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

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.

Kathleen Edwards and more…


Kathleen Edwards


Reinvented as a reverb-drenched indie pop singer-songwriter on her fourth album, Edwards finds her voice, her sound, and her future, and maybe so do we. Plus, “Change the Sheets” is the song of the year, for me.


Jim Cuddy

Skyscraper Soul

A pitch-perfect singer-songwriter record of the old school which presents a perfect marriage of strong lyrics, inventive tunes, crack musicianship, and Cuddy’s tremendously soulful northern twang.


The Barr Brothers

The Barr Brothers

The brothers who used to comprise two-thirds of Boston-based jam band the Slip are now Montrealers, and with the help of a few locals, have reinvented their sound with an LP of traditional blues-based folk-rock that invigorates even as it entrances.


Coeur de Pirate


So you liked that “Zhou Bisou Bisou” thingie? Check out the real deal, a simply irrepressible throwback to the yé-yé sound of the 1960s that is as much a celebration of joie-de-vivre as it is awash in the melancholy of lost love.


Fucked Up

David Comes to Life

Proving that their win in 2009 was no fluke, Toronto’s Fucked Up follow that triumph with an even better record, an even more powerful statement about the synthetic possibilities of hardcore, rock ’n’ roll, and imagination.