Articles tagged with Polaris Music Prize

Polaris picks 2013, second ballot

Polaris Music Prize
I didn’t have particularly good luck with my first ballot for this year’s Polaris Music Prize, since only two of my five picks made it onto the long list. Here’s my second ballot, with the first two picks going to my prior choices, Shut Down the Streets by A.C. Newman and Impersonator by Majical Cloudz.

3. Mac DeMarco2

Mac DeMarco was a last-minute cut from my first ballot, so I’m happy to have a chance to vote for him here. His previous Rock and Roll Night Club EP was a bit too silly for it’s own good, but 2 balances the sleaze with jangle pop magic.

minibar4. Hannah GeorgasHannah Georgas

As I wrote about for The Tyee, Hannah Georgas has long been a local favourite of mine, so it’s great to see her getting so much success with her self-titled sophomore album. She embraces synthesizers this time around, but stays adventurous and avoids the trappings of overly glossy commercial pop.

minibar5. Colin StetsonNew History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light

Colin Stetson’s solo sax experiments are austere and uncomfortably primal, but the increased vocal presence on New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light (including some guest singing from Bon Iver‘s Justin Vernon) adds some welcome melody and texture to the proceedings. This lightens the bleakness of his virtuosic horn workouts, meaning that I find this less challenging but more enjoyable than his last album.

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Polaris picks 2013, first ballot

Polaris Music Prize
This past Friday was the Polaris Music Prize deadline, and this year’s decision came down to the wire. Below is a list of what went on my ballot.

1. Dirty BeachesDrifters/Love Is the Devil

This year’s top pick came to a choice between emotion and craftsmanship. I ended up going with emotion, since Drifters/Love Is the Devil made for this year’s most powerful and addictive listening. The soundscapes from Love Is the Devil don’t really qualify as “songs” in the traditional pop or rock sense of the word, but the moods are awesomely, creepily absorbing.

minibar2. HolleradoWhite Paint

This is the craftsmanship part of the equation. Hollerado’s songs are beautifully constructed, with complex instrumental passages leading towards gloriously catchy pop choruses. I was a huge fan of the band’s debut, Record in a Bag, and White Paint sticks to similar stylistic territory while refining and improving every element.

minibar3. A.C. NewmanShut Down the Streets

Carl Newman is one of my all-time musical heroes. The New Pornographers were my favourite band for much university, and A.C.’s first solo album, 2004′s The Slow Wonder, is one of my proverbial desert island discs. I haven’t really loved any of his or the band’s albums since 2005′s Twin Cinema, but this poignant collection of acoustic-oriented ballads represents a major return to form.

minibar4. Shotgun JimmieEverything, Everything

Apollo Ghosts recently broke up, meaning that Everything, Everything is by far the most charming Canadian indie rock record to come out this year. It’s funny, sweet and an absolute blast to listen to, and its good-natured appeal is exceeded only by Shotgun Jimmie’s live show.

minibar5. Majical CloudzImpersonator

This one really came down to a last-minute decision, since I had been planning to include Mac DeMarco on my list. Ultimately, however, I couldn’t deny the theatrical strangeness of Impersonator‘s ultra-minimal electronic anthems. “Turns Turns Turns” is one of the best songs of the year.

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Polaris picks 2012, second ballot

Back for year two
Here is my second ballot for this year’s Polaris Music Prize, which I submitted a couple of days ago. My numbers one and three both made it through (Handsome Furs, PS I Love You) and they remain in the same spots here, along with three new picks.

2. JapandroidsCelebration Rock

I made a big mistake by not including this album on my first ballot. Celebration Rock ups the ante from 2009′s Post-Nothing in every possibly way, with carpe diem yell-alongs and explosive rock ‘n’ roll fireworks (literally, since the album in bookended by the sound of booming fireworks).

minibar4. The WeekndEchoes of Silence

I regretted leaving the Weeknd off my 2011 ballot. I’m not making that mistake this year. Echoes of Silence caps off the Toronto singer’s mixtape trilogy on a fittingly unsettling note.

minibar5. Dan ManganOh Fortune

Dan scaled back the man-with-guitar intimacy of his past work and concocted something a little weirder and more atmospheric without losing the folksy charm that made him appealing in the first place.

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Polaris picks 2012, first ballot

Back for year two
Here we are again: it’s Polaris Music Prize voting time. This year’s pack just might be the strongest so far. Four of these albums are totally rockin’ and one is utterly depressing, but they’re all great. Without further ado, this is how my first ballot stacks up. Stay tuned for my second ballot in a few weeks

1. Handsome FursSound Kapital

In my three years as a Polaris Music Prize juror, this is my favourite album yet. Unlike any other LP in recent memory, this album gives me that same otherworldly thrill that I used to get when I was first discovered music as a teenager, and achieves what any great album should: it takes me back to the time in my life when I first heard it and helps me to make sense of where I am today. That’s some heavy, life-changing shit for an album that come out last year.

minibar2. Apollo GhostsLandmark

Landmark is a little scuzzier and more punk-influenced than what Apollo Ghosts have done before, but it’s easily as charming. It doesn’t have the conceptual element that 2010′s Mount Benson had, but the pop tunes are even better.

minibar3. PS I Love YouDeath Dreams

PS I Love You’s sophomore album is fairly consistent with 2010′s Meet Me at the Muster Station both in terms of sound and quality. The fuzz guitar and pounding drums may sound a little huger this time, but this one won me over for all the same reasons as its predecessor.

minibar4. WarsPacey from Mighty Ducks

I recently started watching Fringe, so this pop punk gem earns extra points for its Joshua Jackson-referencing title. But it’s the charming sense of humour and enduring melodies that earned this a place on my ballot.

minibar5. Extra Happy Ghost!!!Modern Horses

This Chad VanGaalen-produced collection is as sparse and bleak as any album I heard this year, but the bummed-out melodies begin to take hold after a few listens.

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Polaris picks 2011, second ballot

Round two, FITE!
My second Polaris Music Prize ballot was due at the end of last week. Normally I would post my ballot in full, but four of my five first round choices made the long list (which I covered for Exclaim!), so it seems a little redundant to list the entire thing.

My numbers one through four are the same as last time (Destroyer, PS I Love You, Dirty Beaches, Diamond Rings, in that order), so I’m just going to round out my list with this:

5. Miracle FortressWas I the Wave?

The ambient pieces are suitably atmospheric, but it’s the pop songs and dance beats that really make songwriter Graham Van Pelt’s electro tune. Highlights include the bass-driven “Tracers” and the ’80s-inflected “Spectre.” Listen to the dreamy guitar-driven cut “Miscalculations” below.

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Polaris picks 2011, first ballot

Back for year two
Just like last year, I waited until the very last day to submit my Polaris Music Prize ballot. This year had two albums that stood out as shoo-ins and a slew more that were strong contenders for my list. I imagine that I’ll have a chance to vote for one or two of those near-misses in the next round, so stay tuned for my second ballot in a few weeks from now.

1. DestroyerKaputt

He’s already put out eight previous LPs and a smattering of smaller releases and collaborations, but Kaputt just might be Dan Bejar’s best work yet. It’s a masterpiece in kitsch, with new age-tinged synths and soft rock horns that manage to sound charmingly hokey and completely gorgeous. Below is the poppy opener “Chinatown”

minibar2. PS I Love YouMeet Me at the Muster Station

Screaming distortion. Yelping vocals. Thundering drums. Primal aggression. Shred solos. Talkbox. I’ve written about how much I love this album way too many times for me to have much new to write, so let me just reiterate how completely badass this debut LP is. Don’t believe me? “Facelove” is below.

minibar3. Dirty BeachesBadlands

Style over substance? Possibly. But Alex Zhang Hungtai has a hell of a lot of style, so he still manages to pull of this scuzzy, ultra lo-fi take on retro blues and no-wave experimentation. There are also striking ballads like “Lord Knows Best” (below) and “True Blue.”

minibar4. Diamond RingsSpecial Affections

John O’Regan’s first album as Diamond Rings has three of the best singles of the year: “Wait & See” (below), “Something Else,” and “All Yr Songs.” And while the deep cuts aren’t quite a enduring as those singles, there’s no denying that this album completely owned my iPod back in the fall.

minibar5. No GoldNo Gold

The Vancouver trio’s first LP was a long time in the making, but this eight-song collection definitely doesn’t disappoint. Krautrock influences mingle with tropical guitars and ambient soundscapes to make for a chilled-out summer album that’s perfect for hot, lazy afternoons. Chill out with “Rainforts” below.

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Polaris picks 2010, second ballot

Round two, baby
My second ballot for the Polaris Music Prize is due tonight at midnight. Three of my five picks from the first ballot made it through to the Long List, so I only needed to choose two more albums. This time around I’ve got some more Vancouver love and more high-production pop.

I’ve already explained the first three, so I’ll keep those brief. Okay, enough preamble? Let’s get onto the good stuff.

1. Apollo GhostsMount Benson

As I touched on last week in a tour announcement story for Exclaim!, it’s amazing that a label-less cult band like Apollo Ghosts can make it through to the second round of the Polaris Prize. That, I think, says everything about how effective this process is.

MP3: “Coka-Cola Admen”

minibar2. Holy FuckLatin

This album seems to have flown under the radar, so I’m happy that it made it to the Long List. The more I listen to it, the more I love the blend of blissful synths and aggressive dance rock madness.

MP3: “Latin America”

minibar3. The Besnard LakesThe Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night

Of all of my first ballot picks, this was the only one that I was sure would make it. The Besnard Lakes have been Short Listed before, and here’s betting that they do it again. They probably don’t need my help in doing it, but I’m trying not to be strategic about this.

MP3: “Albatross”

minibar4. You Say Party! We Say Die!XXXX

As I recently wrote about for Exclaim!, the band is now known simply as You Say Party following the tragic passing of drummer Devon Clifford. The band’s final album under the old moniker is a gorgeous, new wave-y rumination on loneliness with love as its constant, guiding muse. (I made that sound pretentious. It’s great, you guys!)

MP3: “Laura Palmer’s Prom”

minibar5. Dan Mangan Nice, Nice, Very Nice

Not too long ago, Dan put on one of the best local shows I’ve ever seen. That isn’t a factor for Polaris, but still—it was so fucking good. This husky-voiced Vancouverite is a hometown hero; if he can make it onto the Short List, he’ll officially be a Canadian hero. And with Arts & Crafts releasing Nice, Nice, Very Nice in the US later this summer, who knows what’s next. Cue up the title-related puns.

MP3: “Robots”
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Polaris picks 2010, first ballot

My first year as a juror
My first ballot for the Polaris Music Prize is due today. After much deliberation, here are the five albums I’m going with.

This list covers a fairly wide cross-section of Canadian music. Four provinces are represented. I’ve got fuzz pop, folk, jangle punk and dance music. There are albums that sound like they were crafted painstakingly in the studio and albums that sound like shit. That’s Canada for you, I guess.

1. Little GirlsConcepts

Many DIY musicians have cranked the fuzz and reverb on their laptop recordings over the past couple of years, but no one has managed to make it sound creepier than Toronto’s Josh McIntyre, aka Little Girls. His gothic surf jams aren’t instrumentals, but the buried, distorted vocals mean that they might as well be.

MP3: “Youth Tunes”

minibar2. Apollo GhostsMount Benson

The word “funnest” isn’t actually a word, but in the context of Apollo Ghosts, it is. This album is the funnest. The band is still relatively unknown outside of Vancouver, so I can’t imagine that this album will make it onto the long list, but it’s not for lack of talent. Tour, you guys! You could be huge!

MP3: “Things You Go Through”

minibar3. Holy FuckLatin

Sonically, this album is fantastic. It’s got thundering fuzz bass and bludgeoning beats (see: “SHT MTN” or “P.I.G.S.”), but there’s also real beauty and texture—just listen to the synth lines in “Stilettos” or the piano chords in “Latin America.”

MP3: “Latin America”

minibar4. Daniel, Fred & JulieDaniel, Fred & Julie

Authenticity is the name of the game here. Cars drive past, children yell, fingers scrape against strings and guitars fall ever so slightly out of tune as Daniel Romano, Fred Squire and Julie Doiron harmonize beautifully on a selection of traditional folk songs. Initially, I didn’t think an album made up mostly of covers would be a Polaris contender. I was wrong.

MP3: “The Gambler and His Bride”

minibar5. The Besnard LakesThe Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night

The Besnard Lakes were the dark horse (LOL) of my list. My number five spot changed many times over the past few weeks, but this was an album that I kept coming back to. There are plenty of shoegaze and prog influences here, but it’s the glimmers of ’90s rock that always seem to catch my ear. Can’t you just imagine Alice in Chains singing the hook from “Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent Pt. 2: The Innocent”?

MP3: “Albatross”
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