The Polaris Music Prize might not be the most well-known music award in Canada, but for Toronto hardcore band F–ked Up, it’s the only one that matters.
The six-piece, which released The Chemistry of Common Life last October, won the fourth annual prize at a gala event last night. Besides the album being crowned the best disc of 2008-09, the group takes home a $20,000 cheque.
While the money helps, it’s the international acclaim that comes with the award that’s the real prize. Unlike the Junos, the nominees for the annual prize are mostly under-the-radar acts — nominees such as Hey Rosetta!, Malajube and Chad VanGaalen aren’t selling thousands of records — so increased attention is a major career boost for these musicians.
Last night, the award was handed out for the fourth time at a glitzy gala hosted by CBC Radio 3’s Grant Lawrence and MuchMusic’s Sarah Taylor. And while there was only one winner, it was still a successful night for all of the 10 nominated acts.
That’s because the gala, which was broadcast live on Sirius Satellite Radio and MuchMusic.com, included performances from the 10 artists. Each act ran through two songs, and while they were all engaging, standouts included an acoustic version of Metric’s Help, I’m Alive off Fantasies, Great Lake Swimmers’ sweet folk tune Still, and Joel Plaskett’s haunting rendition of Heartless, Heartless, Heartless.
Besides the aforementioned acts, other nominees included Toronto folk group Elliott Brood, Somali-born rapper K’Naan and 2007 Polaris winner Patrick Watson.
This is actually the first time in the prize’s history that past nominees — like K’Naan, Malajube and Metric — have been up for the award again.
Helen Spitzer, one of the 182 Canadian journalists who cast a vote in July to determine the long and short lists (11 of the jury members picked the winner), says having repeat artists is both a plus and a negative for the award.
“It says that jurors across the country need to be digging a little deeper and getting outside of their comfort zone as far as the music they listen too goes,” she said.
“But at the same time I think both the Metric and Patrick Watson records are significantly better than previously nominated albums.”
As always, the competition was fierce. Joel Plaskett’s album might be the most ambitious record — he wrote 27 songs, mostly about life on the road and coming home — but Metric’s solid new wave effort, their best since 2003’s Old World Underground, and K’Naan’s cross-genre hip-hop release are packed with stellar songs from front to back.
No one would argue that every artist deserves the cheque, but F–ked Up’s pop-meets-hardcore disc was one of the most refreshing and original albums of the year — so it’s no surprise they took the prize.
• 2006 — Final Fantasy, He Poos Clouds
• 2007 — Patrick Watson, Close to Paradise
• 2008 — Caribou, Andorra
• 2009 — F–ked Up, The Chemistry Of Common Life