The Stroumboulopouli

The Stroumboulopouli

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Polaris Music Prize - It's ON!

It's Polaris Music Prize time again. Time for those affiliated with the music industry - journalists, music reviewers, entertainment writers and such - those not in a position to gain financially from an Artist's work to get busy, sharpen up their listening skills and select the top Canadian Album of the past year of any genre or respect to sales. It's all about the music! Well and also the cash. This year, both George Stroumboulopoulos and Bob Mackowyz of The Strombo Show are jurors.

Now in their Fifth year - Polaris awards a prize of $20,000 to the record deemed by the final 'Grand' jury to be the best record of the year - an unenviable task - as the value, beauty and quality of art is so subjective. Perhaps it's the lyrical quality, beat, production quality that is judged? Nope. The jury have free reign to list their tops of the year, votes are counted and the Long List is created. It's all subjective, yet looking at the Long List of 40 just announced, overall there is a great representation of genres and levels of experience, from novice to legend from all across Canada. The Short List will be available on July 6th and the ultimate winner announced on September 20th at the Drake in Toronto.

The Long List with artist links and Itunes access can be viewed HERE.

As a music lover, I try to keep up to date on what's new, fresh and exciting on the music scene in Canada. Not sure about you, but I attend a lot of shows - at small venues, free and paid festivals and house concerts. It's a favourite activity. So for me, the Polaris list gives me a chance to explore the work of the artists I may not have heard before, check out the tour schedules of those I want to see live. Kind of like a summer roadtrip shopping list. As well, I use the list as a bit of a launching pad/ legitimizing force for my love for artists I know well - it helps to share their work with friends about acts they should check out.

I also still buy hard format CD's. Lots of them. I prefer the tangibility of holding something in my hand that has been lovingly created that you can't get by downloading. I buy all my music at shows OR my local indie record shop where they know and love music as much as I do. It's supporting the little guy - the emerging artists and the struggling retailer.

There are a few standouts in the list for me in that there are a large number of artists that have been nominated before -- this is not an exhaustive list, but notable repeat nominees include:

Broken Social Scene, Basia Bulat, Shad, Crystal Castles, Holy Fuck, The New Pornographers, Plants and Animals. Past winners Caribou and Owen Pallet - the first Polaris winner, the artist formerly known as Final Fantasy also grace the Long List.

Canada's Walk of Fame recipients and Canadian musical legends Blue Rodeo are nominated for their beautiful double record, The Things We Left Behind. Honestly, although the quality of this album is undisputed, I suspect that they are so well established will make them a long shot for the short list.

Polaris lists also tend to include at least one artist with a variation of the word Fuck in their band name. Holy Fuck (again nominated for 2010) and last year's winners Fucked up. If this tells us anything, perhaps it's that for that kid playing in their basement - practicing may not be the main point of order -- maybe you just need a good name? I might suggest a few: WTF, F This, F-ing Loser. The possibilities are both profane and endless. Kidding.

Unlike previous years, I'm not stamping my feet at any glaring omissions - it's a pretty good list. If there is any sentiment brought to the culling process to the 10? My vote goes to XXXX by You Say Party, We say Die who tragically lost their drummer, Devon Clifford this April.

My Personal Polaris Long List stats are this -- maybe you'd like to consult the list and calculate your numbers?

Number of Records that I own - 11

Number of Artists that I have already seen live - 18

Number of Artists I am scheduled to see this Summer - 10

Number of Artists I had never heard of until the release of the long list - 8

This is something to be remedied - the last useful purpose of Myspace ;)

Of those stats, I'm most excited of course of the 10 I will see in the next couple of months. These include The Besnard Lakes, Jason Collett, Amelia Curran, Hawksley Workman and Justin Rutledge. If schedule permits a first time visit to Lilith Fair may be in the offing. If you are Lillith bound - don't miss Meaghan Smith. This girl has something very special. Her songs are quirky, catchy and delivered in a quietly powerful and charming style. She will be a star. I have seen her open for Ron Sexsmith twice and the crowd was captivated.

As for which discs will comprise the 10 on the Short List? I have no idea but my hope is that some of these will make it:

The Early Widows - Justin Rutledge
Darker Circles - The Sadies
Meat - Hawksley Workman
The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night - The Besnard Lakes
Nice, Nice, Very Nice - Dan Mangan
Hunter, Hunter - Amelia Curran
Rat a Tat Tat - Jason Collett
The Cricket's Orchestra - Meaghan Smith
So -- what's you opinion? Any favourites on the list... and are you pissed about anyone that's been omitted from the Long List? Want to throw down your top 10 and see how you do... I'd be happy to hear about it because the love of music, if not shared, is wasted indeed.

Make yours a Musical Summer and Happy Listening!


Anonymous said...

My Personal Polaris Long List stats are this:
Number of Records that I own - 3

Number of Artists that I have already seen live - 1 (3 times)

Number of Artists I am scheduled to see this Summer - 0

Number of Artists I had never heard of until the release of the long list - 23

Interestingly (well, to me anyway) the three records I own (Rutledge, Workman, Smith) are all on your Polaris Short List wish list.

Anonymous said...

Hahahahaha, so while Allan is ignoring me he still find time to check on George.

Funny how life works sometimes.


Steph A. said...


I believe that the first paragraph mentions both George and Bob Mackowycz are members of the Polaris Music Prize jury.

Tracy said...

Hi Anon 5:41.

Your comment IS interesting to me... looks like based on your stats that you have more exploring of the Long List to do than I, but that's part of the fun.

I also think some of the connections that exist on the list are kind of cool and is a reason that the Canadian music scene has so many exciting and collaborative recordings and live shows. Using a mutual favourite for example?
Justin Rutledge has opened for Blue Rodeo and Bazil Donovan - of Blue Rodeo, plays in his band. The Early Widows, for which he's been nominated? Produced by fellow nominee Hawksley Workman.

Happy Listening Anon... I hope the number of Polaris nominees you can catch live in the coming months goes way up! Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Nice review of the list. Thanks. I am rooting for Crystal Castles and Zeus.