The Polaris Music Prize long-list was released yesterday. It’s to go to the best Canadian album based on artistic merit alone. You can check out the list as a whole at CBC Music.
It’s a good one. Of course, it’s hard to go completely off base when choosing 40 albums rather than just 10 or 1, but still, the Polaris long-list is a much better place to get an indication of where the best Canadian music is than the Junos.
There are a number of bands that I haven’t heard on the list (and will be checking out), but of what I have heard– well, I’m glad to see it on there.
Of my Best of 2011 eligible albums, only one didn’t make it (Dan Mangan, Handsome Furs, Fucked Up and The Weeknd all got nods, Mother Mother is the not-that-surprising exception), and in my running list of 2012’s best we see Bahamas, Cadence Weapon, Japandroids, Leonard Cohen, John K Sampson and Patrick Watson making it.
The omission that really surprises me is Islands– A Sleep & A Forgetting is still sitting at the top of my favourites list this year. I get that it might not be boundary-pushing, blockbustery enough to claim number one on the Polaris, but the fact that it was ignored while Feist’s (let’s be honest) lacklustre effort with Metals got a nod is unfortunate proof that name-brands go some distance.
In the less-surprising but still disappointing category is Boxer the Horse being ignored for their excellent French Residency, which aside from Islands is probably my most-listened to Canadian album of the year– possibly beat by Sampson and Bahamas.
Quibbles aside, it’s an interesting list with a number of worthy winners. So who do I think will take it? No idea. One thing about the Polaris has been that it’s consistently hard to call. I expect Cadence Weapon, Leonard Cohen, Feist, Fucked Up, Grimes and the Weeknd to breeze into the top ten, but the other three is anyone’s guess (I suspect Coeur de Pirate, Patrick Watson, Drake, Japandroids and Bahamas to all have a decent chance of being there, but who knows?)
For the winner, it depends which direction the jury goes. The melodic progression of past winner Fucked Up? The genre-bending mystery of the Weeknd? The victory lap from veteran Cohen? The Billboard-topping sensitive rap of Drake? The indie “It” girl Grimes? Any one of these choices makes sense– and it could just as easily be one of the artists I haven’t even heard yet. The only thing is guaranteed is that whoever wins will probably raise a lot of eyebrows and then make a lot of new fans for a previously-ignored musician (even if it’s just getting Drake accepted in more indie circles or Cohen into the ears of more young people). That’s what makes the Polaris so great.
Update: if you have an Rdio account, user Adam Rolland has put together this playlist that has every nominated album available. It’s below, and I’ve provided links to the artists not included on the list:
Nominated artists not on Rdio:
A Tribe Called Red, A Tribe Called Red (free download)
Marie-Pierre-Arthur, Aux alentours (bandcamp sampler)
Avec pas d’casque, Astronomie (bandcamp)
Azari & III , Azari & III (soundcloud sampler)
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, Kings and Queen (soundcloud)
Cannon Bros., Firecracker/Cloudglow (bandcamp)
The Slakadeliqs, The Other Side of Tomorrow (bandcamp)
The Weeknd, Echoes of Silence (soundcloud)
YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN, YT//ST (bandcamp)
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