The Polaris Music Prize is a celebration of Canada’s new & emerging artists. Introduced in 2006, Canada’s music industry has quickly embraced the prize as something to write home about. It is essentially your cool music friend’s top 10 mixtape of acts spanning different genres & compiled based on artistic merit rather than music sales or chart position. Next Monday the $30,000 grand prize will be awarded to one of the ten short list nominees. In celebration, we’ll give away a free download of the winning album to five lucky contestants. To enter, tell us about your best Canadian music experience in the comments below. Move us, make us laugh, make us cry! We’ll announce our five winners next Monday after the official Polaris Prize winner is crowned. For now, enjoy our roundup of the ten short list nominees.
1. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
A lot of love out there for this record right now. This band is one of the most innovative acts making music today, creating videos & live performances that engage their listeners and involve them in a true emotional connection with the music. The Suburbs is childhood nostalgia for anyone who grew up in an urban environment.
2. Austra, Feel It Break
This is the debut album of Austra, a three-piece based out of Toronto. Katie Stelmanis’ strong vocals are at the forefront, moving through high & low, mostly high, synth sounds and a consistent kick drum. This is music to pre-party to.
3. Braids, Native Speaker
Braids makes waves. Layers on layers of moving sounds, the music descends upon calm waters. Ripples move outwards, the wind picks up & before long you are riding a tsunami under a purple sky. The storm fades, you take a deep breath and with the softest touch you are pulled back to the shoreline, forever grateful for what you had just experienced.
4. Destroyer, Kaputt
Dan Bejar is the prolific mastermind behind Destroyer. He has been releasing records almost every year since the mid-nineties. His lyrics are poetry, often full of cryptic imagery and allusion for the ambitious literati to decipher. Kaputt feels very adult-contemporary. That isn’t a dig, just a general observation. What makes it so? The saxaphone on “Chinatown” kind of makes me think of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” That said, Destroyer can do whatever he wants and I will love it forever.
5. Galaxie, Tigre Et Diesel
Galaxie is rock music for those that need to feel the bass thump deep down inside of them. Quebec has really been turning it up loud in the last few years with bands like Galaxie, Malajube and last year’s Polaris Prize winners, Karkwa. Lyrics are all in French, but we all know music is its own language. I don’t know what they are singing about exactly, but I can certainly feel it.
6. Hey Rosetta! Seeds
Hey Rosetta! is a repeat contender for the Polaris Prize this year, having ended up on the shortlist back in 2009. The band likes to play with tempo, speeding up then slowing down, playing with emotions and controlling the pitter-patter of heartbeats. Seeds is a journey. All the way through the record, a consistent pulse keeps you moving your body and raising your fist.
7. Ron Sexsmith, Long Player Late Bloomer
Sexsmith has been crafting delicate pop songs for the last 20 years. He is a seasoned veteran; a rare genius that has developed a blueprint for flawless songwriting. He has performed with Leonard Cohen, sung with Chris Martin, has been covered by Feist, written for Michael Buble and praised by Paul McCartney. Ron Sexsmith knows how to do it and he does it well.
8. Colin Stetson, New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
Colin Stetson’s latest record is definitely the wildcard in this year’s shortlist. He has composed 14 solo horn compositions, recorded live, with no overdubs or loops, in a studio filled with microphones. The music isn’t like anything you have ever heard before. It is quick, raw, gritty, tribal, art-house jazz. It is calculated discordance. It is an explosion in the sky.
9. Timber Timbre, Creep On Creepin’ On
Rising up from the depths of a bubbling swamp, Timber Timbre speaks to the moonlight in haunted doo-wop. The piano keys are a metronome; the strings a breaking heart. The nighttime casts its shadow as the music glows a blood red. You feel it. It chills your bones. You need to look over your shoulder but you just can’t look away.
10. The Weeknd, House Of Balloons
House Of Balloons is down tempo musical heartbreak. The lyrics are sensitive in nature. The production is quality. All the tracks are available for free download via The Weeknd’s website. Abel Tesfaye, 21, is the producer behind the mixtape igniting music blogs everywhere, and this is just the beginning.