Friday, June 15, 2018

Polaris Music Prize long list 2018

The release of the Polaris Music Prize long list (which took place yesterday) is always a cause for celebration, head-scratching, shrugs—but hopefully also some careful examination. I’ve been doing these breakdowns for most of the prize’s 12-year history; I’m frankly too lazy to go back and document trends, but in terms of how this year plays out, it looks like fewer old favourites than ever before: this is a pleasantly fresh crop. Yes, it’s still largely focused on Central Canadian music, and yes, jazz and metal and mainstream country are nowhere to be found, but beyond those perennial pitfalls I believe this is one of the most diverse and musically rewarding lists to date.

Here’s what it looks like, followed by my breakdown:

Allie – Nightshade            
Alvvays – Antisocialites
Arcade Fire – Everything Now
Bahamas – Earthtones
The Barr Brothers – Queens of the Breakers
Bernice – Puff LP: In the air without a shape
Jean–Michel Blais – Dans ma main
Bonjay – Lush Life
Booji Boys – Weekend Rocker
Philippe Brach – Le silence des troupeaux
Cadence Weapon – Cadence Weapon           
Daniel Caesar – Freudian
Jennifer Castle – Angels of Death
Clairmont The Second – Lil Mont from The Ave
Gord Downie – Introduce Yerself    
Jeremy Dutcher – Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa
Faith Healer – Try ;–)           
FRIGS – Basic Behaviour
Zaki Ibrahim – The Secret Life of Planets
Iskwé – The Fight Within
Kacy & Clayton – The Siren's Song
Lydia Képinski – Premier Juin
Pierre Kwenders – Makanda at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time
Pierre Lapointe – La science du coeur
Melissa Laveaux – Radyo Siwèl
Hubert Lenoir – Darlène
Terra Lightfoot – New Mistakes      
Loud – Une année record  
Milk & Bone – Deception Bay
Partner – In Search Of Lost Time
Propagandhi – Victory Lap
Vivek Shraya & Queer Songbook Orchestra – Part–Time Woman
Sloan – 12
Snotty Nose Rez Kids – The Average Savage
U.S. Girls – In A Poem Unlimited
The Weather Station – The Weather Station
Weaves – Wide Open
Charlotte Day Wilson – Stone Woman
Donovan Woods – Both Ways
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – Dirt

Familiar faces:
Previous winners: 1 (Arcade Fire)
Previous shortlisters: 7 (Cadence Weapon x2, Jennifer Castle, Gord Downie, Zaki Ibrahim, U.S. Girls, Weaves, Yamantaka/Sonic Titan x2)
Previous longlisters: 10 (Bahamas, Barr Brothers, Jean-Michel Blais, Clairmont the Second, Pierre Kwenders, Milk and Bone, Sloan, The Weather Station, Charlotte Day Wilson, Donovan Woods)

New to Polaris: 22
Debut albums: 11 (Allie, Bonjay, Daniel Caesar, Jeremy Dutcher, Frigs, Iskwé, Lydia Képinski, Mélissa Laveaux, Loud, Partner, Vivek Shraya)

(Hopefully) recognizable names for even those living under a rock: 5 (Arcade Fire, Sloan, Daniel Caesar, Gord Downie, Bahamas)

Hall of famers:
2011 winner Arcade Fire now has four Polaris nods (not including the Heritage Prize they won for Funeral). Always longlisted, never shortlisted, Afie Jurvanen of Bahamas now has a fourth longlist appearance under his belt. Bahamas and Arcade Fire now join other four-time nominees The Weeknd (not longlisted for his EP this year), BadBadNotGood, Basia Bulat, Joel Plaskett, Tom Wilson, the Sadies, Daniel Romano and Patrick Watson.

All those acts still trail Drake, Dan Boeckner and the New Pornographers, who have five Polaris nods each in the prize’s history.

Former two-time shortlisters Yamantaka/Sonic Titan and Cadence Weapon now have another Polaris nod, bringing their tally to three.

Other than Arcade Fire, Y/ST, Cadence Weapon and Bahamas, this is a rather fresh set of Polaris nominees.

QUALIFIER: Everything below can be somewhat subjective, and I’ve no doubt got a few things flat wrong. All corrections are welcome.

Female solo or female-fronted: 19
Male/female partnership up front: 2 (Arcade Fire, Kacy & Clayton)
Acts featuring female instrumentalists who do not sing or lead the band: 1 (Alvvays)

Franco: 7 (plus franco instrumental artist Jean–Michel Blais)
Indigenous: 3
Others with persons of colour, solo or up front: 11

Geezers well past the age of 40: 3 (Gord Downie, Propagandhi, Sloan)

This is always tricky, as ever-transient artists often have several cities claiming them, especially when they end up in Toronto or Montreal. Edmonton-born Cadence Weapon made his current record in Montreal and Toronto, where he now lives. Partner formed in Sackville, N.B.; its two members grew up in Goose Bay, N.L., and Summerside, P.E.I., and now live in Windsor. But generally speaking:
Toronto: 17
Montreal: 10 (includes current Parisian Mélissa Laveaux)
Hamilton: 2 (Iskwé, Terra Lightfoot)
Vancouver: 1 (Snotty Nose Rez Kids)
Edmonton: 1 (Faith Healer)
Winnipeg: 1 (Propagandhi)
Calgary: 1 (Vivek Shraya)
Windsor: 1 (Partner)
New Brunswick: 1 (Jeremy Dutcher)
Halifax: 1 (Booji Boys)
Saskatchewan: 1 (Kacy & Clayton)

Identifiably rock (extremely broadly speaking): 20
Identifiably R&B/hip-hop: 9
Identifiably acoustic-based modern folk music: 5
Somewhat unidentifiably genre-averse: 6 (Bernice, Jean-Michel Blais, Jeremy Dutcher, Lydia Képinski, Pierre Kwenders, Vivek Shraya)

Weird and/or abrasive music that will scare the shit out of CBC Radio 2 (not counting all the hip-hop, which is certainly off limits, but including Weaves, who is apparently too outré for the nation’s music station in prime time): 10

Left behind:
10 more favourites of mine that deserve your ears, about which I’ll write more later:
Afrotronix – NomadiX
Geoff Berner – Canadiana Grotesquica
Cold Specks – Fool’s Paradise
Daphni – Joli Mai
Dennis Ellsworth – Things Change
Julie & the Wrong Guys – s/t
Peggy Lee – Echo Painting
The Sorority – Pledge
Maylee Todd – Acts of Love
Whitehorse – Panther in the Dollhouse

My picks
The final three records the jury will likely be arguing about at the September gala, from which one winner will emerge: Daniel Caesar, Jeremy Dutcher, U.S. Girls

No comments: