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Thursday, Jul 12, 2012
This is probably a dumb idea. But, here is what I expect to make the Polaris Prize's Short List.

As Polaris Prize season comes to a middle with the announcement in a couple weeks of the Short List of 10 albums, I have decided to do something totally dumb. I have decided to make a prediction.


This is dumb for a few reasons, but chiefly among them is the fact that even my claim toward an “educated guess” (since I am on the jury) is absurd (since I am but one of like 200 jurors). Moreover, since the Polaris Prize has nothing to do with sales figures, popularity, genre, politics, region, etc—it is all about “the best record” regardless of these things—any guess here is nothing more than a wild stab in the dark at the 40-albums on the Long List.


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Friday, Jun 8, 2012
Canada's North by Northeast is the ostensible cousin to Austin, Texas' SXSW, and I for one am stoked about attending it this year.

Starting next week in Toronto is the giant clusterbang of North by Northeast, the ostensible cousin to the much more famous and better-attended and generally more-prestigious-in-every-way Austin-based South by Southwest conference.


And I am stoked.


This year between June 11 and 17, we are looking forward to the usual raft of indie films, roundtable and panel discussion sessions, and tons and tons and tons of music in late-night sweaty bars. But, also, this year we can look forward to free open air concerts from the likes of the Flaming Lips, Raekwon and Ghostface, Bad Religion, and Of Montreal, a deeply impressive list of unexpected invites to head the marquee.


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Thursday, May 17, 2012
It’s roughly one month now before the first ballot for Canada’s Polaris Prize produces its Long List of the 40 best records of the year. As of today, here are my picks for the top ten Canadian records of the past 12 months.

It’s roughly one month now before the first ballot for Canada’s Polaris Prize produces its Long List of the 40 best records of the year. Every round since its founding in 2006, this process has led to intense, mostly uncomfortable debate and decision-making among the pool of as many as 220 jurors, all of whom will cast ballots with their five weighted choices. Indeed, right about now, all across the country, people are taking sides, lobbying and cajoling, and dismissing and decrying.


Moreover, all over Canada, people are listening as hard as they can to as much as they can, trying to give a fair shake to all of the 120-plus records that have been variously suggested by members of the jury (on a private listserve) as albums worth paying attention to. As tasks go, it’s a daunting one, but it’s one of those “daunting tasks you’d pay to have to suffer through”, so who’s complaining? Not me. Though I will cop to a certain kind of ethical crisis every year when I fill out those five spots since, inevitably, I am leaving off another dozen or more albums that easily could have made it. It’s painful, but the kind of painful you want to share with friends over a beer. Like a real life desert island album game.


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Thursday, May 10, 2012
Among Toronto's most exciting musical voices, this DJ, producer, singer, songwriter, arranger, you-name-it has made one of this year's best records.

When it was released in the middle of a typically grey, frozen, sleety Canadian winter, it was hard to get a handle on just how good this record really is. But, now that the buds are beginning to bloom, the spring rains are turning things a bit more lush, and those heavy layers of down are finally being put away for a few months, Toronto-based psych-soul outfit the Slakadeliqs’ The Other Side of Tomorrow feels like the perfect soundtrack for whatever you’re up to.


I first encountered this band through its central figure, the extraordinarily talented Slakah the Beatchild (which is probably not his actual birth name, however well it suits him). Since about 2009 I have been following his career, checking out his (numerous) projects and side-projects (including his terrific hip-hop thing Art of Fresh), and finding myself almost perpetually amazed at his gift for melody, structure, mood, and flow. Whatever the name behind the music he’s putting forward (and this can be a bit confusing, to be sure, between his alter egos and bands), and whether he’s working straight hip-hop, neo-soul, old school soul, or smooth disco-inflected grooves, Slakah seems completely at home.


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Thursday, Apr 26, 2012
Few music nerds and snobs and people just exactly like me will take a serious listen to Jim Cuddy's latest record Skyscraper Soul. And I get that. In the irony-drenched anti-sentimental scene that is "I'm-a-music-freak", his stuff is basically impossible. And yet . . .

The word you’re looking for is “cheesy”.


As co-front man for Canada’s alt-country institution Blue Rodeo, Jim Cuddy has always been at least a little bit cheesy. He loves sentimental stuff, is happy to sing about the very syrupy side of emotion, and doesn’t seem much to care if he’s hip at all.


I’ve always loved him for this, not because I’m drawn to the cheeseball sentiments he often revels in (I’m not), but because I see him as an uncommonly honest songwriter. I believe his open-heartedness, and trust that he isn’t aiming for schmaltz as much as that he just is a bit of a schmaltzy kinda guy. In other words, he is authentically cheesy which, for reasons most entertainingly enumerated in Carl Wilson’s book on Celine Dion, I tend to respect. So, there’s that.


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