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2010 Winner & Nominees
The 2010 Polaris Music Prize Winner - Karkwa

Artist: Karkwa
Album: Les Chemins De Verre
From: Montréal, QC
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Everything I cherish in music I’ve found in Karkwa’s Les Chemins De Verre. Killer melodies, intelligent lyrics, and the impression of a group in total communion. This is especially apparent during the hymn Marie Tu Pleures, recorded in one take in a old French manor house. Singer Lous-Jean Cormier usually pushes his gritty voice into the low octaves, but here he dares incursions into the higher range to great emotional effect. Think about Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, The Beach Boys; even good old Quebec prog music from Harmonium. Karkwa have let some air in. Karkwa are more and more Karkwa.

Philippe Papineau, Le Devoir, Montréal


The 2010 Polaris Music Prize Short List Nominees

Artist: The Besnard Lakes
Album: The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
From: Montréal, QC
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Amidst a sea of psychedelic flourishes and shoegazey distortion, The Besnard Lakes ringleaders Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas pay tribute to the pop perfection of yesteryear, their lavish vocal harmonies leading the way. Channeling Pink Floyd one moment and 1970s-era Bee Gees the next, the Montreal ensemble spin the prog-rock tradition on its head with mighty numbers such as, "Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent Pt. 2: The Innocent" and “Glass Printer.” Moody but inviting, the disc is a whirlwind of dense rolling chords and cosmic undertones. Celestial strings and shimmering synths easily hold their own against reverb-drenched guitar and thunderous drumbeats. In fact, there isn’t a weary chorus or clunky riff tied up in the bombastic affair.

The Besnard Lakes come across as downright revolutionary on The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night, but their sprawling atmospheric jams still espouse a certain classic sensibility, which is why the ambitious affair feels as innovative as it does timeless.

Jenny Charlesworth, Georgia Straight, Vancouver


Artist: Broken Social Scene
Album: Forgiveness Rock Record
From: Toronto, ON
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Forgiveness. Certainly a loaded term if there ever was one. Echoes of breakups and make-ups are right there in Broken Social Scene’s name itself – but while the ever-evolving group might have things to be sorry about, Forgiveness Rock Record isn’t one of them. Everything we’ve come to know and love about BSS is here – the big, anthemic epics; the weird experimental moments; the unabashedly pop instincts – and yet the album reveals a band that’s still pushing the limits of their own abundant creativity. That they can nimbly skip from the fist-pumping punk jam “Forced to Love” to the dulcet electro-pop of “All to All” without the juxtaposition seeming jarring in the least is testament to the power of the collective – even with some of BSS’ famous friends relegated to supporting roles this time around, Forgiveness Rock Record reminds us that there’s strength in numbers. It may have been intended as a bid to be forgiven – instead it resonates as an album that won’t be forgotten.

Tabassum Siddiqui, freelance journalist, Toronto


Artist: Caribou
Album: Swim
From: Dundas, ON
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On Swim, Caribou's '60s psychedelic sensibilities and his love of dance music collide to create a richly layered, delicate album that also makes one want to cut a rug. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the opening track, Odessa. The first few bars sound as if they are bubbling up towards us from the deep, a flute flutters from left to right and back again at the song's peak and Snaith's fragile voice regales us with the story of a woman who dreams of leaving her lover—but, despite Odessa's fragile touches, one can't help but bob their head. Throughout Swim, brass, reeds, bowls and even the human voice are introduced and then stretched, shifted and spun into new sounds and structures, creating songs that induce both chin-scratching and toe-tapping. A record that satisfies both of these urges is a rare beast, indeed.

Amanda Farrell-Low, Monday Magazine, Victoria


Artist: Dan Mangan
Album: Nice, Nice, Very Nice
From: Vancouver, BC
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Nice, Nice, Very Nice, is, like its title infers, a pleasant record which brilliantly avoids many of the pitfalls which often trip up contemporaries of Mangan’s musical genre. When it comes to instrumentation, for example, here is an artist who successfully performs the balancing act between crafting a track you might find on music snob’s mixtape and a hit from the soundtrack of the next popular teen movie. After all, he’s as often compared to Woody Guthrie as he is to the Weakerthans!

When it comes down to it, even though you might hear echoes of this or that influence in Mangan’s oeuvre, the disc is charming because it is quite simply disarming. Without ever lapsing into voluntarily simplistic territory, Mangan proves to be an accomplished storyteller; “Tina’s Glorious Comeback” could just as well describe Vancouver’s hipster nightlife scene as it could Montreal’s. And when he’s in these introspective moments, the singer is touching without resorting to rosewater-dipped clichés.

The best part of all? The final product remains unpretentious.

Very nice, Dan Mangan.

André Péloquin, BangBangBlog, Montréal


Artist: Owen Pallett
Album: Heartland
From: Toronto, ON
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On the surface, Owen Pallett’s conceptual masterpiece is a collection of monologues by an ultra-violent farmer named Lewis. Unhappy with his lot in life, Lewis relates his trials and tribulations in the mythological world of Spectrum as he comes to grips with his own creator, Owen Pallett. However, as in all great epics, Heartland -- and the characters and lives it portrays – is not just a clever, if complex, story but rather an allegory for the relationships—both physical and theoretical—that we, as a society, choose to acknowledge, accept and confront. Full of lush sweeping strings, electronic keyboard flourishes and propulsive drums, on Heartland Pallett redefines orchestral pop music, eschewing the traditional composition of his earlier work as Final Fantasy in favour of meatier tunes that are both immediate and rewarding of repeated listens. Heady, grandiose and yet resoundingly wise, Heartland is Polaris Prize winner Pallett’s best work to date.

Jonathan Dekel, Spinner, Toronto


Artist: Radio Radio
Album: Belmundo Regal
From: Grosse Coque, NS, Moncton, NB, Pointe-à-l'église, NS
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In a globalised world, liner note booklets with translations are part of the listening experience. For Acadian trio Radio Radio - hailing from Montreal or Atlantis depending on the day of the week - a glossary of French terms translated for Francophones comes included with its supremely fun second album Belmundo Regal. Such is the confusion bred by chiac dialect rhymes dropped by Jacques Alphonse Doucet, Alexandre Arthur Bilodeau and Gabriel Louis Bernard Malenfant. Yet for all the head scratching that may accompany the trio's dynamic lyricism, it's the booty-shaking mix of sampled and live sounds that tapped into the backbones of listeners across Canada and beyond. Already a multiple award-winner in Quebec, this somewhat concept album about a mysterious stranger from Oak Island, Nova Scotia, is sure to keep both your mind and your mojo working well into the future. It just might be one of the most festive recordings you'll tune into this year. Coast to coast Francofun!

Stuart Derdeyn, The Province, Vancouver


Artist: The Sadies
Album: Darker Circles
From: Toronto, ON
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Ominous yet uplifting. The Sadies specialize in the bittersweet, a balance the band maintains on Darker Circles. The follow-up to 2007’s New Seasons sees The Sadies simultaneously deeper, darker, prettier and heavier than ever before, in fact, it’s the perfect parity of pain and pleasure. Seriously, songs like Another Day Again, Cut Corners and Violet and Jeffrey Lee make me concurrently cry sad and happy tears. It’s just something about the Good brothers’ guitar tones that gets me all emotional. As a former small town prairie punk who spent a good chunk of his life passed out in a wheat field, their cosmic country rock resonance is a sound I can really get behind. You know, a little bit country and a little bit rock ’n’ roll, as another sibling duo sang. Whether you’re into The Beatles or bluegrass, I’m sure you’ll feel the same.

Jared Story, Uptown, Winnipeg


Artist: Shad
Album: TSOL
From: London, ON
Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook

No curse words. Check. Smirk-inducing pop culture references. Check. Positive, aspirational lyrics. Check. London, ON MC Shad had already established these traits on his 2008 Polaris Prize short-listed album The Old Prince and they are still an integral part of his appeal. TSOL is Shad’s second album to make the Short List, but it’s hardly a cautiously calculated retread. Sonically, The Old Prince liberally drew from the jazzy mindset of mid-‘90s East Coast hip-hop, while TSOL hews closer to the bombastic heft of The Blueprint era, with Shad’s muse exhibiting a penchant for equally deploying frenetically precise turntablism and portentously ornate string arrangements. Inventive wordplay that stages imaginary hockey fights, name checks Mordechai Richler, and proudly uncovers Shad’s own Rwandan genealogy meshes organically with the MC’s own inimitable self-deprecating demeanour. While his increased assurance infuses the lyrical blackout of the playfully pugilistic “Yaa I Get It,” thematically TSOL leans towards deferential collectivity rather than self-affirming validity. Whether pointedly addressing gender equality or fleetingly referring to the universal struggle to get out of bed, Shad’s TSOL is a charismatic and sincere reminder to even the hardened cynics among us to doggedly pursue our own unique paths.

Del Cowie, Exclaim, Toronto


Artist: Tegan And Sara
Album: Sainthood
From: Vancouver, BC, Montréal, QC
Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook

On Sainthood, Tegan And Sara beautifully beg for your forgiveness, confessing how they have sinned; who they’re not over, who they shouldn’t be under. Previously, the twins employed their Wilson-Phillips esque harmonization to create anthemic folk songs, popularized on the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack. Here, they each take a solo, wrenching their guts in piquant pop hooks that piece like a nose ring. Early20s divorce is treated as a Shakespearean tragedy on the proggy “Nightwatch”, decrying “I deserve this anguish on my house!”, while the tropicalia-tinged “Alligator” believes that love’s an act of crying “alligator tears.” Their influences may be as divergent as Madonna (“Paperback Girl”’s bugaboo: “a material girl”) and the late John Hughes (begs “On Directing”, “go steady with me, I get talkin’ like a teen”), yet diary entries have never sounded so ready-made for the arena, bludgeoning with earnest bombast. Polaris, meet Sainthood, an album dedicated to the teenage listener who refuses to waver from their beliefs. It’s about time Joan of Arc got a MySpace page.

Chandler Levack, freelance journalist, Toronto


The 2010 Polaris Music Prize Long List Nominees

Apollo Ghosts - Mount Benson
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Bahamas - Pink Strat
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The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
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Blue Rodeo - The Things We Left Behind
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Brasstronaut - Mt. Chimaera
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Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
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Basia Bulat - Heart Of My Own
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By Divine Right - Mutant Message
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Caribou - Swim
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Jason Collett - Rat A Tat Tat
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Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (ll)
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Amelia Curran - Hunter Hunter
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Fred Fortin - Plastrer La Lune
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Frog Eyes - Paul's Tomb: A Triumph
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Hannah Georgas - This Is Good
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Ghostkeeper - Ghostkeeper
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Holy Fuck - Latin
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Karkwa - Les Chemins De Verre
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LeE HARVeY OsMOND - A Quiet Evil
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Greg MacPherson - Mr. Invitation
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Dan Mangan - Nice, Nice, Very Nice
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Misteur Valaire - Golden Bombay
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The New Pornographers - Together
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Owen Pallett - Heartland
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Plants And Animals - La La Land
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Radio Radio - Belmundo Regal
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Justin Rutledge - The Early Widows
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The Sadies - Darker Circles
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Shad - TSOL
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Elizabeth Shepherd - Heavy Falls The Night
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The Slew - 100%
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Meaghan Smith - The Cricket's Orchestra
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South Rakkas Crew - The Stimulus Package
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Tegan And Sara - Sainthood
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The Wooden Sky - If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone
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Hawksley Workman - Meat
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You Say Party - XXXX
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Young Galaxy - Invisible Republic
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Yukon Blonde - Yukon Blonde
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Zeus - Say Us
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