It’s time to revisit the Polaris Music Prize Short List before the Polaris Gala. Taking place September 16 at The Carlu in Toronto, Polaris Short List-nominated acts FET.NAT, Les Louanges, Haviah Mighty and Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Marie Davidson, Dominique Fils-Aimé, Elisapie, PUP and Shad will all be performing. Jessie Reyez will also be in attendance.
The 2019 winning album will be determined at this year’s gala. CBC Music’s Raina Douris will host the gala, which will also be live-streamed globally at cbcmusic.ca/polaris. The 11-member Grand Jury will select this year’s winning album that night as well.
Shad – A Short Story About a War
A Short Story About A War delivers the raw reality of injustice, greed, and racism in our present time and space. Shad’s sixth studio album stands out as collage of expressionism, a mixed-media of sorts. It is my personal favourite of the final 10 albums. It is an amazing album!
PUP – Morbid Stuff
PUP balance wrath and math on Morbid Stuff’s most agitated songs. The punk rock band uses guitar solos and hyperspeed drumming with technical proficiency. They work hard and have never made angry sound so good.
Jessie Reyez – Being Human In Public
Her second EP, which collects singles she’s released over the course of this year, further stakes out her musical range, with her singular voice and smoldering passion tying together delicate balladry, boastful trap-pop and sorrowful synth malaise. I love listening to what she has to say.
Haviah Mighty – 13th Floor
13th Floor is her most cohesive and narratively ambitious album to date. The album’s title refers to both the superstitious tradition of buildings without a 13th floor and the 13th Amendment, forming a framework for Mighty’s impassioned commentary on cultural and socio-political identity. Over 13 tracks, she recalls harrowing brushes with racism in her neighborhood and classrooms growing up, and the close-knit family who taught her the importance of independence and perseverance. This was a new discovery for me this year and I am very glad that Polaris introduced me to her.
Snotty Nose Rez Kids – TRAPLINE
It is part trap and part classic rap. On one hand, their release is trap, the title should be your first hint, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that Trapline has five skits on a 18-song track list, and more significantly, each song is as lyrical as possible. They have added ad libs, skinny, resonating trap beats and references to everyone from Lil Pump to André 3000 to Rihanna, but that cannot hide the stories told of racism and identity struggles growing up Indigenous in Canada. Indeed, if Biggie spoke of Brooklyn’s issues in a catchy way, the Kids speak of Canada’s. I love the energy and passion of these guys.
Marie Davidson – Working Class Woman
On Working Class Woman, Davidson continues to explore the claustrophobic interior life of the club in frighteningly deadpan detail. The images here are even more incisive than they’ve been in the past, inhabiting a transgressively feminist comic style of writing and with a sound somewhere in between spoken word electroclash and dreamy dissonance.
FET.NAT – Le Mal
On their second proper album, the already-bizarre Quebec experimentalists splice and reformulate their DNA to become even more aggressively strange. They’ve essentially made two records from the same material: Le Mal’s first side features five songs performed by the band, while its back half is dedicated to MIDI reinterpretations—or degradations—of four of them. It’s a strange but very interesting album.
Les Louanges – La nuit est une panthère
La Nuit is another album which has a wonderful diversity within it, with your melancholier, airy prototypical “French” tunes (like “La nuit est une Panthere” and “Platane”) mixed in with your more swing-dance, EDM-style beats (like “Pitou”). It works for me.
Dominique Fils-Aimé – Stay Tuned!
The Montreal-based singer-songwriter continues the magic from her debut of somehow being impactful with her vocals by being subdued. Fils-Aimé’s theme of social justice – a recurring thread throughout her catalogue of contemporary soul and jazz – carries itself without the need to belt out lyrics or include high-intensity instrumental compositions. Pretty smooth stuff!
Elisapie – The Ballad of the Runaway Girl
Elisapie has grappled with darkness and reconnected with her community in Northern Quebec — both aspects that inform her album, The Ballad of the Runaway Girl. You can hear the emotional complexity immediately, with opening track “Arnaq” pairing ominous percussion with squealing electric guitars and vocal crescendos. This frenetic sense of chaos and composition continues throughout.
That’s our 10 nominees this year. Who is going to win? Is it the year a Hip Hop/Rap album wins? We shall see. I will be tuning in to watch the gala on Monday night, how about you? Taken a listen to the playlist below to hear a couple tracks from each album and let us know who you are hoping will win.
*sources: Pitchfork, Exclaim, Jazz Winnipeg, Rolling Stone, Spill Album Review