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Polaris Prize Holiday Gift Guide: Books, Posters, Records, Magic

· by Aaron Brophy

We often spend our time here in Polarisland focusing on what the shining jewels of our world — the artists — are up to.

What’s occasionally lost in this whole process is that the foot soldiers who make Polaris happen — the writers, editors, DJs, programmers and hosts — are pretty awesome people, too.

If you have any doubts just check our jury list. That’s like a who’s who of Canadian music media right there. And people should be sending everyone on that list their hot limited-edition vinyl releases every day.

Thing is, not only do our jurors know the difference between grime, the music type, and Grimes, the musical artist, many of them have pursued creative endeavors of their own.

We collected some of these projects together and decided to turn this week’s Polaris People column into the first annual Polaris Holiday Gift Guide.

Check out these many great ideas below and do consider helping support our jurors. The market has dropped out on used B4-4 CDs and they could really use the cash:

Over at hipCRANK John Sekerka has been taking old guitars and restoring them in a process somewhere between bedazzling and what Officer Alex Murphy went through in his transformation to becoming RoboCop.

Have Not Been The Same: The CanRock Renaissance 1985-1995 is the alpha reference guide for Canadian music in that era. Written by Polaris jurors Michael Barclay, Jason Schneider as well as Ian A.D. Jack in 2001, the book was reissued last year. More recently, though, the book has spawned a musical compilation featuring many of its key figures. The charity release through Pheromone Records includes the likes of Slow, Change Of Heart, Jane Siberry and Crash Vegas, all of whom would’ve been part of the Polaris conversation if it had existed back then. Another related compilation titled Have Not Been The Same – Vol. 1: Too Cool To Live, Too Smart To Die features contemporary acts like Hidden Cameras, Kevin Drew, Bry Webb and Great Lake Swimmers covering ’80s and early ’90s songs.

Looking back to an earlier era in Canadian music, Stuart Henderson of PopMatters has created Making The Scene: Yorkville And Hip Toronto In The 1960s. In it he tracks Canada’s hippie ground zero at a time when Neil Young and Joni Mitchell made the scene.

Polaris’ own Gala host and day-job CBCer Grant Lawrence has written Adventures In Solitude, the unlikely chronicles of when a city dwelling punk rocker suddenly starts living like Relic from Beachcombers.

Q host and Grant’s co-worker at CBC Jian Ghomeshi also has a book of his own called 1982. It is, predictably, about 1982. There’s also something in there about being I-wore-eyeliner-to-school-level obsessed with David Bowie.

If there’s anyone who knows about eyeliner and its related applications, that would be Polaris’ Queen of Darkness, Liisa Ladouceur. Her book Encyclopedia Gothica is perfect for that shadow in your life who wants to debate the differences between Southern Death Cult and The Cult.

Stuart Berman‘s day job is at Toronto alt-weekly The Grid, but it’s the author’s exhaustive documenting of the city’s music scene we’re most interested in. His first work This Book Is Broken: A Broken Social Scene Story investigated the winding family tree and equally winding romantic history of the past-Polaris nominated band. His most recent book is Too Much Trouble: A Very Oral History Of Danko Jones, which tracks the Mango Kid’s journey from indie scenemaker to Eurobound hard rocker.

Broken Social Scene aren’t the only former Polaris nominees to have books about them. The Dears have received that same treatment from Cult MTL’s Lorraine Carpenter in her book The Dears: Lost In The Plot.

If you want to know about that other Canadian music award (it’s all good, no hatin’), there’s Music From Far And Wide: Celebrating 40 Years Of The Juno Awards, written by Polaris jurors Karen Bliss, Nick Krewen and Jason Schneider as well as Larry Leblanc.

And to finish off our book list with something entirely unconnected to Crash Test Dummies’ “Superman’s Song,” juror Natalie Zina Walschots put out DOOM: Love Poems For Supervillains. It is exactly what the title suggests.

Of course, we here at Polaris Music Prize also have no shortage of our own gift ideas. First and foremost would be our super-limited, specially commissioned posters we make inspired by the albums on the Short List each year. You can view all of these posters here, and you can buy them through our special friends at Kid Icarus.

Finally, there’s the whole reason we actually do this whole thing in the first place — music. As in, music-music, the actual sound-y sounding stuff that goes into your ears. Everyone’s got their own process in this regard, but if we were to suggest a path of discover it would go something like this:

1) Get yourself a subscription to Rdio so you can discover a world of new music.

2) Then, when you fall irrationally in love with an album, go to one of the Polaris-approved record stores across the country and buy a copy of that album. Everyone wins.

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