Award recognizes best in Canadian music



torstar news service file photo


Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy


Electronic act Final Fantasy has snagged a $20,000 award for putting out the best Canadian album as deemed by the inaugural Polaris Music Prize.

Essentially the one-man project of violinist and singer Owen Pallett, Final Fantasy’s album He Poos Clouds, right, beat out a shortlist of releases from indie-scene favourites, including Broken Social Scene, Metric, Wolf Parade, The Deadly Snakes and the New Pornographers.

The 27-year-old joked that he expected to double record sales after winning the prize, which he planned to share with friends and labelmates on Blocks Recording Club, a Toronto-based collective.

“I always feel like Canadian critics, especially, have for a long time, been hesitant to get behind something and say, ‘hey this is really great,’” Pallett, a classically trained violinist from Milton, Ont., said after the win.

“It’s just part of the Canadian mentality. I think the best thing about the Polaris prize is it’s maybe going to set a precedent for people to actually get behind our artists.”

The announcement followed a gala concert Monday night that featured performances by fellow nominees Sarah Harmer of Hamilton, Ont., Edmonton’s Cadence Weapon, Toronto’s K’Naan and Montreal’s Malajube.

The prize is the brainchild of Toronto-based music industry veteran Steve Jordan, who wanted to honour Canada’s best album based on creative quality, irrespective of musical genre or sales figures.

In tone and task, the prize is most comparable to the popular Mercury Prize in the U.K.

Jordan said he came up with the idea five years ago while working as an A&R rep at Warner Music, noticing too many great but quirky bands fly under the radar.

“It’s an uphill battle,” Jordan said of talented bands that struggle to find an audience.

“Playlists are shorter, media is consolidating, it gets harder and harder to get your songs on the radio.”

But the Polaris prize recognizes only the quality of the record, Jordan noted, so nominees can include those that enjoy mainstream support.

To be eligible, an album had to be released between June 1, 2005 and May 31, 2006.