September 19, 2011

Polaris Prize Gala Tonight: Who Should Win?

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The 2011 Polaris Prize winner will be announced at the tonight’s Gala in Toronto. Over the past ten weeks, I’ve reviewed every Short List nominee, but haven’t played favorites until now. Here, without commentary, but links to reviews of all 10 albums, is my ranking of the ten contenders.

1. Colin Stetson, New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges 2. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs 3. The Weeknd, House of Balloons 4. Timber Timbre, Creep On Creepin’ On 5. Austra, Feel It Break 6. Braids, Native Speaker 7. Galaxie, Tigre et diesel 8. Destroyer, Kaputt 9. Hey Rosetta!, Seeds 10. Ron Sexsmith, Long Player Late Bloomer

The Gala will be broadcast live on CBC Radio 3 and Much at 5pm PST

August 19, 2011

North of Northwest: Galaxie – Tigre et diesel

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tigreetdiesel

 

 

I’ve never seen the Vh1 show, but I can agree with the sentiment: I love the 90s. They were my formative years, the decade that bore witness to my adolescence, to my cultural and, well, all sorts of awakenings. As such, I will always have a soft spot for them in my heart. This is why I couldn’t resist buying the Bush CD I found for ninety-nine cents at Goodwill, why I once held an Empire Records costume party, why I will “awesome” that Eve 6 song every time someone plays it on turntable.fm. Nostalgia, to twist the words of the Handsome Furs, does mean a little something to me.

I cannot, however, argue that nostalgia is a valuable cultural force. Having fond memories of 90s pop radio does not mean that I crave musical rehashes of “Don’t Speak” or “Semi-Charmed Life.” And when a 2011 Polaris Prize shortlister sounds like a late-nineties powerpop obscurity, I get a little puzzled.

On Tigre et diesel, Montreal’s Galaxie does a great job combining rock-n-roll swagger with dance-floor pop. Fuzzed-out guitars buzz over finger-snapping rhythms, and the swagger-filled beats are just the right speed for lascivious dance-floor hip shaking. I see sweaty girls and strobe lights, smell the black leather jacket on a very close neighbor in a crowded club. It’s almost rock’n'roll, and I like it.

But – and here is an argument I seem to keep coming round to this Polaris year – just because it’s good doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near great. Tigre et diesel is highly enjoyable and highly derivative. Every song involuntarily reminds me of another song by another band. “Requin Tigre” could almost be an Outkast number. At least fifty percent of the album I would mistake for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were it in English instead of French. And (though this is not really a complaint) I’ll be damned if the beginning to “Jusqu’a la fin” doesn’t sound just like the intro to Weezer’s “My Name Is Jonas.”

What bugs me the most is that Tigre et diesel is widely considered to be the year’s “token” Francophone entry. But with some of the most innovative and avant-garde music being made today coming out of Montreal, surely any (supposed) tokenism duties could have been shouldered by a band that looks forward, not backward? Have we fallen victim to lowest common denomitator-ism? Are we seeing the perils of taking a slice out of the middle of the bell curve?

Tigre et diesel is good, and it’s fun, and it’s loud, and it’s got some sex appeal. But when it comes to the Polaris, I don’t just want a band to blow their speakers. I want them to blow my mind. ______

Slightly NSFW:

July 6, 2011

2011 Polaris Prize Short List

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The 2011 Polaris Prize Short List was announced this morning.

Ten albums remain in the hunt for the $30,000 prize:

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs Austra – Feel It Break Braids – Native Speaker Destroyer – Kaputt Galaxie – Tigre et Diesel Hey Rosetta! – Seeds Ron Sexsmith – Long Player Late Bloomer Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges Timber Timbre – Creep on Creepin’ On The Weeknd – House of Balloons

You may note that none of my top five made the Short List. This means that I have lots of new music to consider (and old music to reconsider) in the time until the grand prize winner is named. Over the next ten weeks, I’ll be covering each contender in depth and eventually naming my favorite to take home the big check.

Please feel free to share your own thoughts on the Short List in the comments below. ______

The 2011 Polaris Prize winner will be announced September 19 in Toronto.