The fifth-annual Polaris Prize Long List was announced this afternoon. First, the selfish celebration: Hurray for Frog Eyes, South Rakkas Crew and Owen Pallett, the three of my five votes that found a place among the 40 nominees, all but Owen by no means shoo-ins. And a moment of regret and gnashing of teeth for Mantler and Drumheller, my two also-rans. Later: I should add that I fully expected Sunset Rubdown and Do Make Say Think to make the list without my vote. I bet wrong. And though I wouldn’t have put them on my ballot of five, I thought Thee Silver Mt. Zion had a good chance, with one of the better records ever to come out of the Godspeed You Black Emperor camp (at least without involving Carla Bozulich or Vic Chesnutt). Too bad.
Otherwise, the list is not too surprising, but there are a couple of notable features: First, though I haven’t done the math, it looks like a record showing for francophone artists (the result I think of some behind-the-scenes consensus-building among the Quebec critics on the jury). Second, there’s a shutout for jazz/improv/avant-garde music - the only jazz-based lister is a very song-and-groove-based record by Elizabeth Shepherd. The only instrumental music comes from usual-Polaris-suspects Holy Fuck and Caribou, with the welcome addition of Kid Koala’s project The Slew (which, with South Rakkas, also marks the debut of free-download albums to the Polarisverse).
Also, it’s nice to see age hasn’t counted against Blue Rodeo, and mainstream appeal hasn’t counted against Tegan and Sara. And the gods of volume seem to be revenging themselves against the Prize for picking Fucked Up last year, by excluding the hardcore/metal/noise side of the continuum, too. I’ll resist constructing any grand field theories. Generally, some progress on the dancey side of diversity, not much in any other direction.
Of the long list, I’d guess that shortlist odds smile on The Besnard Lakes, Broken Social Scene, Caribou, Owen Pallett, maybe Radio Radio, Shad, Tegan And Sara and You Say Party! We Say Die!, leaving a couple of mystery slots (one for Frog Eyes, I hope). But really, once jury members focus in and start discussing and listening more intently to the 40, anything could happen. Commence wailing about regional biases now!