Polaris Gala Review: Kaytranada Wins!

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On Monday night, the music industry gathered at the prestigious Carlu to award the coveted $50,000 reward that is also known as the Polaris Music Prize. It was a night unlike others, one where the music industry – artists, label people, a&r types, publicists, and media put aside all their petty bickering and differences to celebrate what really brought everyone here in the first place – good music.

This was my first time at the Polaris Gala so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I got was an enjoyable time filled with music, friends and food. It was a pleasant surprise to see that the Polaris Prize Gala had plenty of free food in the form of pierogis, sliders and some sort of weird chicken thing that didn’t really work. I thought the pierogis had a bit too much dough, but beggars can’t be choosers, especially in the music industry. Just in case you thought you were some really fancy gala, a quick trip to the not-open bar was enough to hit you with the crippling reality that the Canadian music industry is probably just barely scraping by for the most part.

The show was broken up into a series of performances and some celebrity testimonies in between. It was a different format from previous years, but for me, it worked somewhat well. There was no awkward blogger giving speeches, but as with any televised/streaming events, the commercial breaks were enough of a distraction to break the flow of the night.

Still, one can’t complain about the performances. Here’s a quick recap of those too.

Black Mountain – Started the night off right with a mesmerizing performance amidst a black and red backdrop.

Jessy Lanza – The opening note to her set I’m pretty sure pierced my ears and made it right to my brain and I’m going to go deaf one year earlier because of her. Regardless of that, her set along with the video game/Japanesey inspired backdrop was a dose of energy. If I wasn’t sitting up on the balcony, I would have definitely considered dancing a bit.

Andy Shauf – I was probably on my second wine of the night after a few beers, so Andy Shauf’s mellow alt-folk type of music wasn’t really working for me. His nomination was supported by Jeff Tweedy, which kinda swayed my opinion from negative to just slightly negative.

Basia Bulat – Supported by the TSO, Basia played a nice pleasant set, but nice and pleasant doesn’t really get you the Polaris Prize.

White Lung – Probably the loudest set of the night, it was at this point I was wondering how many people here are going to lose their hearing in the next fifteen years.

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Carly Rae Jepsen – Playing one of the best songs off her album, “Your Type,” Carly came, saw and conquered. It was a heartful, slower rendition then the version of the album which made it seem more powerful. Sadly, she only did one song because she’s a pop star. My 2nd favorite performance of the night, but Carly was my favorite artist of the night because they didn’t drink much and we raided her table after the show for all her booze and cheetos. The vultures descended.

US Girls – By far the best performance of the night. I came into the night not knowing too much about US Girls and left a fan. The first track was simple, with Meghan Remy singing whilst being supported by a group of girls but it was hella good. The rest of the band came out for the second song which turned out to be Yoko Ono’s Born in a Prison which was equally awesome.

Afterwards, they awarded the prize and it went to Kaytranada, which is cool. I would have preferred a reality show type format. Here is how this should work.

The show starts.
All the artists are there.
There is a curtain, in the background the stage is being set up for the band … but what band?

Some random CBC pseudo-celebrity comes out with an envelope.
They pull out a name.
That band did not win.
Now they have to perform.

And this repeats itself. Can you imagine how exciting that would be?
And then in the last two bands, they set up the stage with BOTH of the bands equipment. And then they announce the winner and then both acts have to play.

Anyways, I’m probably not a show producer for a reason.

Can’t wait til next year when A Tribe Called Red wins it.

Polaris Music Prize – We pick the Winner

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Yesterday might have been the Emmy’s but that award’s importance to the world dwarfs in comparison to what is going to happen tonight.

Tonight, my friends, is the Polaris Music Prize, by far the most prestigious award rewarded in the world of music in Canada.

Why is it more prestigious? for one, the Canadian music industry is damn poor so you know for a fact that this award cannot be bought.

Anyways, the question on everyone’s minds – who will win?

Let’s take a look at the nominees:

Welcome to the Party

Kaytranada – 99.9% – Doesn’t like to give press interviews. GUEST WHO IS VOTING FOR THIS PRIZE? People who make money off interviews.

Jessy Lanza – Oh No – Jessy built up a huge following this year, but will somehow get lumped into a conversation with Grimes, which she will most likely lose.

Andy Shauf – The Party – Find me the last time someone named Andy won anything.

U.S. Girls – Half Free – Duo citizenship is bound to confuse some people.

Sorry, maybe next time

Black Mountain – IV – Haha, as if any east coast jurors will give any more reasons for people from the west coast to brag. Will anyone from Vancouver win? doubt it.

Basia Bulat – Good Advice – I feel like Basia is the Susan Lucci or Jon Hamm of Polaris. She will win some day, but not this time. Maybe in a few years.

Dark Horses

PUP – The Dream Is Over
White Lung – Paradise

Heavy rockers both put out impressive albums this year and it’s been awhile since rock albums have entered the Polaris conversation. Still someone is bound to point out that Pup used to be called Topanga! after which everyone will laugh and move on. White Lung can’t win because of my theory that west coast bands will not win because everyone on the east coast hates Vancouver because of their temperate climate, escalating housing prices and obsession with all things outdoors.

The Heavyweights

Grimes – Art Angels
Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION

These two ladies are the two I would put my money on. Both artists put out fantastic records that was near the top of everyone’s 2015 lists. Grimes has the added edge in that she meshes elements of multiple genres into her album and brings forth a unique sound. Carly is just pop perfection. How many weirdos are in the grand jury? We’ll find out.

Winner: Grimes (but flip a coin)

2015 Polaris Music Prize Predictions

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Unlike previous years, this year’s Polaris Music Prize actually seems interesting. For what is generally viewed as a bland music industry circle jerk of an event (where music writers get fed for once), it’s actually somewhat refreshing.

What are the hot topics at hand? Let’s see

1. Viet Cong The Calgary band’s controversial name has finally become a hot topic. The band’s name has slowly been receiving backlash ever since it’s inception, but now with them on the verge of winning Canada’s equivalent of the Mercury Prize, the attention has definitely taken the forefront, generating the type of negative attention that the Polaris Prize probably didn’t want. For a good recap of this issue, read this excellent article here. Rumors are that Viet Cong will reveal a new name at the Polaris. I’ve heard they are deciding between ISIS or Dead Babyfuckers because both those sound pretty cool, according to the band.

2. Polaris Music Prize = Boys Club
The Canadian music industry, like most industries in life, is mostly a boys club. Like any other industry, those boys are mostly unaware that it’s a boys club. As documented here on Canadaland, it is not particularly fun for new comers trying to push the musical boundaries of the Polaris Prize or pointing out it’s a boys club. This article in addition to the annual lack of non CBC endorsed rock acts on the list, adds further fuel to the fire. Does Polaris really represent Canada’s entire swath of music?

In light of these two controversies, the Polaris Prize finds it’s looming Monday gala at the crossroads. Will they pretend everything is happyland, with Steve Jordan and friends congratulating themselves on another year well done or will they actually tackle these items right then and there? My guess is on the former.

Despite the issues at hand, it is a good sign to see that the Canadian music industry is still generating some amazing albums and whether or not the ten nominees are the absolute ten best is irrelevant, they are the ten that are there and we will now predict the winner, using science and sabermetrics.

Braids – Deep in the Iris
Let’s punch in the numbers into our machine to see if they will win.
One sec.
Nope. they will not win.

BadBadNotGood & GhostFace Killah – Sour Soul
These guys put together one of the best shows I saw at SXSW and if the Polaris Prize was going full heel, what better way then to give the Polaris Prize to AN AMERICAN RAPPER who will then take the award back the the US. Then we will have to have Drake beef with Ghostface, only until Drake realizes Ghostface is no one you want to fuck with and he’ll slowly back off while slowly singing “Just Hold On I’m coming home, but not with the Polaris Prize” while Ghostface makes a video where he wraps up $100 Canadian dollar bills with weed and smokes it up.
Chances of winning: Maybe

Jennifer Castle – Pink City
A local favorite, Jennifer Castle will probably not win this one. Just a feeling.

Caribou – Our Love
Nobody has ever won the Polaris Prize twice. Will Caribou be the first? There album was one of my favorites from last year, but the real question is whether or not the jury think Caribou is the band to bestow this prestigious distinction? Will they save that for the next Arcade Fire record instead?
Chances of winning: Strongish

Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – They are probably saving the mainstream r&b/hip hop Polaris win for The Weeknd next year, so I doubt this will be his year. Arguably this album is weaker then the previous album, so if he didn’t win for that one, then he surely will not win for this one. I don’t even know what I’m saying because I haven’t heard any Drake album. Still, 3 times the bridesmaid, never the bride, Drake is becoming the Susan Lucci of the Polaris.
Chances of winning: Ask Serena

Tobios Jesso Jr – Goon – I thought this dude was a teenager until I read his wiki page and realized he was 30. My entire story about this now goes out the window. Goon was a very enjoyable album and if Randy Newman ever retired Tobias can easily soundtrack the next ten Pixar movies. That is a huge compliment, by the way. Still, will the guitaratti allow a piano man to win this indie rock award? Doubt it.
Chances of winning: Doubtful

Buffy Sainte-Maria – Power in the Blood
Perhaps if Tanya Tagaq didn’t go on stage last year and decapitated a seal on stage.
Chances of winning: Slim.

The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
It seems like the New Pornographers have been around forever, yet they always release great albums. Brill Bruisers was no exception. Has any west coast bands won the Polaris? Maybe it’s time. No one would argue against these guys if they won.
Chances of Winning: High

Viet Cong – Viet Cong

Alvvays – Alvvays
Alvvays shimmering summer album was one of everyone’s favorites of last year and comes controversy free. Throw in some Rankin family lineage and you have yourself the winner.

Polaris Prize 2013: We Predict the Winner

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A night after the TV industry congratulated itself on it’s own greatness, the Canadian music industry is about to do the same. The 2013 Polaris Prize Gala takes place in Toronto tonight at the Carlu. It is at that location that 11 grand jury members will debate over the qualities of each album, before coming to a conclusion on what is essentially the best Canadian album of the year. The Gala will also have performances from some of the nominees and will be hosted by Shad and Kathleen Edwards. You can watch it on AUX tv here.

Let us take a look at the list

Long shots

Purity Ring – Shrines
As much as I enjoyed the Purity Ring album, no rock enthusiast/purist would let lap top/electronic generated music win a prestigious award like this in Canada.

Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
Second time Polaris nominee still a long shot, because we aren’t quite ready for a sax revolution yet.

Metz – Metz
Too new, too noisey

Might have a chance

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
GYBE’s first album in a decade netted them their first ever Polaris nomination, and they will be popular with the older people. I wonder if them not showing up will work against them in anyway, but if they win, it might be the first time there is an acceptance speech by Skype.

Zaki Ibrahim – Every Opposite
Quite possibly the “it” act on this list, Zaki Ibrahim’s smooth and global r&b sound would be a HUGE departure from the traditional guitar rock work that has dominated the Polaris prize since it’s inception. Is the Canadian music press ready to do that this year? I don’t think so, but then again, a brown person was just named Miss America.

Whitehorse – The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss
After last years Handsome Furs’ divorce fiasco, maybe the people will want to see an actual husband and wife duo at the gala and get all those good feelings inside. Their album might just be a bit too accessible and straightforward for some, I think.

Young Galaxy – Ultramarine
I think this album is excellent but they don’t seem to have a whole lot of buzz around them.

Strong Contenders

Metric – Synthetica
Easily the biggest act on the list, Synthetica has been another in the long line of quality Metric albums to populate the airwaves. This is the third time they have been nominated for the Polaris so maybe sympathy will win out. Maybe Emily Haines will be the Susan Lucci of the Polaris. That would probably be funnier, but given that the last two winners were Feist and the Arcade Fire, it should surprise no one if Metric wins this. Makes for good press anyway. Still maybe the grand jury will specifically not pick Metric this year because of criticism of the previous two.

A Tribe Called Red – Nation II Nation
A second straight nomination for a Tribe Called Red, these guys could easily take it home. Not only would it be a celebration of diversity, but it would be some sort of political statement and then people can get all uppity about themselves. “Look who won the best album in Canada!, damn NFL still won’t change Washington’s football team name? How much more progressive are we! *pat on back*”

The winner

Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
Maybe the favorite now since that dog video. HAVE YOU SEEN THE DOG VIDEO? If they play this in the debate, it’s over.

Who do you think will win?