Promising debuts from newcomers Braids and The Weeknd face the latest albums from established artists Arcade Fire and Ron Sexsmith for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.

Organizers of the annual musical honour announced a short list of 10 finalists in Toronto on Wednesday.

Established in 2006, the prize honours the best Canadian album of the past year, regardless of sales. The nominees typically reflect a range of Canadian alternative, pop and rock music.


Arcade Fire's Win Butler, left, and Richard Parry perform in New York in 2010. The Montreal band is shortlisted for the 2011 Polaris Prize. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Arcade Fire's smash album The Suburbs is this year's most prominent nominee, with the Montreal alt-rockers having already scored best album honours at the Grammys, the Brits and the Juno Awards.

Much feted singer-songwriter Sexsmith is also a contender, for his highly crafted 12th album Long Player Late Bloomer — the album he labours over in the recent documentary Love Shines.

Vancouver-based indie singer-songwriter and musical chameleon Dan Bejar, another established finalist, made the list for Kaputt, the ninth album under his Destroyer moniker.

Debuts recognized

A trio of new acts made it to the Polaris shortlist, which is compiled by a cross-country panel of music critics, industry officials and aficionados.

Originally hailing from Alberta, Montreal-based electro-pop quartet Braids — named best new artist by SPIN magazine in January — is nominated for its widely praised debut album Native Speaker.

The intense buzz and boundary-crossing bombast of the free, nine-song mixtape House of Balloons — by Toronto R&B and neo-soul singer Abel Tesfaye, who performs as The Weeknd — garnered the newcomer a host of fans (including Toronto rapper Drake) as well as a spot among the Polaris finalists.

Also acknowledged by the jury for its debut, Feel It Break, is Toronto-based synth-pop trio Austra.

Rounding out the 2011 nominees are:


Newfoundland band Hey Rosetta, seen at the 2009 East Coast Music Awards, is a repeat nominee for the Polaris Prize.

  • Past Polaris contenders Timber Timbre, for the album Creep On Creepin' On, and St. John's sextet Hey Rosetta!, for the album Seeds.
  • U.S.-born, Montreal-based modern jazz saxophonist Colin Stetson, for his intricately created album New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges.
  • Francophone indie garage rockers Galaxie, for its third album Tigre et Diesel.

The finalists will perform at the Polaris awards ceremony in Toronto on Sept. 19, where the winner will be announced. Past winners have included Karkwa, Final Fantasy, Caribou, F--ked Up and Patrick Watson.

Earlier this year, the value of the Polaris Prize was boosted to $30,000. Also, beginning with this fall's ceremony, each of the non-winning finalists will now receive $2,000.