Photograph by Sam Javanrouh

There’s a day in June that occupies a special place in Torontonians hearts every year. Originally known as the Olympic Island Festival, the recently re-named Toronto Island Concert, is what many of my friends call their “favourite day of the summer”. Curated by Broken Social Scene and their label Arts&Crafts, the day-long mini-fest takes place South of the city, just a few kilometres off-shore from Toronto’s modest and un-scenic harbourfront, on one of the city’s most heavily protected natural gems, Olympic Island. With only a community in the hundreds that inhabits the Toronto Islands, their parks are some of the city’s most beautiful, their few domiciles are some of the city’s most demanded and their concert is one of the city’s most memorable.

After a two-year break from any performances on the island, one because of an unfortunate scheduling conflict last year, and the other unexplained the year previous, the memories of the day are starting to get fuzzy. Remember the year when Feist opened and played all of ‘The Reminder’ before anyone knew that ‘1,2,3,4’ would be a Sesame Street jam? Or how about that year when Canada’s music scene was finally en vogue internationally, after over a decade of indie rock triumphs domestically? Remember how this celebration was marked by Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene being on the same bill, collectively shouting back at the world “the kings are taking back their throne,” a phrase which packed so much punch, years before it found its home on Neon Bible’s ‘Intervention’? Oh, and then there was the time that J. Mascis joined a stage ramshackled-full of 8 electric guitarists and three drummers, spilling out into the audience, and played a song to close the night called ‘Guitar Symphony’ which has never seen the light of day, but was perhaps the strongest reminder of the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll the city has ever seen.

Indeed, the day-long festival has been home to some of the most memorable and important moments in Toronto’s music history. It’s also been home to some of the most memorable and important moments for this writer, personally. One way or another, the Island Concert marks a moment in the Summer around which old friends plan trips back to the city and everyone finds each other, ready to celebrate anything they can. The reunions start early in the day over beers and hugs, and end with the back-drop of a lit-up city, slow-dancing as long as you can before running to make the last ferry back to mainland.

Pavement – Cut Your Hair
Broken Social Scene – Cause = Time
Band of Horses – Our Swords
Beach House – Zebra

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— , June 18, 2010    5 Comments

Photograph by Norman Wong

I wasn’t initially excited in the build-up to the release of Forgiveness Rock Record. Much ado was made about this being Broken Social Scene’s first album since 2005’s self-titled effort, but when you consider that in the past five years we’ve received albums from Metric, Feist, Apostle of Hustle, Jason Collett, Stars, the two “Broken Social Scene Presents…” albums from Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, as well as music from countless other members, it feels like Broken Social Scene never really went away. My mood changed when this year’s concert on Toronto Island was announced, and ‘World Sick’ started hitting the airwaves. I started wondering what getting the band back together would accomplish this time around.

Logistically, a new album would be an ordeal to write and record, with nearly every member of the band having their own successful main project. Perhaps out of necessity, the core line-up has been pared down to seven members. Nearly everyone from the past shows up in minor roles throughout the album, in addition to special guests like Spiral Stairs and Sebastien Grainger, but the core group is what carries it. Perhaps the most apparent change is Lisa Lobsinger of Reverie Sound Revue supplanting Feist (who only provides backing vocals on two tracks) as Broken Social Scene’s resident songstress. Lobsinger has been touring with the group for years, but she makes the best of her official debut, particularly with ‘All to All’. John McEntire serves as producer and drummer for the album. Knowing only his work in The Sea and Cake, I can say he brings a focus here that was lacking in the chaos that was Broken Social Scene. As a result, the album isn’t as bombastic as its predecessors, preferring a more chilled out vibe.

In keeping with previous outings, everyone is given their chance to shine. The Apostle of Hustle himself, Andrew Whiteman, takes the lead on ‘Art House Director’, which is packed to the brim with horns. Emily Haines’ guest spots are usually a high point of Broken Social Scene albums and ‘Sentimental X’s’ is no exception. Backed by Amy Millan and Feist, Haines once again gives a magnificently understated performance. Those looking for sing-alongs on this album can look no further than ‘Texico Bitches’ or ‘Water in Hell’. The latter is particularly reminiscent of ‘It’s All Gonna Break’, and would serve as an ideal closer, were it not for the ode to masturbation that is ‘Me and My Hand’. Apparently ‘Handjobs for the Holidays’ wasn’t enough.

Broken Social Scene – All to All
Broken Social Scene – Water in Hell

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— , May 25, 2010    3 Comments

Photograph by Meqo Sam Cecil

Welcome back to Ca Va Cool’s countdown of the 20 Best Canadian Albums of the 2000s. By now you’ve read the first half of our list which included everything from cult favourites to mainstream hits which truly answered the question “Old world underground, where are you now?”. The conclusion of our list offers you ten undeniable, bonafide, outright classics of Canadian indie. These albums showed that Canada was host to some of the most vibrant musical movements on the planet and for the first time, instead of borrowed nostalgia from our parents’ record collections, this was the music we lived. These are the albums which made us sing, dance, rock out, think, love, and pick up instruments to do it all again. It’s been one hell of the decade, here are the Best Canadian Albums of the 2000s.

Death from Above 1979

10. Death from Above 1979You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine (Last Gang, 2004)

When I first listened to You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, I wasn’t sure what it was. It was kind of like metal and kind of like dance music, but it was surely like nothing I had heard before. It was a breath of fresh air in the Toronto scene which captured such a diverse group of listeners. You could dig this album if you liked rock, punk, dance, metal, just about anything that could be sold in an alternative section of a mainstream music store. ‘Romantic Rights’ even got its fair share of play on MuchMusic. I was hopeful to see what would come next from the duo, which unfortunately would be a statement from bass player Jesse Keeler saying that they’ve called it quits. The two members now have their own separate projects, where appropriately one makes dance music (MSTRKRFT), and one makes rock music (Sebastien Grainger and The Mountains). — Kyle Sikorsi

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— , December 11, 2009    22 Comments

Reverie Sound Revue

I intended to preface this review with talk of it being the summertime and needing some summery music to pass the time as I lazed in my pool doing my best Dustin Hoffman impersonation. As I write this, it’s still raining and hopes of seeing the sun again have all but diminished. In any case, I’m going to listen to this album, and pretend it isn’t crappy outside.

Coming six years after the release of their debut EP, Reverie Sound Revue have released their first full-fledged album. With the members of the band strewn about Canada, the album was largely created via correspondence over the past several years. Vocalist Lisa Lobsinger may be better known for her stint in Broken Social Scene acting as a touring substitute for the absent Leslie Feist, Emily Haines, or Amy Millan. To my knowledge she hasn’t had a song of her own to sing, which is a shame because she’s excellent on this album. Of course immediately after I type this, my iPod decides to play ‘Antique Bull’ from Brendan Canning’s Something for All of Us…, which clearly features her on vocals.

Compared to the other BSS songstresses,  her voice has a subdued, ethereal quality to it, particularly on album opener ‘An Anniversary Away’. A soft jazzy feeling permeates the album, making it a great, easy listen. Songs range from the bouncy pop of ‘We Are the Opposite of Thieves’ and ‘You Don’t Exist If I Don’t See You’ to more intimate numbers such as ‘Off Rooftops’ and ‘The Leisure Lost.’

The band isn’t supporting the album on a traditional tour, instead releasing several performance videos across the blogosphere over the summer. You can view the stops so far at Chromewaves, MBV, Buzzgrider, and The Tape Is Not Sticky.

Reverie Sound Revue – An Anniversary Away
Reverie Sound Revue – We are the Opposite of Thieves
Reverie Sound Revue – Off Rooftops

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— , August 1, 2009    2 Comments

All Photographs by Paul Shin

This concert was not broken. On July 11, 2009, 18 Torontonians got together to do something they’d all done before. Arriving in town from disparate locations, they met at Toronto’s Harbourfront and went on to play a concert which will undoubtedly be forever engrained in Toronto music history. One of a kind, symbolic, chaotic, harmonious, an end and a start – and to think, it was all born out of an extended apology.

The day was meant to host an annual festival curated by Arts&Crafts Records on Olympic Island. A few months after announcing the show, to the chagrin of many, the festival was cancelled due to worries of competing with the noisy Molson Indy 500 cars racing on the Gardiner Expressway, across the lake only a few kilometres away. In its place, Captain Kevin Drew announced that his band would play a free show on that same evening at the Harbourfront Centre and hoped, with a cherry on top, that this show “with special guests” would be enough to redeem themselves for not cross-checking their dates with David Miller’s calendar first. I was lucky enough to be there, and let me tell you, it was most definitely enough.

From the moment I got there, seeing the multiple cameras rolling, gathering footage for the upcoming concert documentary This Movie Is Broken…I knew that something out of the ordinary was about to happen. For starters, the setting felt more right than any other venue I’d seen them or any derivative of the collective at. Don’t get me wrong, I love Olympic Island, but everything about an experience on the islands feels separate and distinct from an experience in Toronto-proper.

Standing at the Toronto shoreline for a free concert in the nano-sized amphitheatre, I looked around and realized that this wasn’t the typical audience that I’d seen at past BSS shows. Sure, the tweed jackets, fedoras, ironic t-shirts, plaid shirts and dirty-man beards were all there, but they were all interspersed among a crowd including families, young and old, black and white, yellow and brown, from neon-coloured hipsters to urban b-boys, and more. Did these people even know who Broken Social Scene are? I sent a text to a friend, as I settled into a space I found apt, saying that I was praying to the rain gods to wash the riff-raff spectators away, so that I could get closer to the band that I loved more than they did. But rain clouds refused to appear, and I soon ate my e-words.

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— , July 23, 2009    16 Comments