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The Best Canadian Records of the Year? The Fun Agony of Voting for the Polaris Prize Long List

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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. 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.
  
And so, in the spirit of sharing my pretend pain, and of seeking out debate and dismissal and suggestions and furious jilted anger from you, my fledgling (and perhaps merely imagined) Pop Can readership, here are my personal top ten records of the voting period (June 1-May 30) with a pithy one-line description. Only five will make it in the end. Help me, PopMatters reader people, you’re among my only hopes.


 

The Slakadeliqs
The Other Side of Tomorrow
 


Deliriously beautiful and soulful pop from among Canada’s most exciting emerging voices, and the subject of last week’s Pop Can.


 

Sandro Perri
Impossible Spaces


Stunningly intricate and gorgeously executed album of what I guess we should call “progressive folk”, but I’d rather just call the soundtrack to the past eight months of my life.


 

Handsome Furs
Sound Kapital


Intensely passionate, darkly sexy, and driven by a fierce people-first politics, this album represents the perfect intersection of melody-first rock ’n’ roll and future-forward club beats.


 

A Tribe Called Red
A Tribe Called Red


Ottawa-based DJ crew which finds innovative and thrilling ways to combine Native American rhythms and vocalizations with ultra-current beat structures, while slipping nods to dancehall, Afrobeat, and even Dutch house music into the mix.


 

Mares of Thrace
The Pilgrimage


A biblical concept album played by two women on two instruments (primarily) that melts the face and stirs the gut; among the most imaginatively musical metal records I’ve yet heard.


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