Friday, May 7, 2010

Polaris Music Prize 2010 - announcements and guesses!

Here are the details on this year's Polaris Music Prize:
The Long List of 40 titles will be announced June 17th. The Short List of 10 nominees will be announced on July 6th.
Both lists will be revealed live at events to be held at the Drake Hotel in Toronto.
The winner will be revealed Monday, September 20th at the Polaris gala and exclusively broadcast live to North America on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 86 and to the world on CBC Radio 3.
The event will be at at CTV’s Concert Hall studios at Toronto’s Masonic Temple and will feature live performances by this year’s short list nominees. It will be broadcast on MuchMusic, Saturday, Sept. 25th at 9 p.m. and midnight ET.
The Long List and Short List are determined by an independent jury of over 200 music journalists, broadcasters and music bloggers from across Canada. Eleven people are selected from the larger jury pool to serve on the Grand Jury. The grand jury will convene the night of the 20th during the gala to select the 2010 Polaris Music Prize winner.
The Polaris Music Prize awards $20,000 to the artist who creates the Canadian Album of the Year. It is judged solely on artistic merit, without consideration of genre or record sales. Past winners have been Final Fantasy [now known as Owen Pallett] for He Poos Clouds (2006), Patrick Watson for Close To Paradise (2007), Caribou for Andorra (2008) and Fucked Up for The Chemistry of Common Life last year.
The eligibility period for the 2010 Polaris Music Prize runs from June 1, 2009 to May 31, 2010.

And now, here are my picks for this year's long and short lists. After my last year's picks ended up being quite accurate considering the newness of my in-depth music exploration, I thought I'd throw my hat in the ring to make predictions again after a year's worth of increased understanding of the Canadian music scene!
[Ed. Disagree? Want to change my mind? You can always email me and make your case. brendahlee [at]]

Likely short-listers:

Jason Collett - Rat A Tat Tat
Collett's latest showcases the story telling quality in his songs, the tight compositions, the near-flawless pop anthems he crafts about love and love lost ("Love Is A Chain," "Love Is A Dirty Word") and his sexy drawl of a voice. Although with a unabashed 70's influence, the album never feels like a derivative of times past but a morphing of the best of those elements to capture a contemporary audience.

Zeus' debut album brings to full light what those of us who had their EP and had seen their live shows have known for months, that these guys are phenomenal. There's not a single weak track on the album, and the talent is evenly distributed between the 4 members, with 3 songwriters and vocalists with distinct styles. The album flows from one track to another, from feel-good sing-alongs to fuzzed out guitar rock, with a unity which you rarely encounter in a debut album. Their cohesion and energy as a live band, as well as their skill in harnessing that bubbling, youthful creativity also swing the vote in their favour.

For all the close ties that the two bands have to one another, with members of Zeus being the backing band of Collett, I loved both of their albums for distinct reasons. However, I realistically don't think BOTH of them will be short-listed, simply because of that connection named above. And I can't imagine either of them winning, because their sounds are too nostalgic for an award that tends to reward innovation.

You Say Party! We Say Die! - XXXX
My favourite album from 2009 that's not already been nominated for a Polaris. I gave it a glowing review upon first listen and it's only grown on me over time. Their sound is polished, the raw animal that they are on stage purrs through the album and occasionally lets out a snarl. Producer Howard Redekopp deserves a lot of credit for being able to capture the energy of the album. And what is that energy? It's not only physical, but emotional and spiritual, as evidenced by a band who had undergone "Dark Days" and redeemed them for something greater. Which makes the recent death of drummer Devon Clifford all the more devastating. All in all, a mature, confident album that snuck up on me and turned me into a rabid fan.

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record.
I've listened through it countless times since receiving it just under a week ago in my email inbox; it has literally been on repeat, on the stereo in the shower, in my iPod during my commutes, and on iTunes when working on my laptop. Some of the songs are immediately intimate, and some are immediately catchy. Knowing the complexity of BSS' compositions, I can only expect them to unfold further over time. Members new (Lisa Lobsinger) and old (Emily Haines) shone on their respective songs "All to All" and "Sentimental X's." Call it the debut of BSS v.2, the pared down, leaner and meaner Toronto indie machine. Only time will tell if it'll reach the revered status of You Forgot It in People, but I would tentatively say yes. Some people believe that the extreme expectations from being the band that released one of the greatest albums in Canadian indie will hurt the perception of the latest album, but I haven't yet seen that backlash. Probably because the album is incredible.

Likely long-listers:

Rose Cousins - The Send Off
Cousins' latest is haunting yet soothing. An album that grabs you by the heartstrings. Rose Cousins' voice is like a pristine lake. Second half of album falters somewhat in energy and intensity...

Amy Millan - Masters of the Burial
Smoky, dark, lustful... the mood is right. The voice is heavenly. Being part of Stars helps, but there are many artists doing similar things.

Aidan Knight - Versicolour
There's the suggestion of greatness in Knight's debut LP, which is about the length of an EP. Hints of Broken Social Scene can be heard in opening and stand-out track "The Sun," which has the O'Darling on subtle group harmonies in the background. However, Not all tracks are equally strong, and it doesn't take too many weak songs to sink an 8 track album (pretty much just 7 as "Sorrows" is more of an intro).

Dan Mangan - Nice, Nice, Very Nice
I woke up in the middle of the night with a fit of shakes for forgetting the bearded bard of Vancouver. A comment from Kirk also helped. His latest is strong, propelled by the cohesiveness of his band, the earthy growl of his voice and his immense touring and consequent popularity across Canada. However, I can't overlook the relative weakness of his album compared to his live show, which has not harnessed the explosive strength that I mentioned above adequately. But, he has a great chance of making it onto even the short list.

Hannah Georgas - This Is Good
There's a lot of positive buzz surrounding Georgas prior to the release of her debut, with prominent ad placements and heavy touring. Her album is surprising in its variety, easily accessible and relatable, but perhaps too much so to be seriously considered by the jurors.

We Are the City - In A Quiet World
This (very) young prog/rock/pop group's debut (a lot of debut albums on my list...) is very cohesive, flows naturally, shows lyrical depth beyond their years and intelligent composition. Their live show demonstrates the chemistry of the band and how in sync they are with one another's musical tendencies. However, I doubt WATC is well known beyond BC, lessening the chance of them garnering enough votes to get on the long-list, which is a shame.

The Balconies - S/T
Imagine U2's sound in their early days, with the bright sparkling guitar riffs but more polished and skilled. Funny thing is, this trio has the reverse handicap of not being known very well outside central Canada. I doubt that's as devastating as not being known within central Canada, but I suppose we'll see.

Bahamas - Pink Strat
His solo debut apart from supporting artists such as Feist and Jason Collett shows that it's possible to serenade and seduce an audience with solely his guitar prowess. His live shows demonstrate that he's got amazing stagemanship to boot. Is that enough to get him on the long-list?

Thrush Hermit box set
... hey, Leonard Cohen did it ;)

Likely short- and long-listers that I can't vouch for:
These are all albums that either have received great critical reception although I may not have had the opportunity to purchase/review it, or are hotly anticipated releases from previously Polaris nominated artists.

Basia Bulat - Heart of My Own
Caribou - Swim
Owen Pallett - Heartland
New Pornographers - Together
Woodpigeon - Die Stadt Muzikanten
Holy Fuck - Latin (May 11)
Wintersleep - New Inheritors (May 18)
Shad - TSOL (May 25)

Who are YOUR picks for Polaris, short- or long- list? Who did I miss?