much sound as they can into each of their songs.
Album opener ‘Two Small Deaths’ begins with the chatter of a crowd, silenced when Wasner’s guitar comes in. The actual live experience was similarly reverent when the band recently played Toronto’s El Mocambo. Following opening bands Huddle and Callers, Wye Oak took the stage, immediately commanding the audience’s attention. This was highlighted when she performed Civilian’s final song, ‘Doubt’ as the lone song during the encore. Without percussion or feedback to hide behind, you could see the raw passion Wye Oak is capable of. Blending the best of shoegaze, folk, and indie rock, Civilian is a must-listen.
Tags: Wye Oak
The holidays tend to be rife with tension, and our Ca Va Cool family is no exception. Picking only 20 albums from 2010’s offerings is tricky; every year, some fantastic records/EPs/tracks are overlooked. Our super-secret ranking process starts from civilized debate and degenerates into name-calling, tantrums and sulking. To pacify the whiners and to give you, the readers, more awesome music, we present our 2010 mixtape. Happy 2011!
Download | The Ca Va Cool 2010 Mixtape – Disc One
01. School of Seven Bells – Windstorm
02. Titus Andronicus – Theme from “Cheers”
03. Sharon Van Etten – Love More
04. Harlem – Someday Soon
05. Baths – Hall
06. Gorillaz – Empire Ants feat. Little Dragon
07. The Black Keys – Unknown Brother
08. Wye Oak – My Creator
09. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Can’t Hear My Eyes
10. Superchunk – Everything at Once
Download | The Ca Va Cool 2010 Mixtape – Disc Two
01. Library Voices – Haunt This House
02. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Drink Drank Drunk
03. Young Man – Up So Fast
04. Owen Pallett – Scandal at the Parkade
05. Future Islands – Long Flight
06. The Morning Benders – Excuses
07. Gold Panda – India Lately
08. Jenny and Johnny – My Pet Snakes
09. Lindstrøm & Christabelle – Lovesick
10. Spoon – Got Nuffin’
Tags: A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Baths, Future Islands, Gold Panda, Harlem, Jenny and Johnny, Library Voices, Lindstrøm & Christabelle, Owen Pallett, School of Seven Bells, Sharon Van Etten, Spoon, Superchunk, The Black Keys, The Morning Benders, Titus Andronicus, Wye Oak
August 28, 2010 – Though my day was spent eyeing Lieutenant Commander Worf and Chewbacca from afar, my night was yet again spent at the Horseshoe Tavern, this time to see Wye Oak, who captured my interest when I first heard their cover of the Kinks’ ‘Strangers’ from the AV Club’s Undercover series. Following that I discovered The Knot, an album that would have definitely made my 2009 best of list. Needless to say, I was excited. Female-fronted Toronto band the Caraways opened, providing a genre-hopping start to the evening. What began as a sort of alt-country vibe morphed into something completely different during the set. Still, what captured my eye the most was the drummer’s odd kit setup.
Following a brief interlude, Wye Oak took the stage. For the uninitiated, Wye Oak is a made up of Jenn Wassner and Andy Stack. While Wassner handles vocals and guitars, Stack is on drums AND keyboard bass. This multi-tasking makes them far more complex than your typical duo, and I have to applaud the lack of a backing track. You would think drumming one-handed would bring limitations, but Stack performs ably while Wassner thrashes about. Material was largely drawn from The Knot and this year’s EP My Neighbour/My Creator, along with a pair of songs from their upcoming album. Following Wassner’s plea for a Canadian husband (“I’m available!”), Wye Oak made their exit.
Though I was mostly there for Wye Oak, it was clear from the chants of “Lou!” who everyone was there to see. Not knowing much of Lou Barlow, but knowing that he was a member of Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and the Folk Implosion, I felt a certain reverence towards him. As one of the more influential artists I’ve seen, it struck me as odd that he was manning his own merch table, kindly signing anything fans brought. Given his huge back catalogue, I had no idea what to expect from his setlist. I had already ruled out any Dinosaur Jr., but I wasn’t sure if there would be a focus on his recent release with the Minutemen. As soon as he reached the stage, Barlow outlined the plan for the night: an acoustic set by him, followed by an electric set joined by backing band the Minutemen, followed by another acoustic set incorporating his ukulele.