Posts Tagged ‘Hey Rosetta’

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

High For This

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 Polaris Music Prize short list

Photo via FacebookFacebookWhen the Polaris Prize long list was announced three weeks back, the general response was positive. After all, forty albums is pretty inclusive and many genres and regions were represented; pretty good cause for back-patting. But when you whittle it down to the final ten, things inevitably get contentious – so with the announcement of the 2011 short list yesterday, there were the inevitable complaints that so-and-so was robbed, such-and-such is underrepresented, etc etc. Six years in, it’s all pretty predictable if you think about it.

And as such, I personally wasn’t especially surprised with the results – after all, I did tie for first in an impromptu prediction pool amongst jurors and Polaris-spotters with eight out of ten right, and I would have gotten nine if I’d stuck with my initial instincts about the Maritime bloc. As for the two I got wrong, I’m disappointed but not wholly surprised that Sloan didn’t make the cut – continuing their career trajectory of being simultaneously adored yet taken for granted. I was, however, genuinely surprised that The Rural Alberta Advantage got passed over – though they barely missed my ballot, I thought that there’d have been enough goodwill banked from Hometowns being ineligible in the year it got wide release to carry over to Departing, but I guess not. They’ll have to settle for being generally adored. Tough life. But my picks didn’t necessarily reflect what I thought were the most deserving – note only two of my ballot entries appear on the short list – but based on pretty reliable patterns observed over the course of Polaris’ existence. We’re all just algorithms in a giant cosmic computer, maaaaaan.

As for the albums that made the cut?

Arcade Fire / The Suburbs
Well this one was a gimme; the question really is will the Suburbs-sized elephant in the jury room end up costing the band and give proof to the accusation that the Polaris punishes success? Not a lock, but if the winner comes back as anything else, people are going to want some explanations as to how and album pretty much universally feted would be deemed inadequate (relatively speaking) at home. By being heavily favoured, they are probably the biggest underdogs on the list. Oh, Canada.

Video: Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs”

Austra / Feel It Break
I figured this, Diamond Rings, Young Galaxy and Miracle Fortress would split the synth-pop vote – no way would more than one of them make the short list – and was certain that when the votes were counted, Austra would have come out on top. It strikes the right balance of weird and accessible and you can dance to it. It give it long, long odds to win but its presence here is an achievement.

MP3: Austra – “Lose It”

Braids / Native Speaker
I’ve tried, but I just can’t get into this record. But I can’t stand Animal Collective either, so I’m just not predisposed to appreciate what Braids do, and that’s fine. I’ll probably try again before all is said and done, but don’t expect any Damascene moments. I don’t think it will win, but I didn’t think that people would lose their minds for it as much as they have so I won’t say it couldn’t upset.

MP3: Braids – “Lemonade”

Destroyer / Kaputt
For an album as smooth and laid back as it appears to be, Kaputt has turned out to be remarkably polarizing, but that said it was also pretty much a lock – criticize what it is if you will, but there’s really no denying the degree of vision and craftsmanship that has gone into this record. I think if any record could win without instigating an Arcade Fire backlash debate, it’s this one. If I were on the grand jury, which I’m thankful I won’t be, I’d be championing this one.

MP3: Destroyer – “Chinatown”

Galaxie / Tigre et diesel
The question was which of this or Malajube would take the Francophone vote – I didn’t see both making it – and rather than let Malajube three-peat as shortlisters, they went with the fresh(ish) faces. And I’ll be honest, I hold a grudge against this band because they went by Galaxie 500 for far longer than is acceptable. That’s just wrong.

Video: Galaxie – “Piste 01”

Hey Rosetta! / Seeds
This is a band whom I get what they do, get how it inspires such adoration from so many, but doesn’t really do much for me. But their upwards trajectory is undeniable – they’ll be doing the theatre circuit very soon, just watch – and being past shortlisters and the most probable consensus pick amongst jurors from out east, I really should have known better than to take them off my list of predictions. Another record that I will revisit to see what I missed the first time around.

Video: Hey Rosetta! – “Young Glass”

Ron Sexsmith / Long Player Late Bloomer
No doubt there’s a whiff of lifetime achievement about Sexsmith’s inclusion, but his profile hasn’t been higher than it is now in years thanks to the documentary film and the Luminato tribute and thanks to his remarkably consistent songwriting, you couldn’t argue that this record is any less deserving than his others. And maybe people just want to see what it’d take to make the man smile.

Video: Ron Sexsmith – “Late Bloomer” (live)

Colin Stetson / New History Warfare Vol. 2 – Judges
Easily the most left-field shortlisted album in the prize’s history, I don’t get New History Warfare at all. But then I don’t get hardly anything about where it comes from and what it’s about, so that’s okay. I do know that Stetson has an incredible pair of lungs and the record is an astonishing physical feat, but on the topic of its musicality, I defer to those more qualified to pass judgement. And it’d be kind of awesome if it won if just for the coast-to-coast head scratching that would surely ensue.

MP3: Colin Stetson – “Fear of the Unknown and the Blazing Sun [ft. Laurie Anderson and Shara Worden]”

Timber Timbre / Creep On Creepin’ On
I know a lot of people who think Timber Timbre should have won in 2009, even though they didn’t even make the short list, so with a – in my judgement – better album in hand and a much stronger national profile, I’m not at all surprised it made the cut this time. I think it’s still a little genre/weird to garner the necessary broad grand jury support to really make a run, but Polaris tends to be predictably unpredictable so maybe they should have the inside track.

MP3: Timber Timbre – “Black Water”

The Weeknd / House Of Balloons
Another record that comes from a separate musical world from the one I usually inhabit, but one that got my attention from the first listen. A little hip-hop, a little r&b, a little indie rock and a lot sexy and moody – though not necessarily sexy moody – it’s definitely noteworthy and probably deserves its placement. And it’s got that whole mysterious identity and album-for-free (click above) thing going for it.

MP3: The Weeknd – “The Party & The After Party”

So my overall prediction for the night of September 19? I think the jury will for maybe the first time do the obvious thing let Arcade Fire take it. Failing that, Destroyer. And if not one of those two, then all bets are off.

Colin Stetson will get to see if a Polaris appearance translates into concert attendance when he plays The Drake on August 26, tickets $12 in advance. The Georgia Straight and Montreal Gazette have interviews.

Austra are releasing a new remix album entitled Sparkle on August 23 on vinyl, later this month digitally.

MP3: Austra – “Spellwork” (MNDR Nighttime remix)

NYC Taper has posted recordings of a recent visit to the Big Apple from Sloan. And oh, new video and interview with Andrew Scott at Thick Specs.

Video: Sloan – “Unkind”

PS I Love You have announced the release of an odds-and-sods compilation entitled, descriptively enough, Figure It Out: A Collection of Singles and EPs by PS I Love You and it’ll be out August 30. It will be followed by an extensive North American tour that includes a date at Toronto’s Great Hall on October 1. Full dates and track listing at and yes, it’s that “Subdivisions”.

MP3: PS I Love You – “2012”

Le Blogotheque has posted a Les Soirees des poches video session with Plants & Animals.

Dan Mangan has announced a September 27 release date for his new album Oh Fortune and is giving away the title track from said record below. And if you need more, Herohill has posted videos of a living room show Mangan performed in Halifax a couple months ago.

MP3: Dan Mangan – “Oh Fortune”

Spinner has words with Chad VanGaalen.

Broken Social Scene drummer Justin Peroff gets political for a moment with

Fucked Up demonstrate to Pitchfork how to make a bong in 60 seconds and also fess up to the obvious parallels between David Comes To Life and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. chats with Dan Boeckner of Handsome Furs, in town at The Horseshoe on August 1 and 2.

Interview has premiered the first song from Ohbijou’s forthcoming third album Metal Meets, due out September 27.

If you’re looking for something to do over the August long weekend, you may not need to look further than The Great Hall and Toronto Underground Cinema; that’s when those venues will host over three nights the inaugural Out Of The Box Festival, featuring a slew of the city/province’s up-and-coming acts including personal faves and bands to watch Olenka & The Autumn Lovers, Ruby Spirit, Heartbeat Hotel and Foxes In Fiction to name but a very few. Admission is $10 at the door, $15 for a weekend pass and the schedule will be forthcoming soon.

Hamilton dreampop veterans A Northern Chorus called it a day back in Summer 2008, but have regrouped for a couple of shows next month, one in Hamilton at The Casbah on August 12 and one at The Garrison in Toronto on August 13.

Video: A Northern Chorus – “Winterize”

And speaking of good things that come from The Hammer, Supercrawl has announced the first wave of their muscial lineup for September 10, and it includes the likes of Broken Social Scene, J Mascis and The Megaphonic Thrift, amongst many others. And oh yeah, it’s all free.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Mondo Amore

Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea and Cotton Jones at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt was an evening of familiar faces and (slightly) unfamiliar names at The Horseshoe on Saturday night. The familiar being Nicole Atkins, whom despite playing here four times in just eight months, hadn’t been back to visit in over three years and in the interim, changed her backing band entirely and renamed them from The Sea to The Black Sea. Nor were support act Cotton Jones strangers locally, having come through a number of times in their old incarnation of Page France and a few times since.

Of the two, Cotton Jones represented the more dramatic break from their former selves. Whereas Page France were a winsome if overly saccharine indie pop outfit, Cotton Jones was the sound of that band grown up and having traded tea parties for whiskey shots. That was applicable to both frontman Michael Nau’s voice, which used to be a nasally sort of thing but was now well and proper raspy, and the band’s songwriting in general, inflected as it now was with blues, soul and assorted Southern accents. Still, it was good to see that he and fellow Page France holdover Whitney McGraw hadn’t forgotten the melodic lessons learned in that band, and I generally enjoyed Cotton Jones’ set more than I ever did anything Page France did, though I have to say that “Somehow To Keep It Going” isn’t really a grand enough song to merit as extended a reading as it got.

The circumstances and significance of Nicole Atkins’ persona and personnel changes are well reflected in her new record Mondo Amore, what with the big orchestral approach of her debut Neptune City having been shelved in favour of something decidedly leaner and meaner. Accordingly, The Black Sea numbered just three plus Atkins in conventional two-guitar, bass and drums setup and the sound they made was even more stripped down than the album.

Their set included the entirety of Mondo Amore as well as some choice selections from Neptune City and a trio of covers that really spoke to the band’s versatility – not many bands can range from Krautrock (Can), country-pop (Cotton Mather) and funk-soul (Marie Queenie Lyons) and sound perfectly natural at all of them. Props especially go to guitarist Irina Yalkowsky, who had lots of room to move and space to fill and did so without getting flashy, though her solo in I believe “The Tower” earned her an ovation – I don’t know the last time I saw that happen.

But it was still Atkins’ show and though she and her bandmates had been plagued with illness over the course of the tour, you couldn’t tell it. Her voice was as strong as it’d ever been, rough and raucous on rockers like “My Baby Don’t Lie” and “This Is For Love” and richly emotive on the torchier numbers like set opener “Heavy Boots” and closer “The Tower”, and between songs, her spirits were high and banter sharp. If the past few years have been tumultuous ones for Atkins, then judging from the record she got out of it, the confidence and charisma she’s carrying and the shows she’s now delivering, they were worthwhile.

Chart also has a review of the show. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Boston Globe and Washington Post have interviews with Atkins while Baeble Music has a Guest Apartment video session. The Colorado Springs Independent has a feature on Cotton Jones.

Photos: Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea, Cotton Jones @ The Horseshoe – February 26, 2011
MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Vultures”
MP3: Nicole Atkins – “Vitamin C”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Gotta Cheer Up”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Glorylight & Christie”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Somehow To Keep It Going”
MP3: Cotton Jones – “Blood Red Sentimental Blues”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Vultures”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Maybe Tonight”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “The Way It Is”
Video: Nicole Atkins – “Neptune City”

The Wall Street Journal talks to Tom Scharpling, who is directing the new New Jersey-saluting video for Titus Andronicus’ “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future”. They play The Horseshoe on April 1.

One of the great music magazines of the ’90s is back in online form – Option, for whom my cousin worked for a while and got me a free subscription, introduced me a tonne of bands that I didn’t realize I’d love until many years later but I’d like to think there was some subliminal effect. Hopefully they will again be a forum for great long-form music writing, and this piece on Yo La Tengo certainly makes it seem so. Welcome back!

NPR has a World Cafe session with Sharon Van Etten. She plays The Drake Underground on April 12.

Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack talk to Spinner about their new record Civilian. It’s out next week and they play The El Mocambo on April 9,

Paste, PopMatters, The Calgary Herald and The New Zealand Herald catche up with Lucinda Williams, whose new record Blessed is out today. She is at Massey Hall this week, on March 4 and 5.

Spinner interviews Ume.

DeVotchKa’s latest 100 Lovers is out today; and Spinner have interviews. They’re at The Mod Club on March 30.

And since Toronto is generally hard-up for festivals of late, anything that offers locals the opportunity to hang out en masse getting heat stroke while soundtracked by live music is worth noting – like the return of the sort-of tradition of The Tragically Hip on Canada Day. This year, they’ll be at Downsview Park and be joined by Weezer, Broken Social Scene, Hey Rosetta! and Buck 65. Tickets are $59.50 plus fees and go on sale Friday. The last time I did The Tragically Hip on Canada Day was Molson Park in Barrie back in 1994… oh god. My memories of that show are now old enough to drive.

MP3: Broken Social Scene – “World Sick”
Video: The Tragically Hip – “My Music At Work”
Video: Weezer – “Keep Fishin'”
Video: Hey Rosetta! – “Yer Spring”
Video: Buck 65 – “Shutterbuggin'”

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Death By Elektro

Review of Rae Spoon’s Love Is A Hunter

Photo By JJ LevineJJ LevineRae Spoon’s last album, 2008’s Superioryouareinferior, may have served as the point of entry for me into the Calgary native’s works, but his fifth album was more of an exit for him in that it represented a push out of the country-folk scene with which he’d been associated and into the (relatively) broader realm of Canadian indie-pop. Maybe not the promised land, but without that bit of crossover, the record probably wouldn’t have otherwise caught my ear certainly wouldn’t have last year’s Polaris ballot.

For the follow-up record Love Is A Hunter, Spoon’s muse took him a little farther afield – Berlin, to be precise. The influence of the time spent abroad was more overt on last year’s free-to-download Alexandre Decoupigny collaboration What Are You Waiting For? (Worauf Wartest Du?), but the time spent in and around the European dance scene is still echoes quite clearly on Hunter.

But rather than try to craft a record of club bangers or electro-clash anthems, Spoon makes those influences lyrical concerns than sonic ones, opting to contemplate the experiences and interactions, diary-style, and thus sticks to his strengths. This isn’t to say that it’s all more of the same, though. Spoon’s sound is still more folk than anything else – you can take the boy out of the country and all that – but Hunter comes fairly suffused with electronic beats and textures that dance in and around the compositions, offering an interesting counterpoint to Spoon’s crystalline voice and otherwise spare arrangements. They don’t necessarily elevate them, but they do add some extra aural interest. And while the meeting of influences on Hunter doesn’t create the same stop-in-your tracks, emotional impact of Superioryouareinferior, it does further the case as Rae Spoon as one of the country’s up-and-coming songsmiths and certainly a talent to continue watching.

Exclaim has a short piece on Spoon, who kicks off a cross-Canada tour next week and plays the Gladstone in Toronto on October 22.

MP3: Rae Spoon – “Death By Elektro”
MP3: Rae Spoon – “You Can Dance”
Video: Rae Spoon – “Love Is A Hunter”

Details have emerged about the forthcoming Neil Young album produced by Daniel Lanois. It will be entitled Le Noise and be available on September 28 in pretty much every format imaginable (LP, CD, MP3, Blu-Ray, iPhone…). I’m not the biggest fan of Lanois’ own work, but as a producer he’s helmed some amazing records and triggered creative renaissances from some legendary artists. Really anxious to hear what he’s done with Neil.

Exclaim has put Land Of Talk’s Liz Powell on the cover of their September issue with accompanying feature piece. They’re at Lee’s Palace on September 16.

MP3: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”

MOG talks to Matt Camirand of Black Mountain. Their new record Wilderness Heart is out September 14 and they play the Phoenix on October 31.

Arcade Fire’s first video from The Suburbs is a live clip of “Ready To Start” recorded in July in London.

Video: Arcade Fire – “Ready To Start”

Two Hours Traffic have a new clip from this year’s Territory.

Video: Two Hours Traffic – “Happiness Burns”

There’s also a new video from Tokyo Police Club’s new record Champ. They’ll be showcasing it when they open up for Phoenix at the Ricoh Coliseum on October 22. Still find it weird that they haven’t done or scheduled a headlining hometown show for the new record yet.

Video: Tokyo Police Club – “Bambi”

Hot Hot Heat and Hey Rosetta will pair up for a show at the Mod Club on October 8, tickets $29.25.

MP3: Hot Hot Heat – “21 @ 12” (alternate version)
Video: Hey Rosetta – “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

The lineup for this year’s Supercrawl, the annual arts and music free street thing in Hamilton, has been announced and offers a compelling argument for making the trek to Steeltown – on September 25, they’ll be presenting performances from Elliott Brood, Cadence Weapon and Bruce Peninsula, amongst many others. And did I mention it’s free?

And finally, if you’re all nostalgic for this past June when NXNE descended on the city like so much a plague of locusts, then check out this feature at Le Blogotheque where the duly commissioned Take-Away Show videographers captured performances from a number of artists in the streets of Toronto. Part one features The Soft Pack, Avi Buffalo, Library Voices and DM Stith and there’s more to come.

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

The Chemistry Of Common Life

Fucked Up win 2009 Polaris Music Prize to delight of critics and dismay of censors

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThroughout this year’s process for the Polaris Music Prize, I’ve been saying that I’m thankful that I was on the Grand Jury last year – when there were no shortage of albums on the short list that I could get behind and the one I felt most deserving, Caribou’s Andorra, won – rather than this year, where the nominees by and large leave me feeling cold. That’s not saying that they’re not good or great albums worthy of the prize, just that I don’t think that I could come up with a real heartfelt advocacy for any of them. So while I’m glad I wasn’t sequestered in the jury room, I do sort of wish I had been a fly on the wall to see just how they decided to award this year’s prize to Fucked Up’s The Chemistry Of Common Life.

Make no mistake – I am thrilled that they won. Not necessarily because I’m a fan – hardcore is not my thing – but because if I were to have a horse in this race, it’d either have been them or K’Naan for no other reason than they would be the most surprising and interesting winners (though also, somehow, the least controversial). Both represent genres that most would have thought would be too niche to actually win the big prize, too outlier to win over a jury (theoretically) representing a broad cross-section of a diverse country. And yet here we are – a band with a name that can’t be printed or pronounced in most media outlets and a record that has more screaming than singing – has been declared the best this country has to offer. Fun-fucking-tastic.

So while Fucked Up improbably took the competition portion of the evening, the almost three hours of celebration leading up to it belonged to pretty much everyone. For the first time in the four-year history of the gala, all ten nominees were slated to perform – which made the scheduled allotment of two hours pretty absurd. Things were definitely going to go to overtime. Things started off with Metric – at least the James and Emily half of the band – performing acoustic renditions of “Help, I’m Alive” and “Gimme Sympathy”, trading the slick synth-powered album arrangements for something simpler and prettier, a side of the band not often seen. Great Lake Swimmers and Malajube followed up with solid but fairly typical two-song sets that were enjoyable and certainly reaffirmed that they belonged on the short list, but were not revelatory – especially not after being followed by Patrick Watson. The 2007 Polaris winner is a bit of a punching bag in some quarters precisely because he won the 2007 prize, but stunts like the one he pulled on this evening – leading his band into the hall like a marching band while decked out in a harness of megaphones and lights, all weird and wonderful – can’t help but generate good will. You’re winning me over, Watson, though it’s got little to do with your music.

If there was a prize to be awarded by the audience based on the performances, though, the Polaris would have gone to K’Naan. The man had an irresistible charisma onstage and his selections from Troubadour so powerful and anthemic, you wanted to give him the award – hell, every award – right then and there. Joel Plaskett followed up by taking things down a few notches, his first selection a downbeat and mellow piece performed with his father and then inviting Three collaborators Ana Egge and Rose Cousins out for a more upbeat “Deny Deny Deny”, and in the process reaffirming the fact that it’s impossible to dislike Joel Plaskett. It’s also impossible to keep a straight face whenever Chad Van Gaalen gets near a microphone. Though his set showcasing the noisy and delicate sides of Soft Airplane – which are often the same side – was fine, it was the introduction from Radio Free Canuckistan’s Michael Barclay and Van Gaalen’s own demented and rambling thank-you speech – both paying tribute to Leonard Cohen in the process – that were the real highlights of his moment in the spotlight. If you’re inclined to think that someone who makes the sort of animations that he does isn’t quite right in the head… you’re probably right.

Windsor’s Elliott Brood ratcheted up the audience participation quotient, handing out metal baking trays and wooden spoons and encouraging the house to clatter along, making for a righteous racket and turning the gala into a hoe-down. As the band gave shout-outs to the other nine nominees, it seemed clear they weren’t here to win – just to have a good time. Newfoundland’s Hey Rosetta! were pretty much an unknown quantity to me, but did their part to reaffirm as a land that likes big bands. They numbered 14, and I’m not sure if they played one song or two, but the first half was a down, piano-led dirge that thankfully blossomed into a grander, orchestral sort of thing. Maybe it was the lateness of the hour, but my attention was starting to wander. Hey Rosetta made little impression.

And then Fucked Up. The fact that they were scheduled to play last had less to do with their impending coronation – no one knew about that – but for the fact that they would be an impossible act to follow. Mayhem is to be expected at their shows and mayhem is what they brought. With inaugural Polaris winner Final Fantasy and Lullabye Arkestra along for the ride, they turned the heretofore genteel gala into something, well, fucked up. Frontman Damian Abraham wasted no time in stripping down to his underwear while performing and even gave himself a wedgie. They played just one song – I believe Chemistry lead track “Son The Father” – but that was all they needed to basically blow everyone away. Though I’d heard tale of their live energy, I’d never seen it before and wow. That’s all.

It was ironic that that this performance and this achievement would come at the Masonic Temple, a room they’d been been previously banned from by for causing a couple thousand dollars of damage. I think they can afford to pay that off now. During their acceptance speech, Abraham mentioned that the band had been frisked by security every time they came into the building for the gala. If they get searched on the way out, they’d better have an explanation for why Abraham’s got that giant cheque shoved into his pants (assuming he’s wearing pants). Because I don’t really have an explanation for how they won, just a hearty congratulations that they did.

The Toronto Star talked to Abraham post-win about their plans for the $20,000 prize. Spinner also reports back from the post-show press conference.

Here’s some photos from the night and after the jump, a recap of all the short list nominees, with attendant A/V materials.

Photos: 2009 Polaris Music Prize Gala @ The Masonic Temple – September 21, 2009


Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

No Epiphany

2009 Polaris Prize Short List nominees announced

Photo By David WaldmanDavid WaldmanSo yesterday was P-Day – the announcement of the short list for the fourth annual Polaris Music Prize – and perhaps the biggest surprise with the results was the fact that there weren’t any surprises. Of the ten, six were previously nominees from years past which, some might say, just shows they’re among the country’s elite artists and while they may well be, I can say personally that few of the final ten albums really stirred me in a significant way – certainly not as much as any of the ones on my final ballot. I should note that between my first ballot and final ballot, I dropped Metric in favour of Coeur De Pirate so my picks are actually not represented at all in the final tally.

But anyways. Perusing the list, all I can think is that I’m glad I was a member of the grand jury last year and not this year because I’d have trouble really getting impassioned about championing any of the nominees – of course, you could argue that would make a more ideal, objective juror, but that’s someone else’s problem this year. And I’ll tell you this – having been in that room, anyone who thinks that they can guess who will walk away with the big cheque this year based on, well, anything at all, is just wrong. It is fascinating what some people like and use as criteria for this stuff, and they’re generally not nearly as adventurous, safe, predictable or random as you might expect.

My thoughts on the nominees are random at best. As mentioned both above and previously, I think the Metric record is a superb pop record – hence its inclusion on my first ballot – but I can’t say it has that ephemeral something special that would make me go to bat for it as the best the country has produced in the past year. The Great Lake Swimmers nomination has a whiff of lifetime achievement recognition about it – even just four albums in – but I also think it’s their best yet so I can get behind that, although its adherence to such traditional song forms may work against it. Same for Plaskett. By the same token, I think that being so untraditional – at least in terms of what people think of as “Canadian music” – might work against Fucked Up and K’Naan. I’m no expert in either hardcore or hip-hop, but enough who are get behind those two records that I will happily accept that they’re outstanding examples of their respective genres. Chad Van Gaalen I’m on record as just not getting the way many others do, and I’ve accepted that and moved on. The Malajube I thought was just okay and not as good as their last nominated record. The rest of the nominees, I have no strong feelings about one way or the other. And that’s my immediate overall reaction to the whole list – just, “huh”.

So yes, here’s the nominees in alphabetical order with some A/V accompaniment. I do feel compelled to point out that since there’s not actually anyone in the band named Elliott Brood, they should probably be filed under “E” rather than “B”. But anyways.

Elliott Brood / Mountain Meadow
MP3: Elliott Brood – “Write It All Down For You”

Fucked Up / The Chemistry Of Common Life
MP3: Fucked Up – “No Epiphany”

Great Lake Swimmers / Lost Channels
MP3: Great Lake Swimmers – “Pulling On A Line” (zip)

Hey Rosetta! / Into Your Lungs (and around your heart and on through your blood)
Video: Hey Rosetta – “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

K’Naan / Troubadour
Video: K’Naan – “ABC’s

Malajube / Labyrinthes
MP3: Malajube – “Porte Disparu”

Metric / Fantasies
Video: Metric – “Gimme Sympathy”

Joel Plaskett / Three
Video: Joel Plaskett – “Through & Through & Through”

Chad Van Gaalen / Soft Airplane
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Willow Tree”

Patrick Watson / Wooden Arms
Video: Patrick Watson – “Fireweed”

More Polaris commentary at Zoilus, where Carl has a typically insightful look at how and why he thinks Polaris year four shook out the way it did, Exclaim and eye were slinking around the announcement ceremony yesterday, notebooks in hand, talking to whomever and Chart got to talk to Damien Abraham of Fucked Up about the nomination. They’re pictured above not because I’m particularly biased towards them, but because I’ve never used one of their photos before and they are about as much of a dark horse as you’re going to find in the class of 2009. The winner will be chosen on September 21 in a ceremony to be held at the Masonic Temple in Toronto – a different and smaller locale than the Phoenix, where it’s been the last three years. Maybe they’re cutting down on the attendees…? Or maybe just our cheese platters?

But what I find most interesting/ironic about the timing of the Polaris announcement was that it came on the same day as the official release of what was, for my nickel, easily the most interesting, heartfelt and altogether excellent Canadian album of the second half of 2008 and first half of 2009 – Hometowns by The Rural Alberta Advantage. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. They failed to meet the eligibility requirements on account of having made their self-release of the album available for sale via their website and at shows a couple of months before the May 31, 2008 cut-off. This probably netted them a few hundred sales, if even, but cost them a shot at the Polaris, although I did nominate them last year, obviously to no avail. But they’re doing alright – regardless of what you think of Pitchfork, the 8.0 score bestowed upon them yesterday can only help their wonderfully upwards trajectory. In fact, this piece at Hit Singularity uses the band as a case study of how to become a “buzz band”, thankfully in a non-cynical context. Exclaim has a video interview and live performance, The Edmonton Journal an interview and Spinner has an interview as well as a stream of the album. Their label has also made another MP3 available to sample. And if you didn’t think their July 30 show at the Horseshoe was going to be totally sold-out, you’d better think so now.

MP3: The Rural Alberta Advantage – “Frank, AB”
Stream: The Rural Alberta Advantage / Hometowns

NXEW interviews Matt Cully of Bruce Peninsula, who surprised some/many by not making the short list – I’ll pin that one on simple geography, as though they made a pretty huge impression on those in their hometown Toronto area, they’re only just now beginning to spread the gospel through the rest of the country.

NPR has a Tiny Desk concert with Julie Doiron, one of the few (?) eligible past nominees who didn’t make the short list. Actually, I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day didn’t make the long list either.

New York Press talks to Dan Boeckner of Handsome Furs, another act many thought would be on the short list.

Buzzgrinder has part the third of the Reverie Sound Revue blog tour – a live performance of “Prelude To A Debut” from their self-titled debut. They’re also sharing up another MP3.

MP3: Reverie Sound Revue – “Opposite Of Thieves”

A release date for the second Friends In Bellwoods charity compilation, mentioned last week, has been given a release date of August 25. It’s 40 songs across two CDs and, if you want to stick with the Polaris theme, features no shortage of artists who’ve already been nominated for the prize and plenty more who surely will be in the future – think of it as a snapshot of everything that’s musically great in Toronto right now. Release shows have already been scheduled – a pre-release shin-dig August 19 at the Gladstone, and a two-part party at the end of the month – August 28 at Lee’s Palace and on the 29th in Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Details on performers and whatnot forthcoming.