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 D.L. Anderson

How do you follow a universally adored debut like For Emma, Forever Ago? Give the masses more of what you know they love? Fight the current, tear off in a wild new direction, and dare them all to follow?* Bon Iver’s sophomore, self-titled record tries for a mix of both with mixed results, renewing and expanding For Emma without really improving on it.

Where For Emma, Forever Ago was built out of little more than an acoustic guitar and Justin Vernon’s overdubbed falsetto, sounding as dusty and spare as the secluded winter cabin in which it was famously written and recorded, Bon Iver goes electric and beyond with an ambitious arsenal of synths, drums, autotune, and yes, that is a saxophone a-wailing on the album’s closing track ‘Beth/Rest’. The tinkering is welcome, but it yields an inconsistent batch of songs with some sublime highs and a few baffling lows, in contrast to For Emma all of whose nine tracks were solidly worth knowing by heart.

Four of Bon Iver’s tracks do stand out as excellent. ‘Towers’ is accessible and catchy; ‘Michicant’ is mournful and wintry, Vernon’s bread and butter, playing with a pointillistic 3/4 rhythm. ‘Perth’ and ‘Calgary’ are two of the band’s strongest songs to date, the most emotionally touching pieces on this album and the most likely to wind up on mixtapes and moody playlists. Like the overlooked gems on the Blood Bank EP, their structural essentials would have them sounding just like missing For Emma tracks if stripped down to guitar and vocals, while their arrangements here on Bon Iver make strong use of the band’s new electric toys to add power and weight. As a matter of staying in character while going electric, Sufjan Stevens should be taking notes. Although then you get to a track like the aforementioned ‘Beth/Rest’ and it all seems to come apart in chunks of post-Roger Waters Pink Floyd b-side power ballad, which is really and truly not a phrase I ever expected to type about this particular band.

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— , June 13, 2011    3 Comments

The Blood Bank EP, the follow-up to Bon Iver’s pretty much unanimously adored debut LP, For Emma, Forever Ago, will be released later this month on Jagjaguwar. The EP is more of the same from the Wisconsin-based singer-songwriter, which in this case is good thing. If he keeps this consistent song craft up, he could be the next Bonnie Prince Billy, just 13 albums to go.

Bon Iver – Blood Bank

Also being released are albums from two of the best guitar bands that just won’t quit. The Rifles are back with The Great Escape, the follow-up to the fiery No Love Lost, and The View’s Which Bitch?, their first album since the Mercury Prize nominated Hats Off to the Buskers. The View are still on fire.

The Rifles – The Great Escape
The View – 5Rebbeccas

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— , January 3, 2009    6 Comments

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

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— , December 24, 2008    4 Comments