The 2014 Polaris Music Prize short list is out, shortening the field of "best full-length Canadian albums based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label" to 10. For a certain subset of Canadian music journalists and fans that means one thing: arguing season. Too predictable. Not predictable enough. Too mainstream. Not enough pop albums. Où est le français? You can squeeze a hell of a lot of words out of those 10 records.
In that spirit, we're supplementing the short list with features, interviews, reviews and performance videos from each artist's nominated album. If you're looking to start an argument, start here.
Arcade Fire, Reflektor
Excuse us for being cynical, but Arcade Fire's inclusion on this year's short list looks like a symptom of Canadian indie rock's "Arcade Fire can do no wrong" disorder. How else to explain how this bloated, widely-acknowledged dud was judged to be on of the best Canadian albums of the year? Or how they got away with this culturally exploitative hype campaign?
Basia Bulat, Tall Tall Shadow
Basia Bulat's Tall Tall Shadow is one of the better folk albums of the year, but the songs really shine when they're stripped all the way down to Bulat's rich voice and her strings (in this case, those of a churango). Watch her play "The City With No Rivers" on the front steps of a house:
Drake, Nothing Was The Same
BADBADNOTGOOD didn't make the short list this year with their first "real" album III, but Drake did, and as they tell us in this edition of Essential Albums, the young jazz trio might just show up on his next album, Views From The 6, whether you know it or not. In the meantime, enjoy this investigation into that wisecracking Hamilton beardo in all of Drake's videos.
Jessy Lanza, Pull My Hair Back
We spoke to the breakout Hyperdub artist on the eve of a different awards show, the Hamilton Music Awards, about what Hamilton means to her. We also talked to Lee Skinner, the director of Jessy Lanza's amazing video for "Kathy Lee" (starring Hamilton's "dancing guy").
Mac DeMarco, Salad Days
Mac DeMarco's shit-grinned soft rock and pigpen persona have taken him to unpredictable heights of popularity. His new album actually seems like a response to that disparity, so we imagined a world where Mac became a travelling freak show with a drumstick up his ass. If you don't know what we're talking about, watch this revealing interview:
Owen Pallett, In Conflict
Owen Pallett is almost as entertaining in interviews as he is on record. That was the case for our interview with the sought-after violinist, until it turned a bit uncomfortable... turns out Owen reads Chart Attack, and he has opinions. We also combed through Pallett's extensive solo and collaborative discography to see how he arrived at the autobiographically-informed approach of In Conflict.
Shad, Flying Colours
Tanya Tagaq, Anamism
The fact that a record like this sneaks onto the Polaris short list is basically a self-evident argument for its existence. Tanya Tagaq's experimental throat singing is a wonder to behold, and it's amazing she's being given this platform. If you want to know why, read this UNCHARTED profile in which she defends #sealfies and talks about the pressure of being taken for a cultural ambassador while straying from tradition.
Timber Timbre, Hot Dreams
Below, watch Timber Timbre's surreal video for "Beat The Drum Slowly," animated by Chad VanGaalen. And while you're at it, go check out ZOOOSH, Chad VanGaalen's weird, funny, weird Chart Attack comic strip.
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, UZU
Our interviews with YT//ST and 2013 short listers A Tribe Called Red helped illuminate the inherent structural biases of a supposed genre/sales/record label (/race) agnostic arts award like the Polaris Prize in "multicultural" Canada. We also talked video games.