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Polaris Prize 2010

Today’s a two for one day, you get two posts in one day.

For those who didn’t notice1, last night was Polaris night, an evening in which 10 bands gather to perform, while judges sit in a room and decide who’s album was the best. The prize seemed to instantly be seen as the greatest measure of good music in Canada. The policy is that genre and sales don’t matter, all that matter is the music. Past winners include (and are limited to) Final Fantasy2, Patrick Watson, Caribou, and Fucked Up.

There’s lots of criticism over who has been picked in the past, but I don’t think anyone in Canada can say that any of those four albums were damn good records. They might not be your cup of tea (Fucked Up, Caribou), but they do what they do well, and made some records that deserve a high amount of praise.

This year the entire shortlist was a list of some amazing musicians. There were only three groups who weren’t my cup of tea in the least (The Besnard Lakes, Tegan & Sara and Broken Social Scene).

  • The Besnard Lakes, The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night
  • Broken Social Scene, Forgiveness Rock Record
  • Caribou, Swim
  • KarkwaLes chemins de verre
  • Dan Mangan, Nice, Nice, Very Nice
  • Owen Pallett, Heartland
  • Radio Radio, Belmundo Regal
  • The Sadies, Darker Circles
  • Shad, TSOL
  • Tegan and Sara, Sainthood

Broken Social Scene started off the evening, and they did exactly what they do very well. If I liked their music I would’ve been in bliss, but I don’t like their music.

Next up were The Sadies, who tore the stage up. Their country rock is unlike any other in the country, and while they make mediocre records, their live show is the best in Canada. I haven’t heard Darker Circles, but if its like their other records, they shouldn’t have been nominated, their records aren’t that good.

Then came Radio Radio, who’s acadian hip hop performance was eye opening to me, and I need to pick up their record. As Kate Harper from Chart tweeted last night, “avec mes pennyloafers ou avec mes deckshoo et j’vas marcher sur la hey ou j’vas marcher sur la hoooooooooooooooooo”

Dan Mangan was my pick for the night. His album Nice, Nice, Very Nice‘s title is an understated review of the album, I’d call it great, great, very great, but in Canada we’re humble. While “Sold” is perhaps the best song on that amazing album, his performance of it last night didn’t sell me. The band seemed uncomfortable performing together, and it was awkward. Fortunately he seemed to get it together for his second song, “Robots” in which he ended with a sing-a-long3 as he stood on a table in the audience telling them that “Robots need love, too. They want to be love by you.”

Then came Besnard Lakes who I think are trying for a Spinal Tap thing, but ending up sounding like a band who spend too much time playing Dungeons and Dragons in their mom’s basement. Not my bag.

Polaris Prize inaugural winner Owen Pallett has finally released an album under his own name, he’s also now expanded his band from one to two people4. He also had joining him Dana Snell5 on drums. His performance was damn good, and makes me want to reevaluate Heartland. It’s not that I dislike the album, but I was never drawn into it. It’s good, but not great, definitely not to the level of He Poos Clouds. I think part of the problem was that it’s on two 12″ discs at 45 RPM. It’s hard to get into a record when you have to stand up to flip the record every 10 minutes.

I’ve seen Shad live once, and while his songs were great, he seemed bored. I was quite enthralled with the music, but the lackluster performance made me never purchase a record of his. He completely changed that for me, with his Polaris performance. He truly put on a great show, and you could tell everyone was into it. He and Radio Radio, the two hip hop artists of the evening were truly the highlights.

Tegan & Sara seemed to get the most buzz, at least in the Twittersphere. They apparently have a very loyal following, which hopefully brought some new attention to the Polaris Prize. While their performance did nothing to impress me, their comedy stylings were top-notch! Perhaps Tegan & Sara are this generation’s Wayne & Shuster.

Caribou, a previous winner, was the final nominee that evening. His performance bored me.

And the winner… Karkwa. Everyone said “what?” but then then said, “okay.”

  1. Are you not in Canada? Are you not on Twitter? []
  2. Owen Pallett []
  3. Gentleman Reg didn’t seem to be singing along. []
  4. Odd that one person is Final Fantasy, and two people are Owen Pallett, but whatever. []
  5. Who plays with Gentleman Reg, and was in the Bicycles. []

1 thought on “Polaris Prize 2010”

  1. “I don’t think anyone in Canada can say that any of those four albums were damn good records.”

    You perhaps mean “weren’t”?

    I haven’t heard the Karkwa album, but when I saw them last summer they were nothing special. Like Keane or Coldplay but in a different language.

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