Posted in music on September 21, 2007

by BrooklynVegan Mike

The 2007 Canadian Polaris Music Prize winner will be announced on September 24, 2007. Canadian resident BrooklynVegan Mike discusses the nominees, and who he thinks might walk away with the monetary prize. Note: He wrote this a few weeks ago - it's all still perfectly relevant, but worth keeping in mind......

PolarisThe Polaris Music Prize is nigh. In its second year the judges have the task of not only picking a winner from a competitive field but also continuing the quality streak they started last year by selecting Final Fantasy's album He Poos Clouds. This year's nominees are a good mix of established acts (Arcade Fire, Feist), Canadian indie-rock lifers (The Dears, Julie Doiron), and some fresh faces (Miracle Fortress, The Besnard Lakes).

This is one humble writer's opinion on the likelihood of each band winning the prize, in descending order from less likely to most likely. Canadians take their national pride more seriously than I think the average American realizes, so when an award meant to represent the best of Canadian music is being awarded, nationalism does play a part. Of course, if prizes like this were based purely upon the music, then the winner and the nominees would look very different. What, no love for Handsome Furs, or Frog Eyes? Anyway, let's begin.

Arcade Fire

Polaris nomineeLet's dispense with the 700 pound elephant in the room. I don't think they are going to win, for a number of reasons. Mainly, as Cadence Weapon said in reference to Broken Social Scene's non-chances of winning at last years Polaris; "They win at everything....in life." The band is so huge in North America, let alone Canada, that I think voters will shy away from it. The second reason is tied to the first, and that is the fact that the prize money ($20,000 Canadian, which is as good as 20K American now because the exchange rate is awful) would be a great windfall for many of the bands nominated, and I am sure those judging will put that into account (no pun intended).

The final reason is the album itself. It is a very good album, but not a great album. Funeral was a cultural touchstone, and will be one of those albums that people will point to when thinking fondly of the first decade of the 21st century. It was the success, in part, of Funeral that led to the creation of the Polaris in the first place. Anything that isn't Funeral 2 will be dismissed by some people, no matter how good it is. I do think, however, they will get their fair share of first place votes, and therefore should be higher on this list, but not enough to win.

Chad VanGaalen

Polaris nomineeNow we have the opposite end of notoriety. When it comes to prizes like this, name value is a delicate balance; if a band is too popular (like Broken Social Scene, Wolf Parade, and The New Pornographers last year) the consensus is to not perpetuate it. Likewise, if a nominated artist is too below the radar, some voters, who are mainstream music journalists, will shy away from voting for them. Chad VanGaalen falls in the latter.

The bedroom multi-artist is a renaissance man, not only animating all of the videos himself but also creating some of the instruments used on his albums. Skelliconnection is a fun record, covering many genres - from 70s rock to melodic synth indie-pop - in his own style. However, he is a bit of an acquired taste - an unknown acquired taste, and that I think scuttles any chances of winning.

The Besnard Lakes

Polaris nomineeI'm sure every piece written about The Besnard Lakes in the last six months has made some (not so) clever allusion to the albums title The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse, and certainly a few more are to come before September 24th. The husband and wife duo of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas craft atmospheric songs that channel classic 60s rock. They remind me of a less druggy Warlocks. Perhaps I am dismissing them because I'm not a fan of the album. They strike me as a band that would be much better to see live, but I think their prize was being nominated.

editor's note: I actually love the album, but was not a huge fan of their live show. :-)

The Dears

Polaris nomineeGang of Losers was one of my favorite albums last year. They opened their sound up, and (like Muse with Black Holes and Revelations) instead of thinking of them in terms of their influences, you listened to them as their own entity. It was a Dears album, plain and simple. Murray Lightburn and company turned those frowns upside down, and some of the songs - like "Ticket to Immortality" - have more of a life-affirming edge. As a long time Dears fan, I think Losers plays a perfect counterpart to their last effort.

If the Polaris existed three years ago - when No Cities Left would have been eligible, I think the Dears would already have one of these awards on their shelf. This year I feel the field is a little too crowded, and they will likely get lost in the shuffle.

Julie Doiron

Polaris nomineeJulie Doiron has been releasing music steadily, either as a solo artist or with Eric's Trip and the recently reunited Wooden Stars, for fifteen years. Woke Myself Up is a short album of subtle, mellow thoughts put to music. The perfect soundtrack for a rainy day. No song better captures this mood then "Me and My Friend," one of my favorite songs and videos this year. And though I recommend the album if you want a wistful half-hour, some of the albums nominated are so much more musically diverse and ambitious that I think voters will ultimately pass on it.

Patrick Watson

Polaris nomineePatrick Watson, the band, wraps the Drake-ian vocals of Patrick Watson, the vocalist, in a cloak of baroque leanings and piano recitals. I discovered the band earlier this year and was surprised that there isn't more of a buzz surrounding them, especially seeing as how they carry the hallmarks (albeit differently) that many bands associate with the Canadian wave, such as fellow nominees The Dears and Arcade Fire. They are a "take 'em or leave 'em" kind of band. One listen to any of their songs and you will know immediately what to expect from their albums. However, if you enjoy those sounds, you are in for a treat because Close to Paradise doesn't falter.

The voters of the Polaris are music journalists and they can be just as prickly as their American brethren. Soccer moms (or hockey moms as they are called here) listen to Patrick Watson. Their music brings to mind Coldplay. These facts alone I think will hinder any chances this album of taking the prize, which is a shame because it is a very good album.

The Joel Plaskett Emergency

Polaris nomineeThough not as well known in America, Joel Plaskett is a popular artist in indie rock circles in Canada, first with his band Thrush Hermit, and now with his collaborative albums under his own moniker. Their sound brings to mind several disparate bands, such as Weezer and ELO. I think Plaskett has a decent shot because A) it's a good album, and B) If voters see this as an opportunity to push a long, under-appreciated artist into the limelight (and many voters certainly do), then Plaskett fits that mold.

Miracle Fortress

Polaris nomineeEarlier this year I wrote a piece discussing some Montreal bands under the radar worth checking out at SXSW. Of those bands, two of them are nominated for the prize. One of them is Patrick Watson and the other is Miracle Fortress\ - Graham Van Pelt's moonlighting away from his other charge, Think About Life. There has been a larger than usual influx of Brian Wilson inspired music lately, from White Rabbits to Panda Bear, and Five Roses is one of the better examples of emulating the past along with a forward looking vision.

Critics reaction to this record has been very positive and many of the culture magazines in Canada, including Exclaim and The Hour have embraced the record. I think this record has a solid chance of walking away with the prize.

editor's note: I couldn't be happier that Miracle Fortress will be playing their first NYC show at the BrooklynVegan CMJ showcase at Bowery Ballroom.

Junior Boys

Polaris nomineeJunior Boys stick out like a sore thumb among the nominees. They are the only artists with a heavy dance approach. Sure, Feist and Miracle Fortress have their moments, but So This Is Goodbye sounds solely created for sweat-soaked nights on the dance floor (or the bedroom). While I'm certainly not a dance expert like my colleague David Bruno, this year has seen a number of great dance/rock hybrid records. This, along with Justice and Klaxons at the top of the list. Who would think something like this would come from Hamilton, Ontario?

Standing out as they do among the other bands can be a double edged sword. On one hand, this gives them an upper hand and creates an opportunity to win judges over. On the other hand, certain judges may show an unwillingness to go against the grain. I believe being contrary to the other bands will actually be a benefit, and their name will be rumored come award time (Final Fantasy and Cadence Weapon were the two rumored "finalists" last year).

Feist

Polaris nomineeI know what I said about the Arcade Fire. And Leslie Feist's solo work along with her Broken Social Scene material certainly makes her a very established name in Canadian music, but there is a difference. Feist's appeal covers both Canadas (Franco and Anglo) of all ages. You are just as likely to hear "My Moon, My Man" booming from a car downtown, as you are to hear "So Sorry" coming from an elderly home (both occurrences which I have witnessed). Also, the CBC (co-sponsor of the award) look for any chance they can to play her music. Without trying, her music is all things to all people. And if they were judging this award by their videos, she would win running away.

And finally, the simple reason why I think she'll win is that among all of the albums nominated, I feel this is the best one. It's on the shortlist of great albums this year. It effortlessly moves from nu-disco dance numbers to contemplative acoustic ballads, all anchored by her beautiful voice. Though her image and music come across as very unassuming, she experiments a lot and puts out great music as a result. All hail Feist, my pick for the Polaris Music Prize!

Just one man's opinion.

-Mike

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Comments (35)

I liked Neon Bible more than Funeral, to be honest.

Posted by triangle, motherfucker! | September 21, 2007 1:00 PM

i agree

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 1:06 PM

I don't (this is going to be a great comments thread)

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 1:14 PM

i don't

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 1:15 PM

i liked neon bible better when eddie and the cruisers recorded it in the 80's.

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 1:17 PM

I think neon bible is a more cohesive album. both are amazing in their old way...I still think neon bible is up there with boxer and hissing fauna for album of the year.

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 1:21 PM

What is this bible you speak of? Praise Allah!

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 1:33 PM

from what i heard on CBC radio 3...

The junior boys are pretty much money in the bank.... but then they have been wrong before but amongst the panel voting plenty of them work for CBC. Polaris is much like the mercury prize... i like the field better than the winner. long story short, the deadly snakes got robbed last year, but last years field was a bit more competitive.

Posted by Thomas Schultz | September 21, 2007 1:33 PM

hissing fauna? please over rated. some good songs but best album...?

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 1:45 PM

only two of the 11 final jurors work for CBC.

Stuart Berman, Eye Weekly (Toronto)
Laurie Brown, CBC Radio 2 (Toronto)
Ben Conoley, here magazine (Fredericton)
Mike Doherty, National Post (Toronto)
Stephanie Domet, CBC Radio 1 (Halifax)
T'Cha Dunlevy, Gazette (Montréal)
Robert Everett-Green, Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Cam Lindsay, Exclaim! (Toronto)
Stéphane Martel, VOIR (Montréal)
Sandra Sperounes, Edmonton Journal (Edmonton)
John Sekerka, XPress (Ottawa)

Posted by frank | September 21, 2007 1:49 PM

joel plaskett is so fantastic. i think he should win because he deserves to be known.

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 1:56 PM

i can't see how feist can possibly lose. it's one of the consensus albums of the year, and certainly the best amongst this group (though a very close second to the junior boys). you'd be hard pressed to find any music fan, from the avid music geek to the casual listener, who hasnt fallen in love with this album.

the only drawback is that feist doesnt really need the help anymore. at the current rate her album's selling (thanks to that ipod ad and pretty much every other commerical released this summer), the album may actually go platinum by the end of the year.

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 2:00 PM

Fucked Up?

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 2:22 PM

"you'd be hard pressed to find any music fan, from the avid music geek to the casual listener, who hasnt fallen in love with this album."

I don't like it. I like BSS, but Feist leaves me cold. The songs are good, but I don't think she has a good voice IMHO.

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 2:24 PM

What are you guys talking about?

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 2:27 PM

who really cares?

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 2:37 PM

i strive to be different for the sake of being different.

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 2:38 PM

Joel Plaskett may be a swell indie-rocking kinda guy but his voice is like fingernails down a chalkboard.

Posted by eurotrash | September 21, 2007 3:10 PM

no land of talk? weak.

Posted by nick | September 21, 2007 3:24 PM

Land Of Talk's mini-album didn't qualify in length (under 30 minutes).

Posted by frank | September 21, 2007 3:30 PM

It's criminal that Ongiara (Great Lake Swimmers) was not nominated. I'm a big fan of the Miracle Fortess record, but I'd have to say he's an underdog.

Posted by bumpershine | September 21, 2007 3:34 PM

Is it true that Of Montreal let one of their songs be re-written for an Outback Steakhouse commercial?

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 4:18 PM

summer is over, stop listening to feist.

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 5:15 PM

I think that prize is for Feist, Junior Boys or The Besnard Lakes, with chances decreasing in that order.

Neon Bible is OK. Hissing Fauna might be the best album of the year, even more than that.

Posted by Eduardo | September 21, 2007 6:25 PM

Of course, as we all know Of Montreal isn't actually from Montreal. They are from Athens, GA

Posted by Anonymous | September 21, 2007 11:58 PM

I agree with the earlier poster about Great Lake Swimmers. The album Ongiara is brilliant.

Posted by Jonny Red | September 22, 2007 6:21 AM

I am not being lippy when I say I will be back here to learn more about Canadian artists. Your take is eye-opening. As a country our guilty pleasure is looking south over our shoulder to see what they are saying about us in the USA. We do it to ourselves -it's not you it's just us. We indulge this habit with the chef's recommended side of "it's because you have 10 times the population, you're such a cultural monster." In truth it's just a lack of identity beyond hockey and comedy.

That said, you're a music fan, not a nationalist and you have some good things to say. The "Canadian sound" has grown up since Brian Adams and Ann Murray hasn't it? See, I am asking for your acknowledgment. Any way, a well crafted argument is always well appreciated. I will be there. If Feist wins I'll say, "See, you don't need meet and cheese to know music!"

Joe Chisholm
host
THE TORONTO INDIE SCENE
www.indiecan.com
This Week: meet Hunter Valentine, live at IndieCan

Posted by Joe Chisholm | September 22, 2007 11:47 PM

Will "Challengers" be eligible for next year's award now that Carl Newman has moved to Brooklyn?

Posted by Anonymous | September 24, 2007 12:41 AM

Chad VanGaalen for the win! Skelliconnection was my favorite album of 2006 and I'd love to see it rewarded.

Posted by Raul | September 24, 2007 7:52 PM

Watson wins it!

Posted by bumpershine | September 24, 2007 11:58 PM

Watson - winner +100000

Posted by mr music | October 30, 2008 7:52 AM

You'd be hard pressed to find any music fan, from the avid music geek to the casual listener, who hasnt fallen in love with this album.

Posted by online games | April 21, 2009 4:33 AM

Hissing Fauna might be the best album of the year, even more than that.

Posted by apri | July 12, 2009 3:09 PM

Watson wins it! That's cool!

Posted by car games | October 3, 2009 6:05 PM

My moon my man is awesome, gets my vote everytime. I have the album somewhere....must digg it out!

Posted by proactol discount codes | November 12, 2009 10:38 AM

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