Polaris Shortlist: An Arcade-Sized Prediction and a Sexsmith Surprise
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Polaris Shortlist: An Arcade-Sized Prediction and a Sexsmith Surprise

Photo by D. A. Cooper/Torontoist.

This afternoon, another step in the event that’s come to be one of the most exciting (and divisive) in Canadian music: the shortlist for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize was announced. (This coming quite soon after the long-list announcement, which itself was revealed just two short weeks ago.)
Returning host Grant Lawrence was (again) joined by Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham for the shortlist reveal (and for the reveal that Abraham would, blessedly, be replacing MuchMusic’s Sarah Taylor as Lawrence’s co-host for the grand-prize gala this year), and after only a few quick words thanking sponsors and explaining typical procedural stuff, it was onto the ten nominees. Alphabetically, true, but it could have been in order of least surprising to most (okay, at least roughly): Arcade Fire and Austra led the pack, followed by albums by Braids, Destroyer, Galaxie, Hey Rosetta!, Ron Sexsmith, Colin Stetson, Timber Timbre, and the Weeknd. Our biggest surprise was local–career mope Ron Sexsmith (we love you Ron, we just didn’t expect it!), while the overall wildcard shocker was probably another local, the mysterious modern R&B act the Weeknd, marking the first free-download nominee in the prize’s history; or maybe the experimental jazz of Colin Stetson, a true diamond of a discovery among the nominees this year (if you’re not familiar, please go have a listen—oh, and he also played on the nominated Arcade Fire and Timber Timbre’s albums. Good haul, Stetson!).
Some repeat shortlisters include Arcade Fire (2007) and Hey Rosetta! (2009), while three of the records are debuts and have made international web-buzz impressions this year (Austra, Braids, and the Weeknd). And how about that geography! The list spans coast to coast pretty cleanly, with Vancouver’s Destroyer, one-time Calgarians Braids (now Montreal), Toronto’s strong batch (nice show, us!), Montreal’s Galaxie and Stetson and Newfoundland’s Hey Rosetta!. Oh, Canada.
Disappointments? Mainly, for us, no Land of Talk. But such is the nature of the overall-wonderful beast. The winner will be chosen by a grand jury of ten pulled from the larger 213-person jury on September 19 at the Masonic Temple. And don’t forget: the winner gets an upped $30,000 this year. Viva the most artistic merit!