The Polaris Prize–the juried competition that seeks to name the best Canadian album of the year–has only been around for seventeen years. That means there’s a whole lot of Canadian music history that’s never been honoured in this way. To rectify that, we have the Slaight Family Polaris Prize. Each year, great albums from the pre-Polaris past for recognition. Two albums have received this honour in 2023.
The first is Bites, the 1985 debut from Vancouver’s Skinny Puppy. No one–and I mean NO ONE was making this sort of intense sample-heavy music back then. Bites went on to greatly inspire other artists into ultra-heavy music, including Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Al Jourgensen of Ministry. Bites is a world landmark in the realm of industrial music.
The second is Symphony in Effect by Maestro Fresh Wes, the 1989 record widely credited as breaking hip-hop in Canada, especially with the song “Let Your Backbone Slide.” Again, great call.
For the record, here are all the other nominated heritage albums for 2023.
Beau Dommage — Beau Dommage
The Guess Who — American Woman
k-os — Exit
k.d. lang — Absolute Torch and Twang
Jean Leloup — Le dôme
Maestro Fresh Wes — Symphony In Effect
Sarah McLachlan — Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
Plastikman — Consumed
Rap Essentials Volume One
Robbie Robertson — Robbie Robertson
Skinny Puppy — Bites
Spoons — Arias & Symphonies