5 things about the Po­laris Mu­sic Prize short list

Downie, Feist and Ta­gaq are among the con­tenders for the award for best al­bum

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - DAVID FRIEND TORONTO —

An ar­ray of main­stream artists, Indige­nous acts and ris­ing stars com­prise this year’s slate of Po­laris Mu­sic Prize nom­i­nees.

Among the 10 con­tenders re­vealed Thurs­day for the $50,000 award, which goes to the best al­bum from a Cana­dian artist or band, are Gord Downie’s “Se­cret Path” project, Leonard Co­hen’s fi­nal stu­dio ef­fort “You Want It Darker” and Feist’s “Plea­sure.”

The Po­laris win­ner is cho­sen by a large team of jour­nal­ists, broad­cast­ers and blog­gers, ir­re­spec­tive of genre or sales. The win­ner will be an­nounced on Sept. 18 at a gala pre­sen­ta­tion held at Toronto’s Carlu. A we­b­cast will be hosted by CBC Mu­sic and Aux.tv.

Here’s a look at sev­eral themes that emerged from the nom­i­nees:

INDIGE­NOUS VOICES: Fresh con­ver­sa­tions were sparked in the past year over Canada’s his­toric mis­treat­ment of Indige­nous peo­ple and the Po­laris short list in­cludes an eclec­tic group of artists giv­ing voice to the is­sues. Downie’s “Se­cret Path” in­ter­prets the true story of Chanie Wen­jack, a young boy who died while try­ing to es­cape a res­i­den­tial school, while A Tribe Called Red’s puls­ing “We Are The Hal­luci Na­tion” car­ries an vi­brant po­lit­i­cal edge from the mo­ment it gets un­der­way.

TA­GAQ’S RE­TURN: Then there’s Tanya Ta­gaq, the out­spo­ken throat singer from Nu­navut who wound up tak­ing home the 2014 Po­laris accolade for “An­imism.” Among the stand­out tracks on “Ret­ri­bu­tion” is al­bum closer “Rape Me,” a cover of the Nir­vana song with a haunt­ing ten­sion set against the con­text of the abuse and mur­der of Indige­nous women.

DI­VERSE WOMEN: While the Juno Awards ran into crit­i­cism over the lack of fe­male voices among its nom­i­nees ear­lier this year, the Po­laris jury has cov­ered a lot of ter­ri­tory with its se­lec­tions. Lisa LeBlanc is a singer-song­writer who uses her banjo as the cen­tre­piece on “Why You Wanna Leave, Run­away Queen?” while Colom­bian im­mi­grant Lido Pimienta uses her Span­ish al­bum “La Papessa” — or “high priest­ess” — as a soap­box for is­sues like the global wa­ter cri­sis and pa­tri­archy. Fe­male-led in­die pop band Weaves strives for es­thetic orig­i­nal­ity on their self-ti­tled de­but.

NEW AWARE­NESS: Win or lose, sev­eral lesser-known mu­si­cians are likely to get a boost from the Po­laris clout. Elec­tronic-jazz quar­tet Badbadnotgood (also short­listed in 2015 for “Sour Soul,” a col­lab­o­ra­tion with rap­per Ghost­face Kil­lah) is in con­sid­er­a­tion for their fourth al­bum “IV,” which fea­tures a track with last year’s Po­laris win­ner Kay­tranada. Leif Volle­bekk’s “Twin Soli­tude,” which was re­leased in Fe­bru­ary, is also due to get a sec­ond wind as new lis­ten­ers are in­tro­duced the al­bum’s folksy iso­la­tion that chan­nels Nick Drake and the softest side of Van Mor­ri­son.

MAR­QUEE MISSES: Al­bums from global su­per­stars Drake and the Weeknd were both se­lected for the long list un­veiled last month — but nei­ther made the fi­nal cut. Other prom­i­nent acts whose al­bums were left off the fi­nal list in­clude Arkells, Carly Rae Jepsen, Ja­pan­droids, Mac DeMarco, the New Pornog­ra­phers, and the Trag­i­cally Hip.

PETER POWER, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Tanya Ta­gaq is short­listed for the Po­laris Prize.

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