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

Photograph by Tom Beard

Photograph by Tom Beard

09. Wild BeastsTwo Dancers (Domino)

Stripping down the edgy guitar sound found on their debut album to the bare essentials, Wild Beasts returned this year with Two Dancers, a minimal masterpiece of epic proportions. Hayden Thorpe’s vocal range is still in tact, creating an elegant frenzy with constantly interchanging low growling and high pitched, almost operatic falsettos. The songs present themselves like Hitchcockian thrillers, seemingly beautiful, with dark tales of perverse sexual fantasies lurking subtly in the lyrics. Single ‘All the King’s Men’ showcases this storytelling and also the steady baritone delivery of bassist Tom Flemming, one of the highlights of the album. Although there weren’t as many classic British rock albums released this year as earlier in the decade, Two Dancers is a reminder that there’s still something to hoot and howl about across the pond. — Daniel Hernandez

Photograph by Sandy Kim

Photograph by Sandy Kim

08. GirlsAlbum (True Panther)

As the chiming Rickenbacker chords of ‘Lust for Life’ introduce Girls’ debut album, aptly-titled Album, Christopher Owens lists all the reasons he is such a fuck up: he doesn’t have a boyfriend, he doesn’t have a father, hell, he doesn’t even have a suntan. But he’s not here to ask for your pity, instead all he wants to do is celebrate the fact that he can change. With throwbacks to surf music, early rock & roll, and the sunshine pop of the band’s hometown San Francisco, Album embodies a renewed lust for life. The absolute warmth of ‘Summertime’ and the sheer energy of the modern-shoegaze classic ‘Morning Light’ will be sure to make you smile. By going against the current indie grain which seems to favour escapism, Girls have delivered a sincerely optimistic record to a listening public that could truly use it after the year they’ve had. — Daniel Hernandez

Grizzly Bear

07. Grizzly BearVeckatimest (Warp)

I counted down the days until Veckatimest arrived in stores. As soon as it came out, I picked up the album, brought it home, and placed the needle down on the vinyl. The record was everything I hoped it would be. Every note on the album is carefully placed, and each song has a sound of its own.  The interchangeable melodies between Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen complement each other beautifully. When they sing in harmony with the rest of the band, it’s as if all those unique sounds each member brings becomes one. Chris Bear’s stylistic and fitting percussion compliments the music how it should, knowing when to hold back and when to bash away. Going back to the feeling of the record, it’s Chris Taylor’s production that makes the album shine. The guitars, bass, drums, vocals, keys, everything, show tremendous musicianship, which come together to make on of the most classic albums of the year. — Kyle Sikorski

Animal Collective

06. Animal CollectiveMerriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)

Hailed as the best album of the year before the year had even begun, Merriweather Post Pavilion was the album that all subsequent 2009 releases were measured up to. A bizarre combination of freak folk and Pet Sounds-era psychedelic surf rock, Animal Collective successfully married their brand of experimental mayhem with accessible pop. Even with the critical acclaim, no one could have imagined the reception it would receive outside of the Pitchfork-reading demographic. In true Animal Collective style, the inevitable backlash didn’t come from the awe-struck listeners across the globe, it came from them. I watched as they disappointed every frat bro and sista at Lollapalooza by not playing ‘My Girls’ and this December when a good number of MPP fans were probably left WTF-ing when they listened to the Fall Be Kind EP. For a band who that is constantly reinventing themselves, Merriweather Post Pavilion represents a unique moment where, for once, they looked a little bit like the men in our mirrors – and who knows if they ever will again. — Sal Patel

Photograph by Sarah Cass

Photograph by Sarah Cass

05. Dirty Projectors Bitte Orca (Domino)

Upon hearing Dirty Projectors for the first time a couple years ago, I wasn’t sure what to make of them. They had a sound to them that I was attracted to, but my pop sensibilities wouldn’t let me enjoy it. Then ‘Stillness Is the Move’ debuted. Bitte Orca allowed everyone to enjoy Dirty Projectors now. The first opening line of the album “Look around at everyone, everyone looks alive and waiting,” seemed to be the feeling of the indie audience, waiting for Dirty Projectors to make an album we could all love. From the sing along ‘Stillness Is the Move’, to the strange theme song of the album ‘Useful Chamber’, Dirty Projectors gave everyone something to dig. There isn’t a sound on the album that doesn’t peak interest, from the complex and sweet melodies and harmonies to the intricate guitar work to the percussion that ties it all together. Bitte Orca is just one of the many great albums that came out this year that marked inaccessible bands becoming accessible, in a wonderfully weird way. — Kyle Sikorsi

The xx

04. The xxxx (Young Turks)

Minimalistic and coldly beautiful, The xx gave us one of the best debuts and overall releases of 2009. Centred on the muted vocal stylings of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, often not rising louder than a whisper, the sheer passion expressed amidst a background of synthesized beats and droning guitars makes for some powerful stuff. The album was named xx not for the band itself, but because they were all twenty years of age during its creation, and it is nothing short of remarkable that a band so young could record an album so good. Other bands would kill to have songs like ‘Basic Space’ or ‘Crystalised’, so chock-full of haunting melodies and deeply personal lyrics. Although having recently lost a member, the xx show no signs of slowing down in 2010. — Kevin Kania


Photograph by Leigh Righton

03. JapandroidsPost-Nothing (Unfamiliar)

Japandroids are the rush of an industrial fan aimed at your face, the maximum setting on your speakers, and the solitary hope for the existence of a Bikini Island. They are the reason we go to France in search of French girls, they incite our concern for sunshine girls, and they will be there when we quit girls. Post-Nothing serves as a reminder that ripping chords through distort pedals, bashing cymbals with splintered drum sticks, and forcing the limits of a tattered larynx can convey emotion just as well as any lyrical intricacies or complex instrumentation. The Vancouver duo packs enough energy and authenticity into the half hour epic to accrue a monopoly on headbanging and garage rock. Post-Nothing delivers on all expectations foreseeable for a band that sets their equipment up in flames and uses flares as cigars. As advertised, supporting Japandroids gets you into heaven, no questions asked. — Jan Kucic-Riker

Photograph by Patrick Leduc

Photograph by Patrick Leduc

02. The Rural Alberta AdvantageHometowns (Saddle Creek)

While officially self-released in 2008, Saddle Creek’s reissue of Hometowns legitimizes the number two pick from our favourite Albertan-turned-Torontonian trio. The aptly-named Rural Alberta Advantage epitomize Canadian indie-rock mentalities: upbeat catchy licks, polished without pretension, genuinely emotive without exaggeration, combining overt civic pride with tongue-in-cheek charm. Abounding with puns and sarcasm, they weave landscapes of earnest longing, love, and loneliness against the backdrop of our home and native land. Without taking themselves too seriously, the RAA deliver definitive Canadiana in a collection of sincere ballads that has just begun to haunt the hearts of listeners around the globe. — Sabrina Diemert


01. PhoenixWolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glassnote)

Over the course of the past year, Phoenix have become bona fide twenty-first century rock stars. Having released consistently catchy pop for four albums and ten years now, it was about time. Watching Thomas Mars in concert this year grinning from ear to ear with the silliest of smiles, I got the feeling that they were finally realizing what everyone else had when Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix first came out: they had finally reached their goal of universal appeal. So I realized why the Versailles-based band would write in English – it just reaches more people, plain and simple. There were more original and daring albums this year, there were far greater moments of technical and artistic genius recorded, and there was much finer lyrical poetry, but at the end of the day, there was only one album and band that made us all want to dance, sing, and watch the sun set to around the globe. A true testament to the power of pop music that isn’t trying to reinvent any wheels, but maybe just entertain you instead, from a mess to the masses. — Sal Patel

Ca Va Cool’s Best Albums of 2009

20. Sunset Rubdown – Dragonslayer
19. Volcano Choir – Unmap
18. Thieves Like Us – Play Music
17. Atlas Sound – Logos
16. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm
15. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career
14. St. Vincent – Actor
13. Passion Pit – Manners
12. Handsome Furs – Face Control
11. The Antlers – Hospice
10. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
09. Wild Beasts – Two Dancers
08. Girls – Album
07. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
06. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
05. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
04. The xx – xx
03. Japandroids – Post-Nothing
02. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Hometowns
01. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

— , December 26, 2009    2 Comments

nice list! good to see Phoenix at number 1. great album.

Hanan, December 27, 2009

great list! i am happy to see raa in there!

— dona, December 27, 2009