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.
Sure, there are a few we might want to cut on their face due to their under-the-radar’s-radar status (Mark Davis, Shooting Guns, & Ariane Moffatt spring to mind), but due to the free-for-all of the voting process there really is no way to know. None.
So, maybe this is a stupid post in the ol’ Pop Can. Probably. But, still, who doesn’t love a little bit of wild darkness stabbery from time to time? I know I do.
Here is what I predict (like an idiot) will comprise the Short List, announced on Tuesday July 17th. At best, I’ll come out of this looking like a keen prognosticator. At worst, it’s a fate of mockery and ridicule (but what else is new?). In either case, here’s a list of some pretty great music from the Great White-Hot North.
My predictions for the 2012 Polaris Prize Short List:
The first thing here for which I’ll double down and call a lock. Though deeply divisive, it is rare to find a critic who outright dismisses this album. I don’t happen to like it much — the album is all about the inner workings of a man who turns out to be whiney, arrogant, and frankly kind of boring, despite the gorgeous sonic landscape in which he lives — but I am likely in the vanishingly small minority here.
I voted for this one. This is such a beautiful example of a complete album of the old school variety. Ten songs, each of them attractively (and not over-bearingly) arranged, all of them connected in theme, tone, mood. There is zero filler, and absolutely no note misplaced. It’s an impressively pleasurable listen, and is likely to find many fans among the older, mellower jurors. (Let’s call them: the folks who voted in Ron Sexsmith last year.) As adult pop music goes, this isn’t just an example; it feels more like a template.
She made a “difficult” record (or so we are told) and some of her legions of fans were turned off. But critics (who make up the vast majority of the Polaris jury) are basically your primary audience for a “difficult album”. Especially when “difficult” is really just code for “gorgeous, dark, moody”, all words you kinda want to be used to describe a work of art. Expect this one to make it. If it isn’t there it’ll be a shocker.
The basic tragedy of their recent breakup only puts this extraordinary synth-pop record into a more favourable spot on ballots (I am betting). And, fine by me. I voted for this, one of my favourite albums of the past few years. Deeply sexy, provocatively political, melody-driven anthems? Yes.
An outlier, maybe. But I have a feeling this record makes the Short List because, weirdly for an album of genre-bending jazz-folk, I am guessing it has a very broad fan base among jurors. I bet it was the number three on a majority of ballots. Hope so. I voted for this lovely piece of work myself.
Azari & III – Azari & III
The dance crowd eats these guys up, as much because of their throwback house music as because of their exciting nods into the distance. Not much of a fan of this myself, but I am pretty much always wrong when it comes to dance music.
Here is where the fans of experimental “difficult” stuff meet the fans of electronica meet the fans of vocal-driven pop music. The appeal to such a wide range of tastes makes this the third “lock” on this list of predictions.
This outright confectionary Quebecois pop record is winning over fans on both sides of the language divide. It is simply a beautiful song cycle about relationships, and one which I’m betting will appeal to many many jurors from across the country.
Is there a more staggeringly intelligent lyricist in all of hip-hop? The former Edmonton poet laureate is back with some pretty killer material, and critics across the country (many of whom are basically predisposed to loving his lyrical jujitsu) have been raving about the quality of the beats and sonics on this album. A longer shot, let’s say, but I think it’ll squeeze in.
Arguably the best out and out rock album of the year, this series of infectious anthems and fuzzed out guitar hero bliss has been knocking people out from coast to coast. The fourth, and final, lock, says me.