The 2012 Polaris Long List

Today is a fun day. Long list day is always a fun day. It didn’t start off well, but it’ll end well. And you, dear and loyal reader, get this. A bonus “special feature” blog post.

I woke up quite early this morning to write a post about the 2012 Polaris Music Prize long list. For those who don’t know, the Polaris Prize is given annually by a not-for-profit foundation whose purpose is to encourage, recognize, and reward creativity in Canadian music. The prize, unlike the Juno Award, has nothing to do with unit sales or marketability. In fact, that’s the whole point. Every year, a panel of some 200 journalists, bloggers, music industry professionals, deejays and other music enthusiasts decide which album should be celebrated. It’s in their credo that the award is given “without regard to musical genre, professional affiliation, or sales history”. There are always a wide variety of genres represented in the pool. Almost all of the prize candidates are from independent labels. Some have no label affiliation at all.

The rules are pretty simple. This is an award that celebrates the “best” “Canadian” “album” of “the year”. I put those things in quotations for a reason.

Canadian For an album to be eligible, the artist must be a Canadian citizen or a Canadian landed immigrant. That “Canadian Landed Immigrant” thing is sort of like a green card in the United States. If there’s a band, at least 50% of the band has to be Canadian citizens.

Album According to Polaris “rules”, and “album” is generally understood to be more than 30 minutes in length or more than 10 songs. Compilations, tributes, reissues, remixes are not eligible.

The year The eligibility period runs for twelve months. From June 1 of the previous year to May 31 of the award year. The albums must have been officially released to the Canadian public during that time. Advance copies, leaks and pre-release streams do not count. Availability in the USA, UK or anywhere else is not germane.

The 200 or so panelists each submit a ballot, and on June 14, the top 40 vote-getters are named to the “long list”. I’m obviously not a panelist, but I like to play one on teevee, so I always play along with my own “unofficial” ballot. This morning, I wrote a hilarious, intelligent, sexy, and exceptionally humble post, naming my five selections. Unfortunately, I got really sloppy with my fat hands, and navigated away from the page without saving my progress first.

Gone. With one unintentional gesture, it vanished like a fart in the wind.

Anyway, my selections, in alphabetical order, were:

Drawn ShipLow Domestic (September 6, 2011). A sentimental choice. I didn’t expect it to make the long list, but I hoped.
Dan ManganOh Fortune (September 27, 2011). Even a deaf squirrel knows that Dan Mangan would be a sure thing.
MemoryhouseThe Slideshow Effect (February 28, 2012). Another sentimental choice that I thought might make the long list, but had no hope for the short list.
Lindi OrtegaLittle Red Boots (June 7, 2011). Another sentimental favorite. It’s a straight up country record. No “alt-” or “indie-“. Just “country”. And it’s brilliant.
PS I Love YouDeath Dreams (May 8, 2012) These noise boys have generated a ton of buzz with their second record and should be a lock.

The announcements came today, and as is par for the course, three of my five picks made the long list. The “Final 40”. The records by Dan Mangan, Lindi Ortega, and PS I Love You will advance to the next round.

On July 17, the list of 40 will be culled down to 10. The same jurors will submit a second ballot, only drawing from the pool of 40. A second jury of 11 members will make the final vote, and the winner will be announced on September 24. Each of the shortlisted bands will receive a $2,000 CAD prize. The grand prize winner gets a $30,000 CAD payday.

Since they started handing out the prize in 2006, only one “Frenchy” band has ever won the prize. Don’t be surprised, though, if a Frenchy wins it this year. Cœur de Pirate is a very strong candidate, with her new album Blonde. Patrick Watson and Fucked Up are both candidates to become the first two-time Polaris Music Prize winner. Watson won in 2007, and Fucked Up in 2009.

I’ll have plenty more musings on the Polaris Prize in the weeks to come.

What makes today so fun, to get back to the beginning, is that I have a lot of stuff that I have to listen to in the next month. Of the 40 albums that made the long list, I only own eight. There are a few that I’ve heard before, and some that I know enough to know that I don’t need to hear. There’s about 20 records on that list that I’ve never heard of. I’ve got some listening to do. As I do every year, I’ll make it my mission to have listened to every album on the long list so I can submit an informed imaginary ballot when it comes time to whittle it from 40 to 10 on July 17.

Once again, you can view the long list here. Tell me what you think. What were your picks?

I still have a song o’ the day post to write.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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