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with 3 hours to go, A Polaris judge reports

DOWNLOAD The Deadly Snakes – Gore Veil (MP3)

Polaris Music Prize judge Helen Spitzer and I recently became acquainted via email. Today we came up with the idea that it’d be cool if she guest-posted some behind-the-scenes insight before she headed off to the Polaris voting booth. With just three hours to spare, here’s what she had to say….

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PolarisI scribble this just as I head out the door to Toronto, where in just a few hours will convene the jury to decide the winner of the first annual Polaris Music Prize. (Full disclosure: I’m on the jury, so in the best interests of the award itself, which is a fantastic idea, I will neither talk about who I’m rooting for nor speculate on the winner). I will say this: I think this is a Big Deal.

We Canadians are frequently timorous about celebrating our own in too loud a voice until someone, somewhere else [read Pitchfork, Magnet, BrooklynVegan, etc] does it first. But we’re plenty stoked about this Polaris Prize, a five-year long labour of love for founder Steve Jordan. Albums are to be judged on their artistic merit alone (with no consideration given to sales) and as an Album, not the popularity of the artist or excellence of any individual tracks. As Jordan pointed out recently, while there has been a lot of discussion about who should or shouldn’t have made the shortlist (publicly announced July 4), there has been very little ill-will expressed towards the Polaris award itself. Which, given the Canadian predisposition to crabbuckit crankiness, is damn near unprecedented. Seemingly the only objections, and mild-mannered ones at that, were to the sponsorship of the award by Rogers, a major telecommunications company in Canada (I’ll admit I was taken aback to hear Malajube on a cell-phone ad last night). But given that the award is a hefty chunk of change for the recipient, most seem happy that the sponsors kicked in the cash.

A number of interesting asides, which may not be evident to our American readers:

Deadly Snakes1. Malajube was acknowledged as a surprise contender by many (their album is both French-language and on a label better known for bilingual punk rockers) and was unknown to major media including the editor of an influential Canadian music magazine;

2. shortly after being nominated for the prestigious (and $20,000) award, Toronto band The Deadly Snakes announced that they were splitting up after 12 years together, and played their last show on August 25th;

3. this week the Toronto weekly Eye suggested that the fight is really between Final Fantasy and Cadence Weapon (whose CD hasn’t seen a proper Stateside release yet), which I can’t help but think this is a sweetly naïve and Toronto-centric perspective.

The winner is to be adjudicated tonight at by an independent panel of journalists and broadcasters. The puff of smoke will go up on or about 10pm EST tonight; check back here for results.
Check here to find out what all the nominees say they’ll do with the money if they win.

Previously
An interview with Malajube
the 2006 Polaris Music Prize will be awarded today
Cadence Weapon | Canadian Hip Hop – MP3s

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