Friday, June 14th, 2013
Taking My Time
Jim Guthrie Takes his Time making it onto the 2013 Polaris Prize long list
Colin MedleyThe 2013 Polaris Prize long list was announced yesterday, and unlike past years where there were a number of obvious frontrunners for inclusion, whether because they were by the biggest artists or had the biggest buzz over the preceding twelve months, there actually didn’t seem to be a lot of “gimmes” amongst the records eligible this year. Rather than the field having a few standouts and a lot of dark horses, it instead felt very wide and flat, which meant that guessing who’d be amongst the forty longlisted records was anyone’s guess.
And now, even with the pool of candidates narrowed from every Canadian album released in the past year down to forty, it’s difficult to speculate at who will survive onto the short list of ten albums when it’s announced on July 16; the only thing that’s certain is that this year’s Polaris – the eighth – could be the most exciting one yet, at least if you’re the sort of person who derives excitement from music awards-spotting. I’m going to refrain from any sort of guessing until at least then because truly I have no idea what the temperature of the jury at large is. But I can tell you what my ballot was, besides four-for-five at making the long list. And so I’ve got one more longlisted album to insert into my ballot before my Polaris duties for this year are done, and to be honest I have no idea what it’s going to be. Guess I’ve got some more homework to do.
The Polaris Prize will be awarded at a gala at the Carlu in Toronto on September 23.
My connection to this record is well-documented, but even without that personal angle, it’s still a gorgeously written, performed, and recorded piece of folk-rock that succeeds at being both intensely personal, and yet universally relatable. I can usually say that from one Polaris to the next, that I don’t really have a dog in the fight, but not this year. This is my dog.
Despite being the act that least likely to even acknowledge being nominated, Godspeed’s unexpected comeback record was maybe the closest thing to a sure thing I could think of. Besides the engaging narrative around the band’s return to active duty and their sneak release of the album, there’s the simple fact that the Godspeed formula still works amazingly well, particularly when they’ve got something to be angry about. Which they do.
Another unexpected record but a wholly welcome one was Jim Guthrie’s first proper singer-songwriter record in a decade, and one that affirmed his status as one of this country’s greatest melodicists. While it seems like just a collection of pop songs, pretty much every song is a master class in arrangement and songwriting efficiency; Guthrie knows exactly how much to give and when and makes it look and sound effortless. Whether it shortlists or wins or not, the best prize would be not having to wait another ten years for its follow-up. The Huffington Post has an interview with Guthrie about the record.
My one selection that didn’t make the long list, and I’m not really surprised it didn’t. While I think its classical-operatic-indie hybrid is as good as anything else on the list, and arguably more interesting, London-based Zeffira’s distance from the Canadian scene at large and lack of wide promotion – one lightly-attended North American show to date – probably doomed it.
It may have been the last record to make my ballot, but the fact that it’s here at all considering that for the longest time, I had no time for Young Galaxy, says a lot. I often bemoan the general lack of stylistic or artistic revolution amongst Canadian bands – more often it seems they prefer to continue refining what’s been proven to work – but Young Galaxy have successfully reinvented themselves and that impresses me. The record’s pretty damn good as well. They’ve just released a new, Bruckheimer-esque video from it.
Video: Hooded Fang – “Bye Bye Land”