Archive for the ‘Polaris Music Prize’ Tag
The Polaris Music Prize short list- that is, the ten albums the final jury will deliberate and select a winner from- will be announced on July 16. I submitted my ballot with the following:
1. Various Artists – Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985
2. Steph Cameron – Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady
3. Frazey Ford – Indian Ocean
4. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
5. Lee Harvey Osmond – Beautiful Scars
I had a hard time narrowing the Long List (posted here) down to these five titles. I won’t argue the merit of these forty titles beyond mentioning that I thought there was some significant dreck represented on the list and that the five listed above were those that I thought were the best.
This year, as I have been for the past many, I am proud to be a member of the Polaris Music Prize jury. “The Polaris Music Prize is a not-for-profit organization that annually honours, celebrates and rewards creativity and diversity in Canadian recorded music by recognizing, then marketing the albums of the highest artistic integrity, without regard to musical genre, professional affiliation, or sales history, as judged by a panel of selected music critics.” The tenth Polaris Music Prize will be awarded this September. The winning artist receives $50 000 while those making the ten title short list receive $3000.
Each participating juror submits their own ballot of five eligible titles, and is free to argue the merits of those albums to their colleagues. My initial ballot featured five albums I felt quite strongly about, all with a roots bent.
1. Various Artists- Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966–1985
An absolutely stunning collection of music. I paid significant dollars for the finely packaged vinyl version; when I invest those kind of dollars in anything, well, ’nuff said. I don’t buy the argument that there is a reason not to vote for this set by comparing it to the volume of other archival, culture specific compilations that have been released over the last number of years- this one is ‘ours’ even if we are not of First Nations, Metis, or Inuit heritage. What matters to me is the heft of the music, the manner in which it was complied, and the value of the compilation considering how under-heard, under-known, and under-appreciated the vast majority of the music included has been within the wider Canadian listening public. This is an album that could only come from our country. Well, via Seattle and Light in the Attic. The music is incredibly listenable across the board. It isn’t often my number one choice makes the Long List: this one did.
2. Craig Moreau- The Daredevil Kid
. This amazing album was on repeat for weeks; holds up to, as one colleague suggested, ‘the congruent ones from other countries in the same genre’ (in reference to albums in general) and surpasses most of those. If Ray Wylie Hubbard had released this album, no one would have been surprised; it is actually a step and a half ahead of RWH’s latest, in my opinion. It received a lot of airplay on Stingray Folk Roots. It was a long shot to make the Long List and didn’t. Dang. I wrote about it here.
3. Pharis and Jason Romero – A Wanderer I’ll Stay
That music this good is coming from rural British Columbia isn’t as surprising as the fact that it didn’t make the long list. I thought it would sneak onto the list, but…We need more folkies on the jury, me thinks. I wrote about it here.
4. Jon Brooks – The Smiling & Beautiful Countryside Now, here is another songwriter from our country who-given half a chance- would stand with the finest from any damn where. I thought it was a really strong album, but didn’t stand a chance against the commercial onslaught the majority of the Long List represents. Drake? Alvvays? C’mon. The great thing about the Polaris Music Prize is it is entirely democratic, and everyone’s vote is equal; that means I’m not always (ever?) going to be in the majority.
5. Frazey Ford – Indian Ocean After the Craig Moreau album, the disc that spent most time in my Top 5. It almost slipped out a couple times, but I kept coming back to it. Ford has an approach like no one else and, with Amy Black and The SteelDrivers, is keeping the spirit of Muscle Shoals moving forward.
The entire Long List is available here.
There are still a few roots albums I can comfortably vote for in addition to my #1 and #5 picks: Steph Cameron’s Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady
was in my Top 7, and is worthy of attention within this group of 40 albums. Lee Harvey Osmond is always worth a listen, and while Beautiful Scars
hasn’t hit me like previous albums, it will receive several listens in the weeks ahead. The Buffy Sainte-Marie album Power in The Blood
is, I think, a favourite for the Prize, and it will most likely be on my final ballot. There are several others I will give serious consideration to, and some of those aren’t close to anyone’s definition of roots.
There is no shortage of great music on the 2015 Polaris Music Prize Long List. I just wish some of my underdogs had received more votes.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
[June 20- Since posting this piece on Thursday, the Long List has been announced. While I have never seen more than three of my initial ballot choices make the Top 40 list, I don’t know if I’ve previously gone 0 for 5; likely, I have. I don’t get offended by this, but I do scratch my head. How can so many other jury members- 190 I believe this year- get it so wrong?
They haven’t, of course. The size of the jury provides for a wide range of opinions that collectively come to a consensus. I don’t agree with it- come on, no Kim Beggs or Leeroy Stagger? No BARK or Steve Dawson? I can only assume that my fellow jury members, in their efforts to listen to every pretentious and noisy skinny-boy band with ‘indie pop’ in their bio didn’t have time to listen to the amazing roots albums I include on my ballot. I suppose that since the artists I’ve chosen know how to use capitalization properly, use their real names, and are- in some cases- more than 40 years old- they don’t appeal to folks who are in the jury.
I don’t actually mean those last two sentences. What I do know is that there were a lot more folks who liked the Arcade Fire album than Doug Paisley’s. And that is okay, just sad. Numbers tell us there will always be more people on the look out for the ‘next’ big thing in electronic, pop, post-rock, and modern whatever than there will be listening to mature and, at least sometimes, meaningful roots music.
Now I need to listen to even more albums in the next week so that I can revise my choices, some of which- Timber Timbre, Rae Spoon, The Kennedy Sessions– received serious consideration for my first ballot.]
With less than a day to go before the 2014 Polaris Music Prize Long List is revealed, I thought I would catch up on my Roots Song of the Week by going for the quint- five roots songs of the week, Polaris edition.
My initial Polaris Ballot is traditionally roots centric. I was invited into the group several years ago to bring my roots- folk, country, bluegrass, blues- perspective to the jury, and I continue to take that responsibility seriously. Still, I’ve never knowingly ignored an album simply because it didn’t comfortably fall into the roots world.
Today, I thought I would share a link to a song from each of the five eligible albums I consider to be the ‘best’ released in the past year.
Ranked #1 on my Polaris Music Prize ballot is Kim Beggs’ independently released Beauty and Breaking. My full review of the album is available here , and I believe it captures my thoughts. I’ve listened to the album dozens of times, and it continues to positively impact me whether I’m driving, entertaining, reading, or simply puttering about the house.
My favourite song on the album- and there is considerable competition from songs like “Gold In The Ground,” “A Sailor’s Daughter,” “Le Chemin de Rondin/Corduroy Road,” and “Moonshiner”- is “Not Only Only From the Whiskey,” a live performance of which is here.
I am confident is fewer things daily, but I am certain that Kim Beggs is one of our country’s great singers and songwriters. She makes beautiful music.
Leeroy Stagger’sTruth Be Told was the first album I heard last summer that I knew was going to make my Polaris Top 5 ballot. It is an aggressive creation, and I wrote about it here
At Leeroy’s website, he has a few of his songs available for streaming, including “Goodnight Berlin” which is a loud ‘n proud slice that might do Nazareth proud: roots rock defined.
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings has shown up on my Polaris ballot previously, and South is again well deserving of inclusion. I wish I had championed the album earlier, but I only purchased it rather recently. BARK has their formula down, and their songs remain fresh and lively. If you navigate around this link a little you’ll find “North” and other songs ready for streaming. It is an excellent album.
For me, the most surprising album to make my Polaris ballot is Steve Dawson’s recording of solo guitar explorations Rattlesnake Cage. I haven’t heard anything else like it this year. Long acknowledged as a master of acoustic and slide guitar, Dawson has repeatedly proven that he can do just about anything he sets his mind to. This time out, he has decided to simply play his guitar. Give a listen to the title track here, and prepare yourself to be mesmerized.
Doug Paisley’s “Strong Feelings” is an excellent example of mainstream country music, if by ‘mainstream’ one means accessible, catchy, and well-written as opposed to bro-country rap-a-longs about beer and trucks. At http://dougpaisley.com/ there is a promo video featuring an excerpt of “What’s Up Is Down” and audio of “Song My Love Can Sing” and a live performance of it via Q.
If you haven’t encountered these albums yet, you are well advised to do so at your earliest.
The Polaris Music Prize Long List will be announced early in the afternoon of June 19, 2014.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.
Since I gave up the newspaper column last year, I haven’t had too many opportunities for ‘high’ (or, even low) profile writing gigs, but the folks at the Polaris Music Prize gave me the assignment of writing a treatise on why I believe Corb Lund’s Cabin Fever should not only make the Short List (to be announced on July 16), but why it should take the title of the year’s best Canadian album. My piece was posted this AM, and is available to view on the Polaris website HERE.
Several other writers have also posted their defence of other albums on the website, but theirs’ don’t matter- Corb should win. Of the albums on the Long List, by quite a distance it is my favourite. Now that I think of it, I don’t believe I shared my ‘short list’ ballot, so here it is: #1 Corb, #2 Old Man Luedecke #3 Lee Harvey Osmond #4 Hayden #5 Lindi Ortega…at least, that is how the note on my desk reads…I may have been inebriated if that is what I submitted. No Kobo Town? Hmm.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
A few weeks ago, I submitted my ‘first ballot’ for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize. It looked like this:
#1 = Neil Young – Psychedelic Pill
#2 = J. R. Shore – State Theatre
#3 = Corb Lund – Cabin Fever
#4 = John Reischman – Walk Along John
#5 = Maria Dunn – Piece By Piece
Of those brilliant albums, only Corb Lund’s Cabin Fever made the 40 Long List titles. Much as I suspected, but I don’t believe in ‘strategic’ voting. I was surprised and disappointed that Psychedelic Pill was overlooked.
Now that Cabin Fever is firmly in the #1 spot on my final ballot, I need to flesh-out the next four positions before ballots are due later this month. I was recently asked to write an argument advocating for Cabin Fever and that will be posted to the Polaris site shortly; for a viewing of the Long List, go HERE.
I have several albums competing for my attention, but as of today, my Long List ballot has on it Lund, Old Man Luedecke, Danny Michel & the Garifuna Collective, Kobo Town, and the Besnard Lakes. Al Tuck, Jim Guthrie, Hayden, Lee Harvey Osmond, and a couple others are doing their best to worm their way in. No easy decisions.
It is getting to that time of the year when I must finalize my Polaris Music Prize Top 5 albums of the year. For those who are unfamiliar with the Polaris Music Prize, its mission statement reads thusly:
“A not-for-profit organization that honours, celebrates and rewards creativity and diversity in Canadian recorded music. Polaris recognizes and markets albums of the highest artistic integrity, without regard to musical genre, professional affiliation, or sales history. it is adjudicated by selected music journalists, broadcasters and bloggers.”
I am one of those fortunate to be entrusted with considering Canadian albums released between the beginning of June and the end of May. See previous winners here. It is a good to great experience, and I’ve been involved (I think) going on six years now. I was invited onto the jury as a roots music writer, and that is a position I continue to take seriously; at this point, it doesn’t quite matter to me if the Metric album is better than the Suuns or Metz albums (and who knew Belinda was still recording- “Subway Dances,” anyone?). I believe my mandate is to advocate for the roots albums, and try to bring them to the fore of consideration.
Regrettably, I haven’t been terribly successful. From where I sit, the popularity of indie-rock, arty-minimalists, dance and dirge, and just plain flighty shite (and don’t even get me started on eastern bias) is just too widespread for the (very) few of us who seem to listen to anything vaguely folky, country, rootsy, or (heavens) ‘grassy to ‘break through.’ And that is okay- when you have more than 200 writers considering and arguing over music, something has to be lost in the din. Usually, that is roots music. Again, from where I am sitting: I’m guessing the advocates of modern thrash metal and jazz are at least thinking similar thoughts this month.
I wasn’t terribly active on the Polaris jurors’ discussion forum this past year, largely due to pressures associated with life and work. I advocated for a few albums, but don’t really expect my words to influence anyone else on the jury. There was no shortage of quality roots albums released over the past year, and I am fighting with myself over which album to slide into the #1 slot.
My initial Polaris ballot is what I am considering today. I need to vote #1 to #5 (and the results are tabulated with positional weighting) early next month for my favourite albums of the past year. After everyone’s initial ballots are tabulated, a Long List of 40 make the cut for additional consideration, and that is when I’ll worry about the Metz, Metric, and Suuns albums. For now, I need to consider the roots, and nothing but the roots.
I regret that I didn’t purchase J.R. Shore’s third album State Theatre until a couple weeks ago. I’ve spent considerable time with it since, and it is definitely going on my top 5 ballot. But, does it end up at #1? Do I ‘throw’ my support behind an album that I know has absolutely no chance of making the Long List, or do I consider an album that may actually have a fighting chance? That album would be Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s epic Psychedelic Pill, an absolutely monumental release- one that has mesmerized me since first listen. Their Americana album, a recording that I found pedestrian and inconsequential, is also up for consideration and seems to have received wider acclaim than Psychedelic Pill.
I would hate for vote splitting to cost Neil a placing with Psychedelic Pill, especially if my weighted vote could have made a difference, but am having some trouble placing it ahead of State Theatre, the album I came here today to write about.
I had heard a few songs from J. R. Shore’s State Theatre on the radio, but those slivers didn’t prepare me for the intense experience of listening to the album as a whole. Shore is from Alberta, and there are three undeniable truths when it comes to this province: 1. highway lane change signals (and roadside urination) are completely discretionary; 2. if you’re under 60 years old and have never supported a Conservative, you’ve never voted for the ruling party; and 3. we know how to churn out singer-songwriters. We take credit for Ian Tyson, and have listened to, praised, and had life-altering moments wtih everyone from Leeroy Stagger, Maria Dunn, and Steve Coffey, through to Ruth Purves Smith, Ralph Boyd Johnson, and John Wort Hannam, not to mention his Corbness. And a couple of those artists will be in my Top 5, not that they stand a chance of breaking through to the Long List.
State Theatre is a two-disc package, the second of which is an e.p. of covers, including requisite readings of Neil Young (“For the Turnstiles”) and The Band (“W.S. Walcott Medicine Show”), along with honourary Canadian Tom Russell (Shore messes with the rhythm of “Blue Wing” to make it his own, and I’m not yet sold on his interpretation but I’m getting used to it), Gram, The Dead, Prine, and such. Of the eight covers, the only one that I can’t recommend is an unnecessary stab at “Redneck Mother,” a song that went stale somewhere around 1977.
The original songs on disc one make State Theatre Polaris-worthy. Like ‘great’ artists, Shore isn’t satisfied being any one thing: a poet, a critic, a historian, a songwriter, a guitar player on a stool. He is backed by a full band, often playing history drenched rock n roll as if they were booked from 1968, and perhaps they were- I don’t know them. (The keyboard player is named Garth, but he isn’t Hudson). Some songs are piano-based, others guitar; some gentle and meandering, others raucous and concise.
The subject matter is as diverse, from a Negro Leagues ball player (“Charlie Grant”) and “Poundmaker” to more recent stories of an everyday woman who found herself a focus of attention (“Addie Polk”) to an indulged artist (“Dash Snow”), industrial deaths made all the more relevant given world events (“146”) and a trans-Atlantic journey of wandering (“MS St. Louis”).
Shore’s songs unfold like so many blankets of sound and lyric- you can roll in them, they comfort you, and when they get too heavy, you can toss them off and bask in their residual warmth. As with John Wort Hannam, Si Kahn, and John McCutcheon, there is greatness here, and if he slides into Randy Newman’s shoes a bit too easily, who am I to begrudge a man his influences?
For those reasons, and more, J. R. Shore is making it tough on me. I haven’t spent as much time with this album as I have other albums this year, but I think State Theatre transcends the country, and his genre, whatever it is.
Other albums that I want to be in my Top 5 are Maria Dunn’s magnificent if narrowly-focused Piece by Piece, John Wort Hannam’s Brambles and Thorns, John Reischman’s Walk Along John, and Corb Lund’s Cabin Fever. If you are keeping score, along with Psychedelic Pill, that makes six albums, and I haven’t even mentioned Cara Luft’s wonderful little album Darlingford, Daniel Romano’s polarizing Come Cry With Me and Linda McRae’s beautiful Rough Edges & Ragged Hearts. Or Ralph Boyd Johnson’s heartfelt 1723 9 Street SW. Of all of those albums only three- Young, Romano, and Lund- have a hope of making the Long List. However, I believe they are all worthy. If you haven’t heard them, do some exploring.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Announced ealier today, and I am pretty excited. If memory serves, I’ve never before helped three albums make the list.
From the Polaris site http://www.polarismusicprize.ca/article/416/the-2012-polaris-music-prize-long-list-is-here/
“The 2012 Polaris Music Prize Long List is (in alphabetical order):
A Tribe Called Red – A Tribe Called Red
Marie-Pierre Arthur – Aux alentours
Rich Aucoin – We’re All Dying To Live
Avec pas d’casque – Astronomie
Azari & III – Azari & III
Bahamas – Barchords
The Barr Brothers – The Barr Brothers
Blackie And The Rodeo Kings – Kings And Queens
Cadence Weapon – Hope In Dirt City
Kathryn Calder – Bright And Vivid
Cannon Bros – Firecracker / Cloudglow
Coeur de pirate – Blonde
Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas
Cold Specks – I Predict A Graceful Expulsion
Rose Cousins – We Have Made A Spark
Mark Davis – Eliminate The Toxins
Drake – Take Care
Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur
Feist – Metals
Fucked Up – David Comes To Life
Great Lake Swimmers – New Wild Everywhere
Grimes – Visions
Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Dan Mangan – Oh Fortune
Mares Of Thrace – The Pilgrimage
Ariane Moffatt – MA
Lindi Ortega – Little Red Boots
Parlovr – Kook Soul
Sandro Perri – Impossible Spaces
Joel Plaskett Emergency – Scrappy Happiness
PS I Love You – Death Dreams
John K. Samson – Provincial
Shooting Guns – Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976
The Slakadeliqs – The Other Side of Tomorrow
Patrick Watson – Adventures In Your Own Backyard
Bry Webb – Provider
The Weeknd – Echoes of Silence
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – YT//ST
Yukon Blonde – Tiger Talk
The 200+ writers, editors, producers and media figures who make up the Polaris Music Prize jury pool will now go back to the ballot boxes again and submit their Top 5 albums, selecting only from what’s on the Long List.
When those votes are in, the Short List comprised of 10 albums will be announced in Toronto on July 17.
Once that’s done it’s on to the big show, the Polaris Gala, being held in Toronto on September 24, where one of the 10 Short List albums will be declared the best Canadian album of 2012 in a secret jury Hunger Games-style argument to the death.”
My Top 5 ballot had a roots focus, as it should, and was published earlier this month in the Red Deer Advocate. I’m pleased that my number 1, 3, and 4 picks made the Long List, as well as two other albums I championed- Rose Cousins’ and John K. Samson’s. I am surprised that the Mark Davis album made it simply because it is one of those ‘under the radar’ releases. As well, I’m surprised BARK made it as the album didn’t seem to generate much buzz amongst the jury members online. I really thought the Cowboy Junkies would have made it, but…such is democracy.
Mark Davis- Eliminate the Toxins Capturing a selection of sounds even more adventurous than created within his previous releases, Davis retains the intense focus and introspection one has come to expect from the Edmonton singer-songwriter. Eliminate the Toxins stands with his best work, and as such can be appreciated on a poetic level while also serving as impetus to slowly dance. Multi-layered, Eliminate the Toxins is so all-encompassing that listeners will find themselves sinking into its warmth. It will take top spot on my ballot.
Cowboy Junkies- The Wilderness Having celebrated 25 years as one of Canada’s most dynamic recording groups, Cowboy Junkies embarked on an ambitious campaign 18 months ago: release four distinct albums within a year and a half. The Wilderness is certainly the strongest of the four. Closest to the ‘classic’ Cowboy Junkies sound, Margo Timmins’ languid vocals and delicately complex, occasionally trippy backing tracks are immediately recognizable. One tranquil song effortlessly slips into the next with little but contributions of visiting musicians distinguishing one from another. This consistency in sound makes The Wilderness appealing: nothing jars the listener out of the inviting, profound sound-space the band has created.
Blackie & the Rodeo Kings- Kings & Queens As far-reaching as Kings & Queens is, producer Colin Linden and his cohorts never lose perspective while singing with fourteen different ladies, among them Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Serena Ryder, and Rosanne Cash. Their contributions bring even greater focus to Lindsn’s, Tom Wilson’s and Stephen Fearing’s singing, and it is this ability to maintain balance that serves as Blackie & the Rodeo Kings’ greatest accomplishment.
Great Lake Swimmers- New Wild Everywhere That rare album that is comprised of thirteen songs with each as strong as those surrounding it: every song stands on its own as a memorable and engaging composition while being all the better because of its place within the greater album. New Wild Everywhere is elaborate. Tony Dekker and Great Lake Swimmers have created an album that is lush and rich. Miranda Mulholland’s background vocal contributions are astounding, adding a depth to the songs that is impressive. Similarly, Erik Arnesen’s guitar and banjo sounds create a lovely and complementary backdrop for Dekker’s words and vocals.
Skydiggers- Northern Shore Lovely songs that are fully realized with beautiful production, gorgeous, uplifting vocals, and a seemingly random mix of sounds that keeps one listening, Especially on shuffle, you can’t be sure what is coming next: a stark aching ballad, a mishmash of strangely musical beats and electronic burps, something piano based that slowly evolves,
a bit of bombast, a choice Mickey Newbury cover, or a sweeping piece that- for three or four minutes- makes the darkness that surrounds us disappear. I’m no expert on the Skydiggers- I only have the The Truth About Us compilation on the shelf- but this recently released album sneaks into my top 5, at the expense of John K. Samson’s Provincial, Fred Eaglesmith’s 6 Volts, or Rose Cousins’ We Have Made a Spark, three albums I also really loved.