Feist, the eventual winner, performing at last night's Polaris Music Prize gala
Last night (September 24), the Canadian music community came together to celebrate the year's best records at the seventh annual Polaris Music Prize - this year dedicated to the memory of Sam 'The Record Man' Sniderman. Hosted by Grant Lawrence of CBC Radio 3 and Lauren Toyota, there were performances from the seven shortlisted artists in attendance making quite the night for the industry folks, media and - above all else - fans of Canadian music. Check out all the talking points at CBC Music, like Grimes' performance and her new friend Gary... Gary's a pole dancer, just so you know.
Making their decision during the show itself, the Grand Jury named Feist's fourth record, Metals, the best of the year. Presented by last year's winners Arcade Fire, Leslie Feist accepted the award and (giant, novelty) cheque for $30,000 with grace and humility. There was a sense that not one person in the room begrudged her victory. If you're wondering where that $30,000 dollars will go, Feist hinted that charities will benefit in the press conference after the ceremony.
We were at the gala, and spoke to the CBC Radio hosts also in attendance to get their reaction to the result, their favourite aspects of the winning record Metals, and their highlights of the night:
On the Jury's decision to name Feist's Metals the 2012 Polaris Music Prize winner:
Jian Ghomeshi: I think it's a really good one. I've been in this room a few times when people have been shocked and questioning the result but I think there was a general level of, not just acceptance, but respect for the result tonight. There were some great records competing here but this is a woman who had a hit record three or four years ago, took her time, returned to the studio and made, comparatively, a quite eclectic and interesting adventurous musical record... it's a really, really, quality piece of work with a lot of integrity that The New York Times called the best album of last year in the world. So, is it deserving of the Polaris? Absolutely.
Rich Terfry: I love her record, but this was a year unlike any other year. I really had no clue. I didn't really have a prediction, maybe a slight leaning one way or another but... the shortlist is so diverse. I don't know how the Grand Jury did it. How do you compare the Yamantaka record to the Feist record to the Grimes record? They're from completely different universes. Seeing Feist perform at the end - and it was a really great performance - all of a sudden everything starts going crazy in my head... "jeez, now, wait a minute..." The words I'm hearing from most people are, "wow, I'm really surprised..." which I think is only an indication, and it's the same thing every year, that people think they have it figured out - how this thing works - and then they're reminded all over again - you have no idea what's going to happen with this thing.
Craig Norris: You know what's funny? Before, no one was talking about Feist. Everyone was thinking, "oh, it's Grimes' year," or, "oh, Cadence Weapon worked really hard on his record," or "oh, y'know, Yamantaka Sonic Titan are going to win because they're just so far afield." When you think about that record it really is a pretty artistic record. She was shortlisted before, and I thought The Reminder was pretty kick-ass. I have no quams about this choice at all. It's good for the Polaris Prize's profile because she's an internationally know artist and I also think that she's so freakin' well loved in the community that there's no one that's going to say she didn't deserve it or trash talk her. It was exciting to see, I think it's great for her, I think she was absolutely humbled by it which is really cool. It's one of those things where she had such a big year a few years ago, right? She won all those Junos and then she took a long time to make this record. Now, all of a sudden... it's like she had left the front of our minds and now, "oh yeah! Feist!" I think she totally deserves it.
Lana Gay: Feist is a fantastic performer and a beautiful writer and that album was incredible. I think this was a very tough year as far as the shortlist went. There were some phenomenal records and it was really hard to figure it out, before going into this. Thank God there was a jury for that. I'm happy she won, I think she's completely deserving and it's a beautiful, beautiful, record.
Grant Lawrence: I'm shocked as always. I'm always surprised, it's such a crapshoot to pick one in ten of anything... I've never ever, ever, ever, chosen the right record, seven years in. I've been intimately involved with the process, with this prize, with Steve Jordan and the thinking behind it... and yet I can not pick. I can often do pretty well at the shortlist predictions, but... man, I can not pick the winner. So, Feist, a surprise for me, but a happy surprise. I'm not going "oh, give me a break" Obviously she's already won a few Junos for Metals, so I offer her my congratulations on a prize well won.
On their favourite moments of Metals:
Jian: The polyrhythms, the fact that she's clearly not going for hit singles, the dexterity of her voice, the way she grows as a musician. There's nothing simple about the record. It's a really interesting record lyrically, with really interesting sounds on the record that are not traditional pop record sounds. It's called Metals, it's got some industrial kind of sounds that create the template underneath her more ethereal voice. It's a really quality piece of work, good for her. She was nominated for The Reminder and didn't win... a lot of people thought she should of won at the time... I think this is some sweet justice.
Rich: That's tough. I really like A Commotion. But this is a record, unlike a lot that are made these days, that really works as a whole. It's a really good front-to-back listen. Every time I hear Colin Stetson's gigantic mega sax, they're so heavy and it's so well placed on the album. That Caught a Long Wind song that she performed tonight... the first time I heard it brought a tear to my eye. When all is said and done my objectivity goes out the window, she's my friend and I'm really psyched for her. I'm excited to run over there and give her a hug!
Craig: How Come You Never Go There. I'm a sucker for a straight ahead kind of nice melody. That is definitely my favourite. When I first started playing it I was like, "oh, this will be a really good record," and you know it was a really good record but the single was not indicative of what was to come. I think that's why she's so fantastic, artists like Arcade Fire and Feist just do what they want to do, a lot like Neil Young does. That's what I love about Feist, she just does what she wants to do. I'm not saying anyone else on the list didn't make the record they wanted to, I'm saying she is unflinching and uncompromising. I think she's brave. I look at this record and I can't wait to see what could be next. I think it's a great pick, and of course, the debate will rage. CBC Radio 3 is going to be white hot.
Lana: I love Cicadas and Gulls, I think it's just a memorable track off the record. It's incredibly sweet and to me that's what I think of when I think of this record.
Grant: Cicadas and Gulls, that song I like a lot. Also, How Come You Never Go There. You know, I'm not a huge fan of Metals... to be completely honest, it wouldn't have been my pick. As Feist mentioned, this is a real internal record for her, she went inwards for her sound. I do appreciate it a little more now that I saw her play a couple of the songs live.
On their highlights of the gala:
Jian: It's always great to see the music community coming together. There are a lot of friends that I've known for a long, long, time. I thought Kathleen Edwards' performance was spectacular and I thought Feist was really amazing. The performances have nothing to do with what the Grand Jury decides but it still feels good to see some of the artists really go for it in front of this crowd.
Rich: We really liked the Grimes performance, not only for the crazy spectacle of the pole dancer, but it's really interesting to watch what she does live. At moments she's holding the microphone in her neck and she's operating all this stuff... and she's so young! We're just watching this kid up there who's mastered all this technology and has this really pretty voice and makes all this unbelievably interesting music.
Craig: My highlight of the night was Cold Specks. I think tied with Kathleen Edwards. I thought both of them were astounding. The fact that Kathleen chose to do a slower song, a quiet song... here's the thing: people were tweeting me and texting me... "how come she only gets to do one song?" They only have eight minutes. She chose to make a production of that. I think that clocked in at just over five and she said she didn't have a second song that was less than three minutes, so that's why she only did one song. Cadence did three, sort of, a mashup. It kind of looks bad on her, but they only have eight minutes.
Lana: As far as my highlight, I had never seen Yamantaka Sonic Titan perform, and... wow. It was something, for sure!
Grant: I loved Grimes and Gary. Grimes, a performer from Montreal, had a male... I guess dancer? Contortionist? Stripper? That was really great just for a spectacle alone. Feist said it really well, in that there's just such disparity in the artists that perform. And yet, they're all Canadian and they're all part of our fabric as a Canadian music community. When in this room there's a mutual respect that occurs that doesn't always exist. Once they've come from all over Canada or the world and they all perform, that level of mutual respect goes through the roof. That's the kind of energy that I always love to see.
And we asked host Grant Lawrence about being part of the Polaris Prize for so long and if he'll be back next year...
Grant: I don't know, we'll see! Everything always changes. I'm really surprised to have hosted it six years in a row, I mean, surely I'm over the hill by this point? I'm in my forties, but, I guess I might be...? I'd be happy to do it again, I love doing it, I love what it brings, I love how the Polaris Music Prize captures the imagination of so many different facets... fans, media, industry and musicians. It's a very, very, rare thing and I'm proud to be associated with it.