The Polaris Music Prize ended weeks of speculation and debate, announcing this year's long list of top Canadian albums. The prestigious list includes two of Manitoba's most talked about bands: John K. Samson and Cannon Bros. Their albums were put forward by the 200 member jury -- which includes national music journalists, broadcasters, and bloggers -- along with 38 other names including Feist, Drake, and Leonard Cohen. The announcement was streamed live on SiriusXM Canada and CBC Radio 3 from The Waldorf in Vancouver.
Provincial, the debut solo effort of The Weakerthans’ front man Samson, had critics buzzing after its January release on Epitaph/Anti-, including American tastemaker Paste Magazine, which put his song “When I Write My Master’s Thesis” in the top spot on its list of “The 25 Best Songs of 2012 (So Far)”. Samson just finished up a tour of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, and was featured in a Maclean’s Magazine article earlier this week. Provincial is also up for a Western Canadian Music Award for Independent Album of the Year.
Cannon Bros. debut, Firecracker/Cloudglow, was released on Manitoba label Disintegration Records in November. The indie pop/rockers quickly found themselves on best-of lists and college radio charts in Canada, snagging a coveted showcase spot at the Manitoba Music Showcase at massive music fest South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. The band will hit Calgary’s Sled Island music fest on June 21 and play for a hometown crowd at The Village Market Patio Series at Winnipeg’s Gas Station Theatre in August.
Samson and Cannon Bros. aren’t the first Manitobans to get listed by Polaris. Imaginary Cities landed on the Polaris long list last year. Disintegration Records label mate Greg MacPherson made the Polaris long list in 2010. Christine Fellows and The Weakerthans were long listed in 2009, with The Weakerthans' Reunion Tour making it to the short list.
Manitoba engineer/producer/mixer Cam Loeppky has worked on all six Polaris listed albums by Manitoba artists. Loeppky, who won the 2011 WCMA for Engineer of the Year and is nominated again this year, also runs Disintegration Records with Greg MacPherson. Both of the Manitoba releases on this year’s long list were recorded at Winnipeg studio Prairie Recording Company.
Both albums were named by local Polaris jurors at the Polaris Record Salon “Half-Year In Review” event, which made its way from Toronto to the Winnipeg Free Press News Café in February. The panel discussion was moderated by Polaris founder Steve Jordan and featured possible picks by some Manitoba jurors, including Uptown editor John Kendle, Jill Wilson of the Winnipeg Free Press, CKUW 95.9 FM’s Jenny Henkelman, Uptown music writer Jared Story, and Painting Over Silence music blogger Mykael Sopher. Polaris also partnered with Manitoba Music for a pre-salon debate between Jordan and radio personality Sabrina Carnevale.
The prestigious Polaris Prize, now in its seventh year, awards to $30,000 to the best full-length Canadian album. The jury makes its selection entirely on artistic merit and not sales figures. Past winners include Arcade Fire, Final Fantasy, Patrick Watson, and Karkwa.
The Polaris Jury will next determine the 10 album short list, which will be revealed July 17 at the Drake Hotel in Toronto on a live broadcast on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Canada’s channel 152 and CBC Radio 3. The winner won't be revealed until the gala on September 24 at the Polaris gala in Toronto. That night an eleven person grand jury, chosen from the larger jury pool, will be sequestered at CTV’s Concert Hall studio at the gala to vote for the winner. The gala will feature live performances by this year’s short list nominees, broadcast on CBC Radio 3 and webcast live on Much Music.