After a year of arguing, lobbying, cajoling, kvetching, and passioned imploring by the 200+ members of the extended Polaris Music Prize jury, it’s come down to these ten finalists for the 2018 prize. A final round of voting has cut the Long List down to this Short List.
Is it just me or are there way more wildcards this year? Yes. Yes, there are.
1. Alvvays, Antisocialites
The Toronto band is having a very good year with plenty of international acclaim. I had this one on all my ballots.
2. Jean-Michel Blais, Dans ma main
He’s a composer and pianist from Quebec who has spent time living and working in Berlin and Buenos Aires.
3. Daniel Caesar, Freudian
R&B/soul singer who broke out through the Internet and streaming. He was Artist of the Year at the 2018 Junos.
4. Jeremy Dutcher, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa
Never in a million years would have I bet on Dutcher making the short list. He’s a classically trained operatic First Nations tenor. Time for some research on this guy!
5. Pierre Kwenders, MAKANDA at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time
Originally from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he has one Juno nomination for World Music Album of the Year and made it onto the Polaris Music Prize Long list in 2015. A good blend of hip hip, electronic and African influences.
6. Hubert Lenoir, Darlène
Francophone artist with a highly-regarded debut album. Unknown to most Canadians outside of Quebec, that’s obviously going to change now.
7. Partner, In Search of Lost Time
Atlantic Canada duo described as the region’s “best lesbian garage band.” I had them on at least one of my ballots.
8. Snotty Nose Rez Kids, The Average Savage
An indigenous hip-hop duo from the Haisla nation in British Columbia. Never saw this one coming, either.
9. U.S Girls, In a Poem Unlimited
Interesting experimental pop from Meghan Remy, born in the US but now a Canadian citizen.
10. Weaves, Wide Open
Toronto indie pop band who, like Alvvays, is having a good year.
Next step? The big Gala at the Carlu in Toronto on Monday, September 17. That’s when an eleven-member jury culled from the wider pool will be locked in a room to slug it out in secret until a winner is declared. The goal is to name the best album in Canada, regardless of genre or commercial success. As a former member of such a jury, I can tell you that this is a formidable task.
The winner will get $50K with the remaining nine walking away with cheques for $3,000 each.
If you want to be at the event, tickets go on sale through Ticketmaster.ca during the first week of August.