Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

This Thing About You

Early yesterday afternoon at a press conference I couldn’t attend because I have a job, the finalists for this year’s Polaris Music Prize were announced and after the surprising eclecticism of last year’s list, this year’s list was just as surprising but for its uniform indie rock-ness.

Interesting geographical observations: Half the nominees call Montreal home but all are Anglophone acts. The only Ontario-based nominee is from Hamilton, thus scuppering any claims of Toronto-centricism. Two hail from the Maritimes, only one from the west and one is really of no fixed Canadian address.

The ten records that will be fighting it out for the $20,000 prize are:

Arcade Fire / Neon Bible (Merge/F>A>B)
The Besnard Lakes / The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse (Jajaguwar/Outside Music)
The Dears / Gang of Losers (MapleMusic Recordings/Universal Music Canada)
Julie Doiron / Woke Myself Up (endearing records/Fontana North/Universal Music Canada)
Feist / The Reminder (Arts & Crafts/EMI Music Canada)
Junior Boys / So This Is Goodbye (Domino/Outside Music)
Miracle Fortress / Five Roses (Secret City Records/Fusion III)
The Joel Plaskett Emergency / Ashtray Rock (MapleMusic Recordings/Universal Music Canada)
Chad VanGaalen / Skelliconnection (Flemish Eye/Outside Music)
Patrick Watson / Close To Paradise (Secret City Records/Fusion III)

Shockingly, 4/5 of my list made the cut – the Miracle Fortress wasn’t on my original list but in the second round of voting I swapped it in and the Great Lake Swimmers out – sorry Tony – as well as shuffled my order a bit. Of all the nominated records, it’s probably already benefited the most from its inclusion as it was arguably the lowest profile of the releases before yesterday and now, all respect to the Besnard Lakes, is almost certainly the dark horse favourite.

A betting man working off of logic should and would give short odds to the Arcade Fire and Feist records, but consider this – everyone I talked to about my selections and the Polaris in general shook their heads when those records were mentioned and responded that they hardly needed the money. After all, this is Canada where rooting for the underdog is part of our national character and probably part of our constitution. We did, after all, select Final Fantasy last year over big names like Broken Social Scene and The New Pornographers. I’d go so far as to suggest that The Reminder and Neon Bible are long shots. The mandate of the Polaris is for the winner to be selected “solely on artistic merit, without regard to genre or sales” – a lovely sentiment but pretty pie in the sky when you get down to it. Everyone’s got an agenda. Alls I know is that I’d much rather be a fly on the wall of that Grand Jury room in September than I would an actual juror.

Some blog commentary from Zoilus, Torontoist, the CBC Radio3 podcast and Public A compilation album featuring tracks from the ten nominees will be available on August 28 and the winner will be selected at a ceremony in Toronto on September 24.

And that’s just one of many things happening around town in September. Also consider: Minneapolis’ Cloud Cult are at the El Mocambo on September 4, The Clientele have been added to the second day of Virgin Fest on September 9, Andrew Bird is at the Opera House on September 25 and the thought of having to hear him in as acoustically unfriendly a room as that makes me sad. Opening acts for Bloc Party’s show at the Ricoh Coliseum on September 28 have been announced – show up early and catch the arena-rocking stylings of Deerhoofand Smoosh. Strange lineup? Yes. And finally, Great Lake Swimmers face the task of trying to make the Phoenix and intimate environment when they play there on September 29 (via For The Records).

Those of you waiting impatiently for the September 25 release of Stars’ In Our Bedroom After the War would do well to scurry off to the iTunes store or Arts & Crafts’ boutique as it’s been made available digitally a full two and a half months early in an effort to foil those who leak and those who download leaks. Pitchfork has details on the unusual move by the label. Stars play day two of V Fest on September 9.

Billboard talks to Matt Pond PA about the long, hard road to their new album Last Light, out September 25 and they just released an EP – If You Want Blood – last month.

Stereogum celebrates the 10th anniversary of Radiohead’s OK Computer with a free tribute album featuring the likes of The Twilight Sad, John Vanderslice and My Brightest Diamond. Pitchfork declares it to be as great as a box of kittens.

By : Frank Yang at 8:23 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Trish says:

    Overall this year’s Polaris list is an interesting amalgamation of obvious choices and surprise entries. I would argue that Joel Plaskett’s newest release is not his strongest and that Great Lake Swimmers’ Ongiara is certainly a more solid album as a whole.

    Also, Patrick Watson? It’s a good album. But just that – GOOD. It wasn’t great. We played it constantly around Juno time in my record store and it didn’t really catch anybody’s attention in a significant way.

  2. memem says:

    Joel’s album is completely that – an album! It’s a story – a fun one at that – and deserves recognition.

  3. Dan says:

    Weird decision to have the Stars album out so early. It won’t stop piracy, it’ll just speed it up. People who download leaks can download the album illegally right now, two months ahead of schedule.

  4. Ginny says:

    I don’t know about the whole Stars decision. I feel like the people who are going to buy an actual, physical copy of the album won’t want to spend the money twice. And then a million other people will listen to it for free.

    But Polaris… pretty nice. The Besnard Lakes album was a good one. And I also like Chad VanGaalen’s and Arcade Fire.

  5. Tualla says:

    Certainly like the Polaris noms and we can certainly all mention albums that did not make the cut – but I gotta say, where is that Rock Plaza Central cd? Or that Sadies Live record, or the Amy Milan, or Ladyhawke, or OX.

    Some of those are probably outside the dates bounds of the competition, but still….

  6. thomaus says:

    If you haven’t heard all of the Polaris nominees, check out eMusic which carries seven out of the ten.