Polaris Music Prize Short List

By: Dakota Arsenault


Back on June 15th, the Polaris Music Prize announced the thirty albums that were in contention for the year’s top album prize. On July 15th they narrowed it down to the final ten that would be competing. The organization has already announced that there won’t be a gala this year due to COVID-19 safety concerns and instead they will host a web show asking filmmakers to apply to make short films based on the nominees.


For those not in the now, the Polaris Music Prize awards a $50,000 prize to the winner of the best Canadian album from the past year regardless of sales or genre intending to do away with politics of who’s turn it is to win and what name will earn the most press. The award began in 2006 and has been won by such artists as Arcade Fire, Feist, Fucked Up, Jeremy Dutcher, and last year’s winner Haviah Mighty. I’m going to go over the high-level details of this year’s crop of nominees.


Backxwash - God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It


Ashanti Mutinta who records under the name Backxwash is a rapper based out of Montreal but originally from Zambia who makes deeply personal music that deals with her experiences being a black trans woman. She has two previous albums including DEVIANCY, which was also longlisted this year. This is Backxwash’s first shortlisted nomination.


Caribou - Suddenly


Dan Snaith is the frontman and architect of Caribou but has other projects included Daphne and Manitoba. His electronic dance music covers a wide variety of styles but by using live instrumentation it has a more natural feel to beats. Caribou won the Polaris Prize back in 2008 for Andorra and has also been shortlisted twice before for Swim and Our Love.


Jessie Reyez - Before Love Came to Kill Us


Brampton’s own Jessie Reyez was shortlisted last year for her EP Being Human in Public and had her last album, Kiddo, longlisted back in 2017. Reyez honest RnB attracted stars like Eminem and 6lack to guest star on her record.


Junia-T - Studio Monk


Speaking of Jessie Reyez, Junia-T from Mississauga is a good friend and tour DJ of the singer. He is a rapper and producer that spreads his ambition as wide as he dabbles in different genres. This is Junia-T’s first nomination and his debut album.


Kaytranada - Bubba


Montreal’s Kaytranada is the second previous winner of this year’s group having won back in 2016 for 99.9% making him the first black artist to win and first artist who made music adjacent to hip-hop. His electronic dance music is Obama approved and his features are just as diverse, including Kali Uchis, Estelle, SiR, Charlotte Day Wilson and Pharrell Williams.


Lido Pimienta - Miss Colombia


Colombian born London, Ontario based Lido Pimienta is the third and final previous winner to be nominated this year. She previously won for La Papessa back in 2017. Her Spanish lyrics soar over her sparse danacable beats that are rooted in as much on her Colombian roots as they are in North American music.


nêhiyawak - nipiy


The trio that comes from amiskwaciy (in English known as Edmonton) calls their music moccasingaze, a term that blends shoegaze with indigenous inspirations. This is the band's first nomination and second album. This is the year’s only “rock” based album to make the cut.


Pantayo - Pantayo


This is the debut album from the group that mostly was born in the Philippines but met in Toronto. The foursome is all queer and their songs blend Tagalog with English as they also mix pop with RnB while infusing traditional influences and instruments in their music.


U.S. Girls - Heavy Light


Meg Remy aka U.S. Girls was born in Chicago (hence the name) but has made Canada her home her entire career. Her last two albums Half Free and In a Poem Unlimited were both shortlisted when they came out making U.S. Girls one of the more prolific nominees that have never won. Remy blends soul, pop, RnB, and jazz to make a unique and powerful sound.


Witch Prophet - DNA Activation


Ayo Leilani who performs under the name Witch Prophet was born in Kenya with an Ethiopian and Eritrean background and is based in Toronto. She makes delicate RnB fused with soul as she sings in multiple languages and incorporates many influences in her work. This is her second album and first nomination.


We here at The Soundtrack are very excited about this year’s Polaris Prize and we are putting together our own jury and will name our own winner along with coverage of the actual ceremony. Who do you think will win this year’s prize? Let us know on social media!


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