Well, the long list for the Polaris Music Prize were announced June 15th and there are some interesting choices on it. For those who aren’t aware, the Polaris Prize is the Canadian equivalent to the Mercury Prize, over in England, with the idea of celebrating and giving awareness to Canadian music, regardless of genre.
I’m not sure what the point of releasing the long list is, beyond perhaps simple promotion, but it’s nice to see what albums are given serious consideration before announcing the short list. For a music nerd like me, it’s handy to be able to have a cheat sheet of Canadian music I might’ve been oblivious about, as I’m always getting stuck trying to find new music to listen to.
Since I’ve been snubbed as a juror for the Polaris Prize, I thought I’d give my own shortlist and plug some of the music I’ve been listening to as of late as well. Also, because doing ‘list’ posts are really easy to do and I am anything if lazy. Anyway, onto my shortlist!
Metric – Fantasies
I’d like to know what Faustian deal Emily Haines and company have made that lets them continue to keep cranking out absolutely solid records. This is Metric’s third release and they haven’t really missed a beat or slowed down at all. Quite amazing, really. Haines’ voice is part of the problem, really, as she’s capable of becoming incredibly intimate, drawing you in and making it seem like you’re the only one in the world she’s addressing. Her voice is capable of provoking a range of emotions, be it wistfulness, sincerity, desire, excitement, the whole gamut. I realize that I’m veering off into sounding like a reject from Pitchfork here, but her voice is just so flexible and I adore it. She could read the phone book and I’d sit there stupidly, loving every minute. But that’s only part of it! The rest of the band are capable of providing insanely catchy hooks and just fit together seamlessly. It really is scary how well this band gels. As great as I think Fantasies is from top to bottom, I think that Metric will be shortlisted but will end up getting the Arcade Fire treatment: too big for Polaris’ britches.
Malajube – Labyrinthes
You’ve probably heard the music of Malajube before if you’ve watched any television in the past year or so, as one of Malajube’s songs was featured in a Rogers Wireless commercial. Whatever, Malajube are a great franco-indie band and continue the tradition of artists whom I enjoy who also sing in a language that I don’t understand (yeah, sadly, despite being Canadian I’m only fluent in one of our two official languages, for shame.) They write great poppy stuff that I can just listen to and have fun with, even though I don’t understand a word of what they’re saying. Reminds me of my days when I was interested solely in metal and punk rock. HAR HAR. There’s no real buzz on Malajube AND they’re Francophone, which could either help or hinder their chances with the award…honestly, the Polaris has only been around for such a short time it is hard to say. That said, I think that there’s more than a good chance that Malajube will get shortlisted and I would love it if this great band would get some greater recognition as a result.
Chad VanGaalen – Soft Airplane
I first got to see Chad VanGaalen when he opened for Matthew Good at a show in Calgary. I believe it was around 2004, which would’ve been about five years ago. Anyway, I was blown away by him, as he was a one man act, but he was able to capture the attention of most everyone in attendance and earned a huge ovation at the end of his set…something you don’t see very often with opening acts. It may have been that he was a local boy and there was a bit of civic pride at play, but I think it’s because VanGaalen is fucking awesome. If you like minimalist indie rock, you ought to check out Soft Airplane.
Joel Plaskett – 3
I was only casually interested in Joel Plaskett until I picked up Ashtray Rock back in 2007 and then I became hooked. Plaskett’s triple album is something that I’m just starting to get into, but I’m finding it quite enjoyable thus far. Perhaps I’ll write up a longer post once I’ve gotten a better feel for it. At any rate, Plaskett was shortlisted in 2007, losing out to Patrick Watson, so look for Plaskett to get the nod again, either setting him up to win the Polaris or to become the Polaris equivalent of ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride.’
K’Naan – Troubadour
This is the only album on the list I haven’t really had a chance to sit down and listen to, but out of all the nominees listed thus far, I think K’Naan stands the greatest chance of taking home the prize. Why would I say such a thing before I get a chance to sit down and listen to his album (and believe me, that will be forthcoming very soon)? One, because the Polaris Award is seemingly about celebrating Canadian music, regardless of genre. Are we really going to see yet another Canadian indie rock group win the Polaris? And c’mon, k-os is fucking boring, if the award is going to go to a hiphop album, K’Naan is a great choice.
Anyway, my second reason for K’Naan getting the nod is because, while I haven’t listened to the entire album, I’ve been playing the hell out of ABC’s while I’ve been out and about. I love listening to up tempo music when I’m commuting, as I use my bike as my primary means of transportation and ABC’s is off the wall. If the rest of the album is half as good as this single, my God.
The third reason that I think K’Naan stands a good chance of getting the Polaris is because of his background. Canadian music is more about music that is made in Canada: we’re a multicultural nation and it should be reflected in that. K’Naan was born and grew up in Somalia and his aunt (thank you, Wikipedia) was a rather well known Somali singer. That sort of background is part of what makes Canadian music great: it’s part of what you’re bringing to the table. You aren’t ascribing to preconceived notions of what music ought to be like. If there isn’t any room for you at the ‘table’, well, dammit, we’ll make room for you.
So yeah, those are my 5 choices of potential albums that are going to get shortlisted for the Polaris. The full list of 10 will be announced July 7th, and I’ll try to have more to say about K’Naan before then!