2018 Polaris Music Prize Preview

Try saying that three times fast at the gala Monday night, September 17th with a few drinks in you.

That is when the thirteenth annual Polaris Music Prize will be awarded, the highest honour a Canadian album can achieve on artistic merit alone. Petty details such as genre, sales, and which label artists are with all go out the window of The Carlu in Toronto as eleven grand jury members decide the fate of who will take home an oversized novelty cheque for a very real $50,000.

This year’s competition in all honesty is anyone’s guess, so I thought I would make some educated prognostications on behalf of former Polaris panelist Alan Cross’ Journal of Musical Things – Please note they do not represent his personal opinion, that and he’s too afraid to lay a wager with yours truly!

I will almost assuredly be wrong, but that’s OK as it’s part of the excitement of celebrating a country whose industry is overflowing from sea to shining sea with talent. Yes there are still many, many problems, but the Polaris Music Prize has done a good job of at least attempting to address issues of things such as representation.

What surprises are in store for the 2018 edition? About the only thing I do know for sure is CBC Music will be broadcasting the whole shebang starting at 8 PM ET, with performances from eight of the ten shortlisters. So without any further ado…

MAKANDA at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time – Pierre Kwenders
Favourite Song: “Sexus Plexus Nexus
OK, I’ll say it: I hope the people behind Polaris Prize never lean far enough to the right or some conservative way of thinking that would prevent someone such as Pierre Kwenders from continuing to create art here with a worldly appeal.

Dans ma main – Jean-Michel Blais
Favourite Song: “outsiders
Jean-Michel Blais embodies what’s great about Polaris Prize – a French titled, classical piano-meets-textured-electronica album that will never get played on commercial radio but has as good a chance of any to be crowned the country’s best.

In Search of Lost Time – Partner
Favourite Song: “Everybody Knows
Partner appeal to me as probably the most geetar-heavy band on this year’s shortlist, and with lead axewomen Josée Caron plus Lucy Niles, they’re definitely the most LGBTIQ-friendly artistes. Seriously, what’s not to love with them?

Darlène – Hubert Lenoir
Favourite Song: “Fille de personne II
There hasn’t been a Québécois Polaris winner since Karkwa’s surprising upset eight long years ago, but Hubert Lenoir may just change his province’s fortunes. If anything, he’s raising eyebrows as “Le Francophone Bowie” (as per Noisey).

Freudian – Daniel Caesar
Favourite Song: “Best Part
Daniel Caesar made waves as one of Barack Obama’s playlist picks, but in a lot of ways he is the newest generation carrying on the lineage of Toronto soul fused with city-smooth R&B – You see, the 6ix is more than just Drake and The Weeknd!

Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa – Jeremy Dutcher
Favourite Song: “Mehcinut
No, I can’t pronounce this album title or understand what tenor Jeremy Dutcher is singing, but he deserves major kudos in his efforts to keep his native Wolastoq language alive. No English didn’t seem to hurt 2017 winner Lido Pimienta.

The Average Savage – Snotty Nose Rez Kids
Favourite Song: “Broke Boy Ambitions
Sorry for the lazy pun, but Young D and Yung Trybez are so not your average savages, delivering hip hop rhymes with profound meaning, choosing to take up beef with entities such as the government rather than trivially dissing other rappers.

Antisocialities – Alvvays
Favourite Song: “Plimsoll Punks
Alvvays didn’t seem to set the indie world on fire in the same manner as their 2014 self-titled debut. Could the Antisocialites title have anything to do with it? Regardless, they’ll be plenty of plimsoll-wearing punks rooting for them!

In a Poem Unlimited – U.S. Girls
Favourite Song: “Rage of Plastics
Not only is U.S. Girls the brainchild of Torontonian via Chicago Meghan Remy, her music has only gotten better since being cosigned by the one and only Iggy Pop the last time an album of hers was up for Polaris Prize consideration.

Wide Open – Weaves
Favourite Song: “Walkaway
My ultimate Polaris prediction for 2018 goes deeper than having a perfect combo of a powerfully voiced, person of colour fronting them. Weaves also happen to have amazing songs on an all-around solid album that are best experienced live.

Stream the whole thing here tonight.

Gilles LeBlanc

Gilles LeBlanc literally fell into “alternative rock” wayyy back at Lollapalooza 1992, where he got caught in his first mosh pit watching some band named Pearl Jam. Since then, he’s spent the better part of his life looking for music to match the liberating rush he felt that day, with a particular chest-beating emphasis on stuff coming out of his native Canada. It took him awhile, but Gilles now writes feverishly about all things that rock (and or roll) through his ROCKthusiast alter ego.

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