Arcade Fire's The Suburbs has won the Polaris Prize, the $30,000 award that honours the best Canadian album of the year.

The winner of the prize, established in 2006, was announced in Toronto Monday evening.

Drummer Jeremy Gara, multi-instrumentalist Richard Parry and singer Win Butler accepted the award on behalf of the band, calling it a great honour.

"Since the beginning of our career we've been trying to get paid in an oversize novelty cheque and it's never happened till now. So thanks, Polaris!" Parry quipped onstage.

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Arcade Fire members, from left, Win Butler, Jeremy Gara and Richard Parry receive an oversized cheque for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize from CBC Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence. ((CBC))

Butler added some advice for young aspiring musicians.

"[To] anyone who's like under 18 and playing music and trying.… Everyone who's on the stage tonight has had some sort of opportunity to play music and have someone hear it in some way. Before you get that chance, you feel like a crazy person, if you're born to play music," he said.

"Just like make [an] amazing record, put your whole heart into it. You don't get anything for not trying as hard as you can, so just go for it."

The Suburbs has already won a Grammy, a Brit Award and a Juno award for album of the year, but backstage, Parry acknowledged that the band is still not accustomed to winning accolades.

"Just so you guys know, all this stuff makes us profoundly awkward — for real," he said, adding that the band would direct the winnings toward their Montreal studio.

Chosen on merit

The Polaris Prize is chosen solely on merit, without regard to album sales or previous recognition. The judges hailed the album as "beautifully composed" and "evocative and powerful."

"It's not as much about picking a winner at the end of the whole contest as it is about the conversation that happens about the music," prize founder Steve Jordan told reporters after the ceremony.

The Suburbs was this year's most prominent nominee and widely seen as the album to beat. But much feted singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith also was shortlisted for his highly crafted 12th album Long Player Late Bloomer — the album he labours over in the recent documentary Love Shines.

The full short list of nominees:

  • Toronto’s Austra for Feel It Break.
  • Montreal-based Braids for Native Speaker.
  • Vancouver’s Destroyer for Kaputt.
  • Vancouver Montreal’s Galaxie for Tigre et diesel. 
  • St. John’s Hey Rosetta! for Seeds.
  • Toronto’s Ron Sexsmith for Long Player Late Bloomer.
  • Montreal's Colin Stetson for New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges.
  • Peterborough, Ont.'s Timber Timbre for Creep On Creepin' On.
  • Toronto's the Weeknd for House Of Balloons.

Each finalist receives $2,000. The prize pot for the winner was increased this year from $20,000 to $30,000.