Monday, June 15, 2020

Moneyballing the 2020 Polaris long list

The 2020 Polaris Music Prize long list was announced today. My annual moneyballing follows, but first here’s the list: 

Allie X — Cape God
Anachnid — Dreamweaver
Aquakultre — Legacy
Marie-Pierre Arthur — Des feux pour voir
Backxwash — God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It
Badge Époque Ensemble — s/t
Begonia — Fear
P'tit Belliveau — Greatest Hits Vol. 1
Daniel Caesar – Case Study 01
Caribou — Suddenly
Chocolat — Jazz engagé
Louis-Jean Cormier — Quand la nuit tombe
Corridor — Junior
dvsn — A Muse in Her Feelings
Flore Laurentienne — Volume 1
Jacques Greene — Dawn Chorus
Sarah Harmer — Are You Gone
Ice Cream – Fed Up
Junia-T — Studio Monk
Kaytranada — Bubba
Cindy Lee — What's Tonight To Eternity?
Men I Trust — Oncle Jazz
nêhiyawak — nipiy
Obuxum — Re-Birth
Owen Pallett — Island
Pantayo — Pantayo
Lido Pimienta — Miss Colombia
Joel Plaskett — 44
William Prince — Reliever
Jessie Reyez Before Love Came to Kill Us
Riit — ataataga
Andy Shauf — The Neon Skyline
Super Duty Tough Work — Studies in Grey
U.S. Girls — Heavy Light
Leif Vollebekk — New Ways
Wares — Survival
The Weeknd — After Hours
Whoop-Szo — Warrior Down
Witch Prophet — DNA Activation
Zen Bamboo – Glu

My stats are, as always, full of subjective slip-ups. All corrections are welcome:


Female-led and female-identified: 17 (includes Backxwash, Cindy Lee, Wares)

Racialized, for lack of a better term: 14

Specifically Indigenous: 6
(Anachnid, Nehiyawak, Lido Pimienta, William Prince, Riit, Whoop-Szo)
That’s quite a diverse range of sounds, sure to shatter any stereotypes. None of those people sound remotely alike.

First-ever Filipina nominees: Pantayo (CORRECTION: First Filipina band. First FilipinX longlister was Vancouver's Kimmortal way back in... 2019. Toronto band Ohbijou performed at the very first Polaris gala beside Owen Pallett, but were never on a long list.)

Francophone: 6
(Marie-Pierre Arthur, P’tit Belliveau, Chocolat, Jean-Louis Cormier, Corridor, Zen Bamboo) 
Flore Laurentienne is the work of francophone Mathieu David Gagnon, but he makes instrumental music.

Allophone: 4 (Nehiyawak, Pantayo, Lido Pimienta, Riit)

Acadian: P'tit Belliveau. First franglais rapper in Polaris since Radio Radio. Waiting for a Lisa LeBlanc collab. 

Artists over 40 (that I’m aware of): 6
(Caribou, Chocolat, Jean-Louis Cormier, Sarah Harmer, Owen Pallett, Joel Plaskett)

Bands or duos (vs. solo projects): 11


Specifically hip-hop/R&B: 13
(Aquakultre, Backxwash, Begonia, P’tit Belliveau, Daniel Caesar, Dvsn, Junia T, Kaytranada, Obuxum, Jessie Reyez, Super Duty Tough Work, The Weeknd, Witch Prophet). 

No doubt some will argue about me putting Begonia and P'tit Belliveau in this category.

For the first time ever, I believe, the aforementioned loose genre overshadowed the next one, which is…

What was once known as indie rock: 10
(Chocolate, Jean-Louis Cormier, Corridor, Ice Cream, Cindy Lee, Nehiyawak, Owen Pallett, Wares, Whoop-Szo, Zen Bamboo)

Specifically roots/folk: 4
(Sarah Harmer, William Prince, Andy Shauf, Leif Vollebek). Could include folk festival favourite Joel Plaskett here.

Instrumental: 4 (Badge Epoque Ensemble, Jacques Greene, Flore Laurentienne, Obuxum). Could include Kaytranada here, but most of his record features vocals.

Should be a commercial radio star: 4 (Allie X, Begonia, Dvsn, U.S. Girls) Actual commercial radio stars: 3 (Daniel Caesar, Jessie Reyez, The Weeknd)

Super weird: 3 (Anachnid, Cindy Lee, P’tit Belliveau)
Remotely heavy: 2 (Backxwash, Whoop-Szo)


Owen Pallett
Previous winners: 4
(Caribou, Kaytranada, Owen Pallett, Lido Pimienta. Also Jean-Louis Cormier as member of Karkwa.)
Previous shortlisters (not including above winners): 10
Previous longlisters who have yet to make a shortlist: 3 (Chocolat, Jean-Louis Cormier solo, Jacques Greene)

Total veterans: 17
Debut albums: 12



Toronto: 17 (two, Jacques Greene and Andy Shauf, come from Montreal and Regina)
Montreal: 10
Winnipeg: 3 (Begonia, William Prince, Super Duty Tough Work)
Halifax: 2 (Aquakultre, Joel Plaskett)
Edmonton: 2 (Nehiyawak, Wares)
Calgary: 1 (Cindy Lee)
Panniqtuq, Nunavut: 1 (Riit)
Guelph: 1 (Whoop-Szo)
Moncton: 1 (P’tit Belliveau)
London, UK: 1 (Caribou)
Kingston: 1 (Sarah Harmer)
Vancouver: 0 (!)

Laurentian elites: 30
Atlantic Canada: 3
Prairies: 6 (7 if you include Andy Shauf)
North: 1


Hall of famers:

All-time hall-of-famer Dan Boeckner missed out this year, as Wolf Parade’s Thin Mind (a great record, by the way) did not make this year's long list. The man who now leads Operators has a total of six nods to date, including two shortlist spots (one each for Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs).

Joel Plaskett and the Weeknd are now at five nods each; Plaskett takes the edge for having been shortlisted twice (which the Weeknd now has a chance to match). They now join a club that includes winners Arcade Fire, as well as repeat shortlisters New Pornographers, Drake, and eternal longlist bridesmaid Tom Wilson. Those last three artists all had eligible records this year; none made the longlist. This marks the first time the New Pornographers have failed to long list (their latest is also a great record, one of their best).

Four-timers Basia Bulat, Daniel Romano and Patrick Watson all failed to longlist this year. The fact that Romano put out seven albums in 2020 alone might—might—have hurt his chances. Matthew Tavares left four-time nominees BadBadNotGood to put out a solo album; it did not longlist. Other four-timers in the hall of fame, who did not put a new record in the last year, are Bahamas and the Sadies (though there is a collection of Sadies odds and sods). 

Also in the four-timer club is Shad, who has had each of his last four records shortlist. He's the only artist with four shortlist nods, which puts him in a class of his own.
UPDATE: Owen Pallett, winner of the inaugural prize in 2006 and shortlisted in 2010 and 2014, has been longlisted again, which now puts him in the four-timer club. Same with Caribou, who won in 2008 and, like Pallett, was shortlisted in 2010 and 2014. If both men shortlist again this year, they'll tie with Shad. And of course, if either wins, they'll be the first repeat winner. Because we're all friends here, Pallett played on the last two Caribou records. 


Things I didn’t see coming at all:

Joel Plaskett’s 44. It’s a four-record set with 44 songs on it, which is a lot to digest, and it came out a month before the deadline. Plaskett has a lot of good will in Canada’s critical community, as he certainly should, but at this point in his career I didn’t expect this risky move to make jurors’ ballots—especially when the jury is skewing younger than, uh, 44.
Zen Bamboo’s Glu: I heard a lot of discussion about many franco artists this year, but not a lot about this one. Produced by Julien Mineau, of the first-ever franco Polaris shortlisted band, Malajube.

Things I’m super sad about not seeing on the long list:

Speaking of francos, Bon Enfant made one of my favourite albums of the last 12 months. Go find it and play it loud in the springtime sun. I’m also upset fellow Montrealers Lil Andy and Little Scream didn’t make the cut, and the absolutely gorgeous Frazey Ford record. I’ve been a huge fan of Lightning Dust for years, and they put out their strongest record to date. The Dears put out a strong new record. Marleana Moore from Edmonton was one of my favourite new finds this year, followed by Boniface and Dana Gavanski. Kacy & Clayton from Saskatchewan suffered from both an anti-roots and anti-Prairie bias. I wrote about all my favourites in four parts, here, here, here and here.

Go listen! Shortlist will be announced July 15.

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