The Polaris Record Salon took place in Winnipeg last night, February 15, for the first
time in the illustrious Canadian music prize's existence.
The Free Press Café housed the well-attended event where Polaris founder, Steve Jordan, moderated a panel of five Manitoban Polaris jury members.
The sonic virtues of eligible Canadian albums were debated. It's worth noting that no local album has ever taken home the highly coveted prize. On this night, though, the panel made strong cases for four hometown CD's:
John K. Samson - Provinical. The hyperliterate debut solo outing from The Weakerthans' frontman is arguably Winnipeg's best bet. After all, Samson has come close to tasting Polaris glory: his band made the short list back in 2008. (the
only real point of contention centered on whether Samson loses points
for Provincial sounding too similar to his main output, under The
John K. Samson (Trevor Marezylo Photography)
Cannon Bros. - Firecracker/Cloudglow. A mature-sounding and intelligent collection of lo-fi 90s fuzz-channeling pop-rockers written by fresh-faced pair Alannah Walker and Cole Woods. Two jurors presented their cases for this record.
Demetra - Lone Migration. A stunning and achingly beautiful debut from Winkler product Demetra Penner, whose icy and velvety pipes coupled with her keen attention to song structure and arrangement, have won over fans and critics alike.
The Magnificent 7s - All Kinds of Mean. Recorded at Winnipeg's Private Ear Studio, this raw and gritty sophomore release from the folk/bluegrass/country quintet has slowly but surely brought more listeners into the fold.
What arguably sparked the most interesting debate amongst panel members was whether geography should be a factor when considering candidates for a Polaris ballot. The opportunity for local bands to gain national exposure is undeniable, yet could come at the expense of better albums from across Canada.
In the end, there was almost unanimous agreement: place should not be a factor. Records should be chosen solely on pure artistic merit. It remains to be seen whether any of these promising Manitoba musical products will make the cut for this year's prize. It's up to the jury to decide.
Mykael Sopher is a local music writer and founder of the music blog, Painting Over Silence, which placed in the top 30 during CBC Radio 3's Searchlight competition for Canada's Best Music Website. He is also a member of the Polaris music prize jury.
Self-portrait (Mykael Sopher)