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2012 Winner & Nominees
The 2012 Polaris Music Prize Winner - Feist

Artist: Feist
Album: Metals
Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

Produced by Feist, Chilly Gonzales and Mocky.

Feist couldn't have found a better place to record her album Metals than Big Sur, where the beautiful scenery of Coastal California carries amazement as well as contemplation. That's exactly the feeling gathered by the songs found on Metals, an album full of nuances which confirms that Feist will never confine in ease.

Four years after the success of The Reminder, Feist had indeed two choices: to surf on a wave called 1234 or to start over again. The Nova Scotia native took a risk… and it paid off.

Metals is spellbinding from the very first listen. “Graveyard”, and its superb choir at the end, along with first single “How Come You Never Go There”, carried by Feist's delicate vocals, catch on straight away. But the richness of this precious Metals surfaces after several listens, as if Feist was encouraging us to stop everything for a moment and be lulled into. And this is how we fall in love for the melancholic “Anti-Pioneer” or the military-like chorus of “A Commotion”.

But what is most surprising about Metals is this constant impression that its creator is offering us some sort of intimate concert (“Get It Wrong, Get It Right”, “Cicadas & Gulls”), that there's only her and the listener, alone, in a musical symbiosis.

- Cédric Bélanger, Le Journal De Québec

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The 2012 Polaris Music Prize Short List Nominees

Artist: Cadence Weapon
Album: Hope In Dirt City
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Of course Cadence Weapon, born Roland Pemberton, would call his third proper album Hope in Dirt City. Though he has lived in Montreal for the last three years, Pemberton's relationship with his hometown of Edmonton informs his latest record, a rap album about the struggle for human connection in our modern age (this it shares with fellow Polaris nominee Drake and his album Take Care). It's also about pissing in alleys, sleeping with pretty girls, getting drunk at disreputable clubs, and generally twisting the English language into new shapes. It's the kind of record that reveals new layers every time you listen to it, featuring the kind of beats that could convince crate-diggers they were sampled from the greatest unheard jazz albums ever, even if they knew that most of them weren't sampled at all (at least in the traditional sense). But what makes this Pemberton's best album yet is that it's also his most universal: Any city could be Dirt City, and there's hope for "the troubled kids all concerned with existence" in each and every one of them. "It's hard to stay alive, turn 25," the former Edmonton poet laureate deadpans on "Crash Course for the Ravers," both satirizing mid-mid-life crises and acknowledging that no one warned our generation just how hard becoming a functioning, well-adjusted adult would be at times. "Sure, I live here, but at least I have friends," he raps on the title track, and while he doesn't have all the answers, that sure feels like a good place to start.

- Renato Pagnani, freelance journalist. -

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Artist: Cold Specks
Album: I Predict A Graceful Expulsion
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Produced by Jim Anderson.

Introducing herself under the moniker Cold Specks, 23-year old Al Spx seemed to erupt spontaneously from a void we didn't know existed. When she arrived, the Etobicoke singer-songwriter brought a vocal style that has never before been heard in Canadian music. Here, a delivery weighted by equal parts torment and tranquility, brightness and shadow. A voice heaving both heavenly exhalations and Cimmerian burdens. A sound usually rising from the banks of the Mississippi, rather than the edges of Ontario's Humber River.

And every important voice demands a platform. On her confident debut, I Predict a Graceful Expulsion, the platform comes in subtle accents. It comes together - the hammer pounds, the symphonic sawing – to create a foundation of sound that borrows elements of places with little connection to her home. In this record are the echoes of American gothic, the choral swells of Southern churches and hard-won victories, of forgotten ghosts and reawakened angels.

Cold Specks may have come at us unexpectedly, but has brought a welcome new voice to the Canadian musical topography. "Keep your eyes closed, ear to the ground," she sings, "every map is blank." We look forward to watching the paths unfold.

- Brad Frenette, CBC

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Artist: Drake
Album: Take Care
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Produced by: Noah "40" Shebib, Aubrey "Drake" Graham, Boi 1da, Carlo "Illangelo" Montagnese, The Weeknd, T-Minus, Just Blaze, Chase N. Cashe and Martin "Doc" McKinney.

Hip-hop has always had an autobiographical element, but traditionally the version of self a rapper presents is amplified and idealized, made badder, richer, sexier, smarter, better. It’s self-improvement in the most literal sense. Take Care, by contrast, offers a self that is boastful and self-deprecating, as prone to self-doubt as it is to self-mythologizing. Drake knows he has skills but is not so sure he has a life, and seems painfully aware of the downside of being on top, at one point describing his wealth by noting that “nowadays it’s six figures when they tax me.” This isn’t keepin’ it real so much as making it realistic. Just as alt-rock sought to replace the calculating artifice of corporate rock with unvarnished self-expression, Drake’s album stands as both a critique of the hip-hop status quo and a way around it. It offers songs, not just loops with rhymes, and there’s a sense of musicality to the wordplay that seems inextricably linked to the music behind it — and not just when Drake is singing.

With Take Care, Drake changes the rules, and offers a way forward that will, in retrospect, be seen as being a breakthrough on the level of Nirvana’s Nevermind.

- JD Considine, Globe And Mail

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Artist: Kathleen Edwards
Album: Voyageur
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Produced by Justin Vernon and Kathleen Edwards.

Music is emotion and Kathleen Edwards bleeds it here. Yes, it’s a break-up album, but it’s so much more. These are songs about the stuff that makes us mortal – longing, self-loathing, heartache, betrayal, doubt, guilt, bitterness, regret. This record cries on your shoulder. Sometimes you want to reach through the speakers and give her a big warm hug. Much has been made about Edwards’ new alliance with American producer Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, about how it has transformed an alt-country queen into an indie rocker. But Voyageur – like all of Kathleen Edwards’ albums – is all about the art of song writing. Critics have turned words “honesty” and “sincerity” into clichés. There’s nothing clichéd about Voyageur. It’s brutally honest, recklessly open. Edwards travels through hell in search of – not heaven – but just a soft landing. She found it in Voyageur.

- Graham Rockingham, Hamilton Spectator.

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Artist: Fucked Up
Album: David Comes to Life
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Produced by Shane Stoneback and 10,000 Marbles.

Boy meets girl. Girl inspires boy to blow up bomb factory. Boy’s bomb kills girl. Boy realizes that he’s actually a character, and that it’s the story’s narrator who killed girl. Narrator explains himself. Boy comes to terms with girl’s death. A tale as old as time.

That’s the gist of Fucked Up’s exhilarating David Comes to Life . . . I think. Admittedly, in practice the album’s narrative is a bit obtuse, but so what? Concept albums aren’t really about plot, anyways: they’re about leveraging the idea of plot, of character, to broaden the canvas, to stack emotional revelations track by track. And in that sense, David is Fucked Up’s heaviest record yet.

But the album’s best revelations are layered in its three-guitar assault, an anthemic tour-de-force that finds the band playing not just to the kids in the mosh pit, but the ticket holders in the cheap seats. This is Toronto punk rewritten as stadium rock, with Damien Abraham’s growl holding the record’s disparate aims together with each endearingly gawky rhyming couplet.

Excessive? Sure. Ridiculous? At times. Brilliant? Sounds pretty damn close to it.

- Ryan McNutt, McNutt Against the Music

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Artist: Grimes
Album: Visions
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Produced by Claire Boucher.

Visions is a record that ensures Claire Boucher’s ascent into outer space. Whether taken as a whole on vinyl or bit by bit in a video clip or sound tracked .gif, Visions evokes memories of dancing on tables, drinks in plastic cups, and the black and orange capsules Dexedrine comes in. You are awake on a speed high, adorned with plastic pussy rings. Nothing else feels quite like it.

One cannot separate the artist from the music. Boucher, aka. Grimes, has transmogrified the pop music of the 90s. You can hear in her affected vocals the baby coos of Mariah Carey through the gritty filter of a Montreal loft party.

Visions was made for the attention span of the Internet age. It has infected the web and its denizens. Grimes is a queen, living an existence beyond the bounds of reality. She is a cartoon character, an anime princess, a digital whiz kid, a crust punk ballerina. A Canadian maverick enamoured with Los Angeles style. Her music and image is remixed and re-appropriated as she remixes and re-appropriates. She is new music, and the lore surrounding Grimes exemplifies the boundless possibilities of the new world and those who brave it.

- Jeanette Stewart, The Star Phoenix

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Artist: Handsome Furs
Album: Sound Kapital
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Produced by Handsome Furs and Arlen Thompson.

Some bands see traveling the world as a means to spread their music, others see music as a means to travel the world. Handsome Furs saw the two as inextricably symbiotic—and yes, it’s deeply saddening to use past-tense after the duo disbanded. Being in the Furs allowed Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry to feed their foreign-land fever, but these tour experiences through Eastern Europe, South America and across Asia infused their music, both sonically and lyrically, with an eyes-wide-open worldview.

On Sound Kapital, Furs’ signature Springsteenian anthemics moved even further onto the dance floor with its amped-up analogue synths and Cold War drum machines, but like Britney, they were dancing ‘til the world ends. Not surprising for a group that gravitated to places like Russia, performed with Burmese bands and whose albums charted the transition from the Terror Era to the Financial Crisis, the Furs saw the Apocalypse happening now.

Last fall, Boeckner’s lyrics also provided an early, unintentionally perfect soundtrack to the Occupy Movement with fists-raised rockers like “Serve the People.” Now both groups have gone into hiding, but one can only hope that when the “violent and bright” future the Furs sang about comes to pass, that their impact will be felt far and wide.

- Joshua Ostroff, Spinner Canada and Huffington Post Canada Music

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Artist: Japandroids
Album: Celebration Rock
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Produced by Jesse Gander and Japandroids.

Don’t let the title fool you. Celebration Rock is not your typical album of party rock anthems. If this pair of garage-rockin’ Japandroids are doing any wiggling, it’s in and out of hell — as Brian King rails about fleeting love, Elvis, fame, revenge, and the seductive call of the road. “She'll kiss away your gypsy fears and turn some restless nights to restless years,” he sings on Fire’s Highway. The Vancouver duo’s second album, which opens with the gun-like pops of fireworks, is a glorious mess of raspy chants, working-class roots riffs, and David Prowse‘s endless crash of cymbals. There’s no shortage of defiance in these eight songs – not of the Broadway-punk-musical ilk, but the we-might-be-screwed-but-let’s-try-to-enjoy-ourselves variety. Or at least let’s fuck the concept of perfection. “If I had all of the answers and you had the body you wanted would we love with a legendary fire?” King asks on Continuous Thunder, the final track on Celebration Rock. Cue another burst of fireworks – in your ears and the depths of your soul.

- Sandra Sperounes, Edmonton Journal

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Artist: YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN
Album: YT // ST
Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

Produced by Alaska B.

There is great potential in the concept of “urban music”. If we really think about what urban music can articulate with respect to Canadian cities, Yamantaka/Sonic Titan may be the most "urban" group of the year. This is the kind of record that happens when city dwellers in two of the most multicultural urban areas of the world mix up gender, culture and genre with a sense of urgency: Toronto and Montreal should produce more music like this. It's the most original thing I've heard this year; complicated but tuneful, aggressive and approachable. There’s so much information to this music but it’s rendered succinct with huge grungy riffs, scratchy organ swells, and fiercely melodic vocal lines. YT//ST’s strong sense of theatricality and ritual commands the listener to absorb it all at once. Coming in at 31 minutes, just over the Polaris minimum running time, it’s a compact piece of work that allows for deep and wide grooves to be pressed on vinyl, which flatter its considerable bass frequencies. There is no finer record in Canada this year that marries experimentation and focus. This sounds like the birth of a new culture.

- David Dacks, Exclaim!


The 2012 Polaris Music Prize Long List Nominees

A Tribe Called Red - A Tribe Called Red
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Marie-Pierre Arthur - Aux alentours
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Rich Aucoin - We're All Dying To Live
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Avec pas d'casque - Astronomie
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Azari & III - Azari & III
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Bahamas - Barchords
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The Barr Brothers - The Barr Brothers
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Blackie And The Rodeo Kings - Kings And Queens
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Cadence Weapon - Hope In Dirt City
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Kathryn Calder - Bright And Vivid
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Cannon Bros. - Firecracker/Cloudglow
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Coeur de pirate - Blonde
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Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
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Cold Specks - I Predict A Graceful Expulsion
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Rose Cousins - We Have Made A Spark
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Mark Davis - Eliminate the Toxins
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Drake - Take Care
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Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
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Feist - Metals
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Fucked Up - David Comes to Life
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Great Lake Swimmers - New Wild Everywhere
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Grimes - Visions
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Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital
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Japandroids - Celebration Rock
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Dan Mangan - Oh Fortune
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Mares Of Thrace - The Pilgrimage
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Ariane Moffatt - MA
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Lindi Ortega - Little Red Boots
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Parlovr - Kook Soul
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Sandro Perri - Impossible Spaces
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Joel Plaskett Emergency - Scrappy Happiness
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PS I Love You - Death Dreams
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John K. Samson - Provincial
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Shooting Guns - Born To Deal In Magic 1952-1976
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The Slakadeliqs - The Other Side of Tomorrow
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Patrick Watson - Adventures In Your Own Backyard
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Bry Webb - Provider
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The Weeknd - Echoes of Silence
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Yamantaka // Sonic Titan - YT//ST
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Yukon Blonde - Tiger Talk
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