Photograph by Meqo Sam Cecil

It’s really not Wolf Parade’s fault. Five years ago, when the Canadian rock fetish was just getting sexy and every new act seemed to be named after some kind of Canis lupus, Apologies to the Queen Mary rocked our cores before lighting our own hearts on fire. With a debut album that stellar and a wave of hype washing across the continent, there really was nowhere else to go but down.

While 2008’s At Mount Zoomer may have been more of a commercial success, it suffered the sophomore slump status simply by not being as exceptional as Apologies. It comes as no surprise, then, that songwriters Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner have spent the past few years doing their best work with side projects Sunset Rubdown and Handsome Furs, respectively.

Expo 86 finds the guys stuck in the same style but lacking the stripped down vulnerability and frantic feeling that marked their debut. Krug’s compositions have abandoned the jangly, Modest Mouse rawness that made tracks like ‘Grounds for Divorce’ and ‘I’ll Believe in Anything’ so affecting, instead spending the majority of his tracks wadding through excess. His affection for prog rock heaviness, sadly, weighs down the otherwise sparkling melodies of ‘Cloud Shadow on the Mountain’ and What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)’. Minimalism, this ain’t.

The best parts of Expo 86 owe more to Boeckner, who delivers the album’s standout tracks: the synth-driven dance number ‘Ghost Pressure’ and ‘Yulia’, the record’s poppiest and most catchy cut. While Krug’s Sunset Rubdown got all the attention and accolades last year with Dragonslayer, Boeckner more than pulls his weight here.

Wolf Parade – Ghost Pressure
Wolf Parade – Yulia

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— , July 14, 2010    2 Comments
Photograph by Liam Maloney

Photograph by Liam Maloney

When I saw Arcade Fire at Massey Hall during their Neon Bible tour in 2007, I was rather irritated that I missed the opener, Handsome Furs. It was prior to the release of their debut album Plague Park, but I had a feeling anything to do with Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner would have been worth seeing. It wasn’t quite the disappointment of missing Wolf Parade play the Ford Plant, a small venue in Brantford, Ontario, but it was still a sore subject. When Handsome Furs announced they would be playing a one-off show at Lee’s Palace to close off their 2009 tour, I jumped on the opportunity to finally see them. My only previous experience with Lee’s Palace has been through the Scott Pilgrim books, so I was eager to add to the list of Toronto venues I’ve conquered.

Since the famed mural had been torn down ahead of renovations and a Big Fat Burrito franchise in the process of being put into the building, I was basically looking for a crowd of people on Bloor. Following a prior engagement, I arrived in time for the opening act’s final song. The website listing simply stated Handsome Furs was being supported by “Guests”, leading me to wonder whether that was the actual name of the band. After a rather fruitless and, in retrospect, ridiculous Google search, I decided that it couldn’t possibly be the band’s name. Either way, the unknown band impressed with a high energy synth-rock closing song. It wasn’t until Dan Boeckner thanked Germans for opening that their identity was revealed.

The crowd was clearly amped up and ready for the headliners. The mere sight of Dan Boeckner or Alexei Perry was enough to elicit cheers. Perhaps succumbing to the pressure of a full house, the show started ahead of schedule with ‘Legal Tender’, a song about “the current economic situation.” Amusing descriptions of songs’ subject matter continued throughout the night, with the best being ‘Evangeline’ being described by Boeckner as being about “Doin’ it.” This was quickly corrected by Perry, who insisted it was about “Fuckin’.” The chemistry between Perry and Boeckner added so much to the performance; being husband and wife, the “I love you” glances were frequent and adorable. I was worried the large stage would engulf them, but the duo had a presence that filled the entire room. Particularly amusing was Perry thrashing about behind her keyboard/drum machine set up, bouncing in tune in her shiny golden attire. Her backing vocals are somewhat lost in the mix on record, but they made ‘All We Want, Baby, Is Everything’ and its New Order referencing far more powerful in person. Boeckner, admittedly somewhat intoxicated, shredded like few guitarists I’ve seen before. I was amazed at how much sound came from two people.

Handsome Furs – All We Want Baby Is Everything
Handsome Furs – Dead + Rural
Handsome Furs – Evangeline

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— , December 17, 2009    Comments Off on Handsome Furs: Lee’s Palace

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

Sunset Rubdown

Spencer Krug’s latest mythical creation Dragonslayer continues Sunset Rubdown’s fabled journey involving tales of Icarus, sorcerers, butterfly wings, and of course – dragons. The busy Krug was involved in Swan Lake’s latest release Enemy Mine earlier this year and much like a schoolchild with a wandering imagination found an outlet in his now burgeoning side-project to Wolf Parade. Creating a follow-up to Random Spirit Lover and Shut Up I Am Dreaming is no easy task. You could argue that it would require the imaginative child to mature into a delirious institutionalized madman to produce eccentricities of the same flavour. Scheduled for release June 23 on Jagjaguwar, Sunset Rubdown’s Dragonslayer is nothing short of absolute lunacy employing fanatical themes and disjoint storytelling to an utmost pinnacle.

The album begins with the introspective track ‘Silver Moons’ as Spencer Krug and Camilla Wynne Ingr share vocals singing, “I believe in growing old with grace, I believe she only loved my face, I believe I acted like a child, making faces at acquired tastes.” The contemplative musings serve as an interlude to the infectious anthem ‘Idiot Heart’ using heavy garage rock riffs comparable to the psychedelic melodies of the Black Keys. With marimba chiming over bass and drums, Krug alludes to Icarus in his attempt to conquer the skies. Using embellished themes and satirising fairytale citations Sunset Rubdown manages to find a way with words that is neither inaccessible nor monotonous, but memorable in its eloquence.

Dragonslayer ushers in Mark Nicol the group’s new bassist and part-time drummer. Sunset Rubdown’s latest album is set apart from their previous releases by retaining a less developed studio sound and tuning the songs with a get-up-and-go live mentality. Listening to Spencer shriek out the words to ‘Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!’ with Camilla’s graceful keyboard tiptoeing in the background the song solicits outlandish uninhibited dancing. Sunset Rubdown is at their loudest on ‘Black Swan’ between rumours of mascara spread throughout a kingdom of hearts and wailing guitars heralding the fall of palisades.

Sunset Rubdown – You Go on Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)
Sunset Rubdown – Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna Oh!

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— , May 28, 2009    3 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