Polaris Music Prize comes down to wire

Sep 24, 2012 | News

An 11-member grand jury will debate the 10 short listed albums as the Polaris Prize recognizes Canada’s best full-length record. COURTESY POLARIS MUSIC PRIZE.

By Sarah Rix

The suspense and guessing end Monday evening when music fans find out which Canadian artist and album will take home the seventh annual Polaris Music Prize.

Handed out at a gala at Toronto’s Masonic Temple – and accompanied by a $30,000 award – 10 short-listed musicians are vying for the honour. Although only one of the artists wins the title prize and large cash reward, all the nominees benefit from exposure and runners-up receive a $2,000 consolation prize.

“The Polaris Music Prize is a not-for-profit organization that annually honours, celebrates and rewards creativity and diversity in Canadian recorded music,” said a Polaris press release.

Based on the United Kingdom’s Mercury Prize, the Canadian award was introduced in 2006 and has since grown in size and exposure. It is given to the best full-length Canadian album, regardless of record label, music genre or sales.

It’s whittled down from the 40 album long list announced in June that’s picked and voted on by over 200 music journalists, broadcasters and bloggers each year. Now with 10 albums in the running, music fans, industry insiders and artists have been taking to Twitter to cast their predictions. Some examples:

Decided by an 11-member grand jury, the victor joins the esteemed ranks of previous Polaris winners Final Fantasy (2006), Patrick Watson (2007), Caribou (2008), Fucked Up (2009), Karkwa (2010) and Arcade Fire (2011).

As of yet, no hip-hop act has won the top prize and this year, Toronto rapper Drake and Edmonton’s Cadence Weapon represent the genre. However, Polaris juror member and Toronto music blogger Frank Yang predicts neither of them will be the night’s big winner.

Yang told Humber News he’s surprised Cadence Weapon was put on the short list. He’d like the Montreal-formed, Toronto-based experimental art collective Yamantaka // Sonic Titan to take home the prize, but said, “I can also see it not winning because it’s weird.”

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan’s YT//ST is the band’s debut album, released on Psychic Handshake – an independent label – in 2011. It combines Asian influences with genres such as heavy metal and progressive rock.

“Of all the years, I think this is the most wide open,” said Yang. “I think the safe bet is Grimes.”

The Vancouver-born, dream pop musician Grimes had a big year with the release of her third album, Visions. Among the album’s accolades was a “Best New Music” designation by Pitchfork.

Also hoping to take home the award is doom soul from Etobicoke-born Cold Specks; alternative country from Ottawa’s Kathleen Edwards; past winner Fucked Up’s Toronto-based hardcore punk; indie pop songstress Feist; now disbanded Montreal indie rockers Handsome Furs; and Vancouver garage rock duo Japandroids.

Cadence Weapon, Cold Specks, Kathleen Edwards, Feist, Fucked Up, Grimes and Yamantaka // Sonic Titan will perform during the gala.

The Polaris Music Prize will stream live on MuchMusic and will be broadcast on SiriusXM radio and CBC Radio 3. Toronto’s Drake Hotel will also host a “Peep Show” where music fans can get together and watch the stream.

The 10 shortlisted albums:

Cadence Weapon – Hope in Dirt City
Cold Specks – I Predict a Graceful Expulsion
Drake – Take Care
Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur
Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
Feist – Metals
Grimes – Visions
Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – YT//ST