Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Moneyballing the Polaris Prize long list

Amelia Curran should have
been on the 2015 long list

Here it is, folks, your 2015 Polaris Music Prize long list. 196 critics voted for 197 titles, and we wound up with these 40. Some kings went down for a fall. Some obscure underdogs are now part of the conversation. Ten will be on the short list, announced July 16, and one will be given $50,000 on Sept. 21. (The other nine artists on the short list get $3,000 each.)

Absolutely Free – s/t 
The Acorn – Vieux Loup
Lydia Ainsworth – Right From Real
Alvvays – s/t
Arkells – High Noon
Rich Aucoin – Ephemeral
BadBadNotGood feat. Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul
Bahamas – Is Afie
Barr Brothers - Sleeping Operator
Braids – Deep in the Iris
Steph Cameron – Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady
Caribou – Our Love
Jazz Cartier – Marauding in Paradise
Jennifer Castle – Pink City
Cold Specks – Neuroplasticity
Louis-Jean Cormier – Les Grandes Arteres
Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World
Drake – If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late
Frazey Ford – Indian Ocean
Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon
B.A. Johnston – Shit Sucks
Pierre Kwenders – Le dernier empereur bantou
Lee Harvey Osmond – Beautiful Scars
Jean Leloup – A Paradis City
Metz – II
Milk and Bone – Little Morning  
Tre Mission – Stigmata
New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
Joel Plaskett – Park Avenue Sobriety Test
Buffy Sainte-Marie – Power in the Blood
Elizabeth Shepherd – The Signal
Siskiyou – Nervous
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld – Never the Way She Was
Various Artists – Native North America
Viet Cong – s/t
Patrick Watson – Love Songs for Robots
Weather Station – Loyalty
White Lung – Deep Fantasy
Whitehorse – Leave No Bridge Unburned
Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv

I wrote about some trends in this list for Maclean's today as well, and make the case for 74-year-old Buffy Sainte-Marie having a good shot at being the oldest winner in the history of Polaris—which usually has a Logan's Run policy at age 40.

Familiar faces
Previous winners: 2 (Caribou, Patrick Watson)
Previous shortlisters: 9
Previous longlisters: 8
New to Polaris: 21
Compilations: 1 (first time that’s happened)
Most appearances on Polaris list: Patrick Watson, Joel Plaskett and New Pornographers are all making their fourth appearance on a Polaris list. [updated] Tom Wilson's main project, Lee Harvey Osmond, has now made three long lists; his other band, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, has also longlisted, meaning he too has been on four times.

Toronto: 16
Montreal: 6
Vancouver: 5
Hamilton: 4 (Arkells, Caribou, Lee Harvey Osmond, B.A. Johnston)
Halifax: 2 (Rich Aucoin, Joel Plaskett) (also Alvvays)
Quebec City: 1
Ottawa: 1 (The Acorn)
Calgary: 1
Rural B.C.: 1 (Steph Cameron)
Hawaii via Saskatchewan: 1 (Buffy Sainte-Marie)

West of Ontario: 7
East of Quebec: 2

Babies and geezers
Debut albums: 7
Oldest performers: Buffy Sainte-Marie, 74; [updated] Tom Wilson (Lee Harvey Osmond), 55; Jean Leloup, 54; A.C. Newman (New Pornographers), 47; Ghostface Killah, 45

Hip-hop: 4 (Drake, BadBadNotGood, Jazz Cartier, Tre Mission)
Francophone: 3 (Louis-Jean Cormier, Pierre Kwenders, Jean Leloup)
Experimental: 2 (Absolutely Free, Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld)
Electronic: 2 (Rich Aucoin, Caribou)
Aggressive: 2 (White Lung, Metz)
Jazz: 1 (Elizabeth Shepherd)
World: 1 (Pierre Kwenders, though arguably electronic)
Everything else (rock, pop, folk, roots): 25

The ladies
Female-fronted bands or solo acts: 14
Bands not fronted by women but with female instrumentalists: 1 (New Pornographers) (Note: there are only 14 acts on the list that could be considered bands, not solo acts or duos)

Heroes to zeroes
Godspeed You Black Emperor (abstained) (winner, 2013)
Tagaq (winner, 2014): She didn't release an album of her own material, but her 2015 album with the Kronos Quartet, Tundra Songs, featured compositions by Derek Charke.
Fucked Up (winner 2008, shortlist 2012)

Previous shortlisters left off the 2015 long list:
Purity Ring (shortlisted, 2013) 
Galaxie (shortlisted 2011)
Ron Sexsmith (shortlisted 2011) Previous album didn’t longlist either
Hey Rosetta (shortlisted 2009, 2011)
Stars (shortlisted 2008, longlisted 2011) Previous album didn’t longlist either
Elliott Brood (shortlisted 2009) Previous album didn’t longlist either
Great Lake Swimmers (shortlisted 2009, longlisted 2012)
Dan Mangan (shortlisted, 2010, longlisted 2012)

And these artists, though they’ve never made the shortlist, have long-listed more than once—but not this year:
Leonard Cohen (longlisted 2009, 2012) 
Buck 65 (longlisted 2008, 2011)
Hayden (longlisted 2008, 2013)
Sloan (longlisted 2009, 2011)

Juno winners, Polaris losers:
Magic! (Single of the Year, Breakthrough Group of the Year)
Nickelback (new album not eligible at last Junos, but multiple winner over the years)
Kiesza (Dance Recording of the Year)
Lights (Pop Album of the Year)
Deadmau5 (Electronic Album of the Year)
Catherine MacLellan    (Roots and Traditional – Solo)
Devin Townsend Project (Metal Album of the Year) 

So who was robbed? I thought these would surely be on the list:
Amelia Curran
Rochelle Jordan
Mo Kenney
Terra Lightfoot

And then some albums I was considering (and/or voted for), but wasn’t sure if they’d make it:
Afiara Quartet + Skratch Bastid
Leonard Cohen
Ian William Craig
Iceberg Ferg
Keita Juma
Daniel Lanois
Last Ex
Salomé Leclerc

I’ll elaborate more on those in a later post.
In the meantime, I urge you to give these all a spin.

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