My predictions (or rather, hopes) for the 2009 Polaris Prize
Monday, September 21, is the day I’ve been waiting for since, well, last year about the same time. It’s the day the 2009 Polaris Music Prize winner will be chosen from this year’s 10 shortlist nominees.
It’s an exciting time for musicians across Canada. It’s also an exciting time for music journalists like myself, because it lets us be all pretentious-like and ramble on using extremely complicated musical terminology about who should be awarded the $20 000 prize money.
So who do I think should win?
My decision was reached after many hours of philosophical contemplation, sitting in a dank basement corner with ten bottles of Jack Daniels and copious amounts of LSD.
Just joking. The record I think should win is the result of personal music preference. That’s all.
Here are my thoughts, with each artist/group ranked according to who I think is least likely to win to most likely:
10. Fucked Up’s The Chemistry Of Common Life: Lately, my ears have been really sensitive. I think I’m getting old. All I hear when I listen to The Chemistry Of Common Life is noise. I don’t like noise. It bugs me. As a result, I put Fucked Up at the bottom of the barrel.
9. Joel Plaskett’s Three: OK, so, it is me or does every one of Joel Plaskett’s albums sound exactly the same? Hmm.
8. Hey Rosetta’s Into Your Lungs (and around your heart and on through your blood): This album was decent, but it never really grew on me. I wanted to like Into Your Lungs. I had high hopes for Hey Rosetta! ever since I fell in love with their last record, 2007′s Plan Your Escape. But this one never managed to rope me in. Sorry guys.
7. Patrick Watson’s Wooden Arms: Watson, who was also 2007′s Polaris winner, is a brilliant artist. His tunes are like fantastical crayon drawings. However, they don’t have any emotional depth for me. I wanted more swooping melodies on Wooden Arms.
6. Malajube’s Labyrinthes: I don’t totally understand every word they’re saying, but Malajube’s songs still seem to get the message across. “Porté Disparu” is addictive. But compared to the artists they’re up against, they fall a bit flat.
Now here’s where things start to get tricky.
5. K’Naan’s Troubadour: This album is red-hot. It’s lyrically precise, politically-fueled and smart. However, there are still a few snore-worthy tracks.
4. Chad VanGaalen’s Soft Airplane: Chad VanGaalen is magical. “Willow Tree” and “Molten Light” are pure genius, even if they’re a bit creepy. Can VanGaalen outwit the next three bands I’m about to list? Perhaps. Perhaps.
3. Elliott Brood’s Mountain Meadows: Hello, death country! Listening to Mountain Meadows is like venturing out into the wilderness with nothing but your wits. There’s a thrill associated with giving into the unknown, and possibly never returning the same.
2. Metric’s Fantasies: At first I was completely disappointed with Fantasies. But like that Deep Cold stuff you put on aching muscles, it eventually stops smarting and sinks deep into your soul, each bold song a relief for every emotional pang.
1. Great Lake Swimmers’ Lost Channels: I’m taking this straight from the liner notes I wrote for Monday’s Polaris program (you can also read it online here)—”Lost Channels isn’t a record you listen to. It’s a record you absorb. Each smoldering word, each angelic melody seeps deep into your humanity and becomes part of the hopeful light within. The Great Lake Swimmers make every song feel precious. Lost Channels is truly gorgeous, and no one’s whole without it.”
The Polaris Prize is “a not-for-profit organization that annually honours, celebrates and rewards creativity and diversity in Canadian recorded music by recognizing, then marketing the albums of the highest artistic integrity, without regard to musical genre, professional affiliation, or sales history, as judged by a panel of selected critics and experts.”
I currently sit on the Polaris Prize jury. I am not on this year’s Grand Jury. For jury lists, rules, previous nominees/winners and to listen to this year’s shortlist artists, please go the Polaris website.
Here are a couple of my favorite tracks from the Great Lake Swimmers’ Lost Channels. The first is “Pulling On A Line” and the second is “The Chorus In The Underground.”