Sunday, September 20, 2009

Polaris Prize Jitters-- or, not a prediction, but a vote

I have never been so anxious and nervous on someone else's behalf. There are so many excellent albums from the short list that I've loved, but all in all, there is no doubt that I think Joel Plaskett's Three is the most deserving of this year's Polaris Music Prize.

Those who have even briefly glanced at this blog since its inception will no doubt call me out on my bias. But keep this in mind-- music, and its merits, are highly subjective to personal experience. No doubt my attachment to Three is amplified due to my life events. This album has held my arm through the slow dissolution of a relationship, moving out, and being left behind; it has at times made me laugh, coaxed me through my loneliness, and made me yearn for a love that leaves on the front porch light. He put on the best concerts I've seen so far - ever, and is a major reason why I am passionately in love with Canadian independent music, writing about it, attending concerts, buying music and merch, etc.

But objectively-- when it comes down to it, Plaskett was able to weave three albums -- 27 tracks, or 30 including the Three More outtakes EP -- cohesively, coherently and beautifully. Not to mention the links and throwbacks to his music all the way back to when he was with Thrush Hermit back in his teens. I know some critics think that his music all sounds the same; I think it's laudable as an artist to be informed and expand from a thematic core.
And does all his music follow a predictable pattern? By no means!
Disc 1 is playfully defiant, with the horns-infused Through & Through & Through, the Salvation Army keyboard "original rhythm track" on Wishful Thinking, and the sultry longing in the R&B/blues-inspired Wait, Wait, Wait. The album ends with a question: "Won't you meet me at the station when the train comes in?"
Disc 2 answers the question with lessons we often learn in pain and waiting. In this aching, downbeat and contemplative disc, Shine On, Shine On, Shine On is drenched in loneliness, Heartless, Heartless, Heartless stung by betrayal, and In The Blue Moonlight with its eggshell-crunching percussion, provoking at once the imagery of someone shuffling along a gravel road under a lonesome moon.
Disc 3 has regained a weathered brightness. It has forgiven but not forgotten, and in the beginning 3 tracks, the wandering traveller returns, and quickly realizes that past hurts cannot be undone. The following tracks follow a struggle between letting go of the hurt and loneliness and recognizing the love that overcomes these trials, and the rollicking Rollin', Rollin', Rollin' and On & On & On twist the previous neat conclusion, as travellers must travel, musicians must tour, and through all this, love goes on (and on and on).

So I guess consider this my very belated Three album review, one that grew on me over time, and informed by my experiences which had been spoken into by this album. Thanks for bearing with me. These points may not be valid for you-- they are my lived-out truths. Best of luck Joel!

For the Polaris Prize Gala, tune in live September 21 at 5pm PT on CBC Radio 3, Sirius 86 or on MuchMusic. There will be performances by all 10 short list artists, and the winner of the $20,000 and designation of the best album of 2009 will be revealed!