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Jury duty: picking Polaris 2010 pt. 1

by  |  June 5, 2010  |  1 Comment

O, woe is me, eh?  I’m in the same boat as 225 music writers in Canada this weekend, cramming in as much musical sampling and chin scratching as we can before the Tuesday night deadline when we have to submit our choices for the best five albums of the year for the 2010 Polaris Music Prize.  Here’s what I’ve been able to decide so far:  if the task were to compile a list of 10 albums, I could write my list for you in seconds and never look back at it.  Narrowing it down to the select five is another matter entirely.  So I’ve been reading the Polaris Jury discussion boards to see if that helps, but as voting day gets closer, reading the discussions is like looking at the scene of a bad car accident:  it’s scary and confusing and you can’t make sense of it all, and the more you look/read, the harder it is to look away.

I’ve got a preliminary list of five records that I feel represent my very favourite records of the last 12 months, ergo they could be considered my choice for the best records of the year.  That means that others have been left off the list, but they still have time to gather the troops and launch a secondary assault on my ears and mount a campaign for one of the spots.  iTunes and its associated i-players are great tools for making the selection process less painful than it has any right to be.  My Polaris 2010 playlist has 988 songs on it, from the 90 albums I’m giving serious consideration to.  I’ve been listening to albums for weeks now, straight through with as much attention given as I can possible spare without putting myself in the way of serious harm or social ostracizing, so last night I decided that what I really wanted to do was just listen to songs, randomly and out-of-context, to see if there was anything that especially jumped out at me.  Here’s the start of a a play-by-playlist-play of how it went:

Owen Pallett‘s Heartland album has been off my Polaris radar for some time now, and hearing “Lewis Takes Action” again hasn’t really changed my mind about it not making my list; but in a coincidental back-to-back play with “Flare Gun” it has inspired me to go back and give that record further listens.

MP3: Owen Pallett “Lewis Takes Action”
Myspace: Owen Pallett

It would probably be a total long shot, but “In/Out” from Vivek Shraya‘s Keys & Machines has the distinct honour of being the most-played song on my Polaris 2010 playlist.  It’s electro-pop-perfect, and I really wish more people would give him the attention he deserves.  He’s currently promoting his first book, God Loves Hair.

MP3: Vivek Shraya “In/Out”
Myspace: Vivek Shraya

Islands‘ made the longlist two years ago with Arm’s Way, and could possibly pull a repeat with Vapours, even though the two records are stylistically opposite.  “Tender Torture” has been around for a while I think, but it’s one of my favourite moments on that record.

MP3: Islands “Tender Torture”
Myspace: Islands

I can reveal to you, with confidence, that Julie Fader is well within the top five of my considerations.  I don’t think I’ve written much about her since first mentioning her record Outside In last year, but it has been a staple in my late-night-listening category, and a remarkable album from one of the country’s most underrated songwriters.  I seriously don’t know what’s going to happen with Julie, but if she doesn’t end up in my final five I hope to God my fellow jurors have enough sense to get her onto the longlist.

MP3: Juie Fader “Goodbye Before Hello”
Myspace: Julie Fader

Shit!  I almost forgot all about BahamasPink Strat album!  Like Fader, it’s an under-appreciated gem from the last year that consistently pleases and has me thinking, “I have to spend more time with this record.”

MP3: Bahamas “Already Yours”
Myspace: Bahamas

Tomorrow we’ll continue taking a random trip through my Polaris playlist (and who knows?  Maybe we’ll keep right on strolling all the way up to Tuesday final ballot submission).  In the meantime, anything you want to suggest I give another go ’round before I go to tribal council and mark my ballot?  Comments welcome below.

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One Comment

  1. Wil says:

    based on artistic merit: Owen Pallett, HANDS DOWN should make your ballot!

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