Once again the time has come to discuss the Polaris Music Prize short list. Earlier this week I wrote up my own expectation of which of the 40 contenders present upon the long list would make it onto the list of 10 finalists.
Now I’m willing to admit that guessing 40% of the list right is not that much of an achievement but my article was really all a guessing gamed based upon my own personal tastes and knowledge. In this article I am going to address a few of the albums on the list that I didn’t previously talk about as well as reiterate my thoughts on the albums found on my own short list.
Why don’t we discuss the ones I didn’t t have first? The one that surprises me the most is 99.9% by Kaytranada. I debated putting this album on my short list as I am in awe of how amazing this self-produced hip-hop album is. Instead I opted for Daniel Caesar, as I felt that his Pilgrim’s Paradise was an absolute guarantee. The big thing associated with the Polaris Prize is the commitment to selecting based upon merit and not sales or popularity. 99.9% represents this commitment 100% as the album was made in Kaytranada’s mom’s house with basic recording gear and a rather small budget. This is an astonishing feat considering that artists like Drake and The Weeknd, who have popularity and access to huge budgets and professional recording equipment; dominate the current hip-hop market in Canada.
The next surprise to me was the inclusion of Carly Rae Jepsen and her third full-length, E. MO.TION. I honestly thought that we were over our obsession with the Canadian Idol winner from British Columbia. I will however concede that her latest album is a strong release for something that took four years to appear on the scene. There is simply no denying that Jepsen is every bit deserving of her popularity and her short list nomination.
Now on to the ones I was right about, The Dream is Dead by PUP is my choice for this year’s Polaris Prize. Having grown up a stalwart fan of pop punk, who earned the nickname “That pop punk person” in my sleepy hometown, I knew there was something special about this album the moment I heard it. In a genre where I am willing to admit songs and bands can all sound the same, PUP stands out without a doubt. It is seemingly because they are the hardest working band in the room. When a doctor told lead singer, Stefan Babcock that the he needed to stop singing so much his response was to perform more. It is rare that fans, media members and industry insiders all agree that a pop punk act is something special but PUP have made that a reality.
There is no real surprise that Basia Bulat finds herself on the short list again. Good Advice brought the same strong And sophisticated folk-pop that saw her reach the short list in 2008 with her debut album. The strength in Bulat’s songs rests in her abilities as a multiple instrumentalist.
The last album that I’d like to talk about is Oh No by Jessy Lanza. The beauty of this album is how unique it is for a pop album. Lanza’s sound is one that is reminiscent of a time that has come and gone. Her 80’s pop-princess vibe is a hit or a miss but regardless of which side of the line you are on, there is no denying that her music has stood out over the past year.
The next set of the Polaris Prize process is the fun part, a grand gala at Toronto’s Carlu on September 19th. There the list of 10 nominees will be shortened to one winner, who will walk away with $50,000, a likely rise in sales and a year’s supply of bragging rights. But this is Canada, we rarely brag eh?
Luke Williams grew up a fan of punk and pop punk in a field of cows just outside of Barrie, Ontario. You can follow him on Twitter @musicwithluke