Polaris Music Prize and Montreal

Posted on September 9th, 2009 by .

The Polaris Music Prize is an annual music award given out to the best Canadian album of the year. Though Canada already has the Juno Awards, Polaris is special because unlike the industry-centric Junos, it’s given out based exclusively “on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales or record label.” It has also helped show that Montreal has one of the best music scenes in the country…

Established in 2006 and modeled loosely after the UK’s Mercury Prize, the Polaris is picked by a group of music critics from across the country. I’m one of those critics and this year have been selected to be one of the 11 Grand Jury members tasked with picking the ultimate winner. Simple bragging is not the reason I’m writing this post (ok, maybe it’s part of the reason). But rather, it’s an excellent way to illustrate what a deep and diverse music scene can be found in Montreal.

Here’s how the process works: a huge group of critics vote to help create a list of 40 albums (“the Long List”). They then vote on those and, from there, create a list of 10 (“the Short List”). Then the Grand Jury gets together and painstakingly narrows it down to one winner, which is announced on September 21st at Toronto’s Masonic Temple. Montreal bands have always done very well at these awards and 2009 looks to be no exception…

Of the 40 Canadians albums that made it onto this year’s Long List, 19 were from Montreal. My math skills have always been fairly poor, but I’m pretty sure that’s almost half. There are two bands from Montreal on the Short List. First up is the piano-led cinematic pop of Patrick Watson, who won the award in 2007 (and declared that the $20,000 cash prize would be spent on a rental car bill, cheeseburgers and a hot tub), who returns this year with Wooden Arms. Up next is Malajube, nominated for the first time in 2006, whose infectious French indie rock has propelled their latest album, Labyrinthes, into the final 10.

The Polaris head honchos are very serious about the decision-making process that goes into picking the final winner, so I can’t give you any insider info. I also take my inclusion in the Grand Jury very seriously, so a band being from Montreal is not going to be a determining factor in who I vote for. I just wanted to point out that you’d be hard pressed to find a more happening music scene in all of Canada.

So, if you’re in Montreal and want to tap into the local music scene, surf over to my Google Map of Montreal Nightlife, an article I wrote about Live Music in Montreal, or just go to Sala Rossa.

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