Photograph by Annabel Mehran

The year 2009 will be remembered for many things, including the divorce of Jon and Kate Gosselin, Tiger Woods’ infidelity, and of course, the introduction of Keyboard Cat. But aside from those momentous events, some decent music was released. As the year draws to a close, we here at Ca Va Cool continue our list-making ways to bring you our favourite albums of 2009. Through an intense, scientific process, we have distilled the vast amount of quality releases into an essential brew of twenty such albums. Old favourites share space with relative newcomers in the first half of our list.

Sunset Rubdown

20. Sunset RubdownDragonslayer (Jagjaguwar)

Spencer Krug has solidified his position as wizard of the indie world with the release of Dragonslayer. Conjuring up mythical beasts and inspiring a belief in whimsical folklore, all while contorting vocals entangled with punchy keyboards. Dragonslayer is Sunset Rubdown’s white rabbit in the top hat. The witty experimentation paired with outstanding hooks forms an album that is both accessible and multifarious. Dragonslayer compiles an unparalleled consistency as the eight tracks serve as standalone sensations while weaving an outlandish fairytale. The record has the capacity to immerse listeners and encourage exploration. Sunset Rubdown uncovers a new adventure with each thumping refrain of ‘Idiot Heart’ or the possessed chanting of ‘You Go on Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)’. The quintet’s unpolished finish on the album prides itself on the kinks in their armour and much like a good fairytale, each scrape, bruise, and bump has its own merit when fighting dragons. — Jan Kucic-Riker

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— , December 21, 2009    Comments Off on Best Albums of 2009, Pt. 1

I first heard Camera Obscura on an indiepop compilation, from which I made the often-drawn comparison with that other Glasgow-based band, Belle & Sebastian. At their indiepoppiest, both bands really did sound like his-and-hers counterparts, both keeping their tunes small, soft, and contained without losing the catchy sweet melodies that define the genre. From those beginnings, Camera Obscura has stretched outside their chamber pop roots, adding sweeping folk-rock and country twang to their repertoire in subsequent albums.

Their latest album, My Maudlin Career, which is out on April 20 on 4AD, may kick off with ‘French Navy’, a song as danceable as anything Camera Obscura has produced in the past, but by the middle of the record we find singer/songwriter Tracyanne Campbell at her most melancholy. From the spare folk of ‘James’ to the country ballad ‘Forest and Sands’, Campbell appears to be in no short supply of ways to lament lost loves. At first, this put me off of My Maudlin Career, since I’ve always been a bigger fan of the poppier side of the band and found the transition between the few upbeat songs and more mournful tracks jarring. After a few listens, I grew to appreciate Campbell’s sincerely wistful ballads, if only for the fact that they show yet another facet to the band’s ability to skip genres while maintaining a unified sound, one that distinguishes Camera Obscura from Belle & Sebastian.

I would probably still play Let’s Get Out of This Country or another earlier Camera Obscura album if I was in the mood for an indiepop fix, but I can appreciate listening to their latest outing in a more, well, maudlin moment.

Camera Obscura – French Navy
Camera Obscura – Forest and Sands

Bonus round: Is she saying “like a river in Toronto” in the chorus of ‘Forest and Sands’? If so, there’s a Canadian connection!

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— , April 1, 2009    9 Comments