by carl wilson

Polaris Short List!

This morning came the announcement of the shortlist for this year's Polaris Prize, as voted by 170 music writers, broadcasters and bloggers across the Grated White Nerf, including your humble proprieter. The winner of the $20,000 award for the best Canadian album of the year will be selected at the gala on Sept. 24. (Last year's winner, of course, was Final Fantasy's He Poos Clouds). This year's list is far shorter on diversity and surprise than last year's, which included two hip-hop albums and one in French, but it's a decent batch - nice to see Miracle Fortress sneak its way on - though for me, in this selection, the standout is glaringly clear. (Go ahead, guess.)

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (Que.)
The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse (Que.)
The Dears - Gang of Losers (Que.)
Julie Doiron - Woke Myself Up (N.B.)
Feist - The Reminder (Ont. [expat])
Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye (Ont.)
Miracle Fortress - Five Roses (Que.)
Joel Plaskett Emergency - Ashtray Rock (N.S.)
Chad VanGaalen - Skelliconnection (Alta.)
Patrick Watson - Close To Paradise (Que.)

Of the non-nominees, I'm particularly sad Frog Eyes didn't make the cut, but half the jurists have probably never even seen that record, as it's not distributed by as large an organization as all of these are. Which goes double for the Feuermusik disc, which some of us delusionally hoped might make a last-minute charge up the left flank to get into the endzone. Nevertheless, congratulations to all the worthy nominees. And I won't even whine about the Toronto shutout (not counting non-resident Feist) - 2006 wasn't an especially blazing year for local releases, and B.C. fared even worse.

General | Posted by zoilus on Tuesday, July 10 at 12:03 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (21)



...Not very many surprises. Isn't it all a circle of hype?...

Posted by Libby on July 18, 2007 5:11 PM



I don't even get picking the Junior Boys, but beyond Feuermusik, I'm not even sure I enjoyed a record last year.

Wait- I tell a lie.
"Pulse Pounding Cyber Slam" by Iron Bitchface brought the goods.

Posted by Matt Collins on July 14, 2007 9:10 PM



I dunno, I got asked to do it last year and not this year, so they obviously aren't inviting everyone back to the dance. My number one choice would never get nominated anyway - the Voivod album - so I hope my number two (Junior Boys) wins.

Posted by sp on July 13, 2007 9:22 AM



James has it. Although when I think about it, the Julie Doiron disc is a fairly close second.

Liisa, no one (well, except Christgau) is doubting the value of having a diverse and regionally dispersed panel, but I'm not convinced that it takes 170 people to achieve that.

Posted by zoilus on July 12, 2007 1:32 PM



This is an interesting conversation (especially re. regions/genre/etc.), but no one's yet guessed right on Carl's pick... clearly it's the Junior Boys. Perhaps that goes without saying; but it's such a lovely record, and they're such lovely boys, so it's nice to say it, all the same.

Posted by James on July 12, 2007 12:23 PM




I'm on the Polaris board and, along with Mr. Jordan, help solicit and select our jury and Grand Jury.

Speaking personally, I do not share the opinion we should consider a jury pool decrease. It is our goal to seek out a broad selection of people working in print, broadcast and web media who live for music and make it their lives and/or livelihood. It is important to include people from all across the country, working in both official languages, veterans and newcomers with a good track record. You might not the think pop music critic from the daily newspaper in Charlottetown is to diversity -- but we do. We do vet people for expertise, experience and we do seek out genre specialists. Those numbers add up, and we are delighted at the increase this year. Nevertheless, all comments and suggestions are discussed in our board meetings and we are open ideas to improve the process as the prize evolves.

Thanks for all your picks and the continued debate. -- Liisa

Posted by Liisa on July 12, 2007 10:05 AM



Christgau saying the same thing, interesting:
interesting also that his strategy is cloning. Himself!

I do think that there is real value in having people who've done this for more than five minutes on the jury.

Posted by spitz on July 11, 2007 10:58 PM



Awwww - does that mean i'm out of the running? i really could of used the $$$$ ..... to by some new ceedees and stuff.

Go Julie Go! Go Julie Go!

Posted by Alex "The Alligator" Lukashevsky on July 11, 2007 8:24 PM



mmm, think it was a little over 100 last year.

I do think there needs to be a smaller jury pool to allow space for the small-but-mighty contenders to sneak in.

or if it stays the same, we need to clone dave dacks.

Posted by spitz on July 11, 2007 7:16 PM



Personally I think it's very unlikely that even with a smaller voting pool you would get much representation of new compositional music in a best-album competition, but your overall point about the jury size diluting diversity and leading to the pop-rock domination is a fair one. I was trying to look up how many voters there were last year compared to this year, but can't find the info. I suspect that given all the publicity etc. more people got involved this year. I wonder what the organization's criteria for participation are. I'm torn about tightening them up, because on the other hand the process helps create communication and exchange among the country's critics, which is a positive thing. But the larger the group the more a popularity contest that it becomes.

I'm going to bring this up with the Polaris folk for next year, thanks, Nick.

Posted by zoilus on July 11, 2007 6:01 PM



Once again, "without regard to genre or record sales" = entirely pop music. Thanks for the props in the earlier list of YOUR choices, Carl, but there is no way that this list is ever going to change without a smaller group of more educated and diverse critics making the nominations. I plead guilty here, but I'm sure there was a ton of amazing work in the realm of new music (i.e. new "classical" music) that got even less play among the selected critics than the jazz/improv stuff did. You know, at its inception, this award was touted as an alternative to the Junos, but at least various genres are represented in the Junos (aboriginal, "world" music, blues, country, classical, jazz, etc...) I'm probably just an idiot for thinking that the Polaris folk should be taken at their word when they speak of "genre", although I can't say I'm surprised by the list, given that there were 170 jurors. Something like 10 would be more productive and less susceptible to the music critic mob mentalilty.

Posted by nick on July 11, 2007 5:41 PM



Point taken on the alternative narrative (vs. labels/distributors).

I'm interested too, tracing trajectories is part of the fun. Unfortunately, far too many others DO use it for intramural point-scoring.

Next time let's do: ([main songwriter's favourite band when they were 12])?

Posted by Andrew on July 11, 2007 4:53 PM



Partly I put the provinces in to indicate the Quebec sweep, which is just one of the notable characteristics of the list.

But personally I just find regions and origins interesting. It's not about intermural Canadian point-scoring. I care about where people and music come from because it's a narrative, because it can illuminate what they do (not that it always does), because it gives a social dimension, rather than imagining that music just comes out of individuals in a vacuum. (And sure, that's what the Torontopia thing was about too.)

The official list puts record labels and distributors where I put the provinces - that's one way of telling the stories, but I thought I'd take a different one.

Posted by zoilus on July 11, 2007 4:07 PM



Also saddened by the Frog Eyes omission. They've played that underdog role for so long I thought maybe the time had finally come. How did you put it, Carl, it's graduation day? I guess fate is against them, but then again, maybe they wouldn't sound as good otherwise.

As for the geographic we really need to break down these artists in terms of where they may or may not presently reside? When are we going to get past this? Shall we put a square bracket next to Miracle Fortress that indicates he grew up in Stratford? Come on Carl, where does Torontopia really end? Have a street corner in mind?

Posted by Andrew on July 11, 2007 3:05 PM



i'm so, so, so happy to see julie's name on the list. she is such a special artist and is really deserving of a prize like this - she needs to be brought to a wider audience.

Posted by sean on July 11, 2007 11:06 AM



i agree with you that frog eyes should have been on this list.

but - and i am biased in a huge way - i believe wholeheartedly that the deserving album on this list is julie doiron's 'woke myself up'.

forget feist - i love her and it would be a great win - but i find julie's music ultimately more personal and endearing (especially on this recording).

the rest are ok, mighty fortress' album is good, and chad is a good friend (and the only other one i would rather see win other than julie - sorry slim. watson's album was also very good.

plaskett/arcade fire/the dears????? come on. all had great albums but it's not like they really need the prize. ok, i said it. there are a number of things i should say regarding that last statement but i won't - i just won't until someone else does.

soooo, i am going to guess your pick was also julie. or besnard lakes. haha.

Posted by adam smith on July 11, 2007 8:26 AM



Oh, I agree with the diagnosis - the majority of the music reflects the dynamics of the society, of who is in a position to make that music and so on. But not *all* the good music is that, so the list presents an unfortunately reduced picture. I think most of those people are pretty awesome, too (even Feist, although I don't like either of her albums much), but the narrowing goes by stages - the music that gets heard comes disproportionately from a certain segment, and then the critics who filter it to the Polaris come even more disproportionately from a similar position, and the terms of the Polaris (eg. that it's an *album* rather than an artist or song/piece prize) narrow it further, so there's a lot that falls off along the way. There genuinely were fewer standout choices outside the indie rock/pop continuum in 2006-07, too, so some of it is luck of the draw. I'm disappointed but I don't think it automatically means it'll be so uniform every year.

Posted by zoilus on July 10, 2007 8:58 PM



Liking Plaskett is a tolerable indulgence I allow my canadian friends. Its a (white) canadian thing like the rheostatics or the Hip that non native born hosers often fail to get.

"The boringness of the list is worse than any of the individual albums on it."

Amen to that Carl.

But we probably differ on our explanations for you this is. I think its because the overwhelming share of the good music being made in Canada right now is in the genre of white indie rock/pop (but I suspect you wont agree with that). Which might not excite you or me much because its too familiar and thus boring. In France and Israel however people think Feist is awasome, in england they love the dears and Chad VanGaalen, and the arcade fire is much loved in Japan. We are too close to it.

Posted by guy tanentzapf on July 10, 2007 8:00 PM



I like Joel Plaskett a lot, though sometimes the writing can get lazy - his new album is his best in a couple.

I think there are a couple of stinkers on the list but my feeling is more that the list is less than the sum of its parts. The boringness of the list is worse than any of the individual albums on it.

But presuming that Feist (or Arcade Fire) is going to win is as misguided as everyone saying that Broken Social Scene was obviously going to win, this time last year.

Posted by zoilus on July 10, 2007 3:39 PM



Damn there are some real stinkers in that list. Its amusing that Plaskett that two bit heck makes it and the Great Lake swimmers don't. Not that it matters Feist is going to win anyways.

Posted by guy tanentzapf on July 10, 2007 3:18 PM



Having bought the Frog Eyes and Miracle Fortress during the same shopping trip, I've got to say that Miracle Fortress is the standout.

Frog Eyes is great live, amazing now actually ('specially when Tolan is present as axeman), but I think their great album is yet to come.

Miracle Fortress' "Five Roses" is honestly the first CD to play non-stop in the car for a week straight in over five years. Very excited to share the stage with them on Thursday night and celebrate!

Posted by Jon on July 10, 2007 1:57 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson