Polaris Prize 2014

Toronto music dominates Polaris Prize 2014 short list

The Polaris Prize short list was announced today, whittled down from a long list that included Toronto's Drake, Austra, DIANA, Odonis Odonis, PUP, Owen Pallett (still ours, sorry MTL), AroarA, Fresh Snow, BADBADNOTGOOD, Bry Webb, The Strumbellas, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan (half ours? totally ours?) and even The Darcys (hair flip!) - plus Jessy Lanza, Basia Bulat, and Shad, because Hamilton and London are our snuggle buddies. So, which Toronto acts are still in the running for $30,000 (so long til next year, credit card debt!) and the opportunity to have "Polaris Prize winner" forever in their press kit?

The Polaris Prize short list for 2014 is as follows:

  • Drake - Nothing Was the Same
  • Jessy Lanza - Pull My Hair Back
  • Tanya Tagaq - Animism
  • Shad - Flying Colours
  • Mac DeMarco - Salad Days
  • Timber Timbre - Hot Dreams
  • Owen Pallett - In Conflict
  • Basia Bulat - Tall Tall Shadow
  • Arcade Fire - Reflektor

If you have no idea what's going on, that might mean you're not a Canadian blogger or musician (congratulations all nine of you for clicking this anyway). The Polaris Music Prize is Canada's answer to the Mercury Prize (UK), awarding albums of artistic merit made by Canadian artists rather than handing out ribbons for sales figures, friends in high places, or most pomped hair. The money is, Polaris posits, just there to add legitimacy to the title.

Lofty ambitions aside and $30 grand aside, the prize is more than anything a barometer of Canadian music journalists' tastes, perhaps more often than one would hope determined by factors like "I really liked this band in highschool and I'd like to thank them for it" (seems to be less of that this year, thankfully) or "this is what my Twitter pals are voting for."

Polaris is a dry affair fraught with awful jokes made by awkward well meaning industry types, but last year things got interesting for a minute when Godspeed You! Black Emperor (many a highschool favourite) won (with Toronto's METZ and Metric in the running) and promptly issued a statement against the prize for forcing Canadian artists to compete, taking on flashy sponsorships, and holding a flashy (ish) party in downtown Toronto to announce the winners. To which most unfunny industry types shrugged and said yo, that's the business, wise up, dudes. Collar adjustment.

Godspeed then emulated most other Polaris winners before them (including Feist and Fucked Up) by donating the $30K to an admittedly weird charitable cause: giving instruments to prisoners in Quebec (which turned out to be more difficult than they thought). Who will this year's winners give their prize to against the better advice of their long suffering friends and relatives? It will be hard to outshine Godspeed's pick, those assholes.

Now that the Canadian music media have begun to place internal bets (no, seriously, this is their World Cup) on picks to win out of hard work of the artists from whom they derive their living, is this the short list you hoped for? What's missing? Are you excited for the second Drake/Shad face-off?

The Polaris Prize gala is September 22 at the Carlu in Toronto. Tickets will be available to the public and most nominees will perform. Drake won't show but if Tanya Tagaq is there it will be worth it.

Photo by Brian Morton

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