The final countdown

The short list for this year’s Polaris Music Prize—given to the best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label—was announced recently.

Alex Pierson skips through the list.

Black Mountain
In the Future
Looming out of the far West is Black Mountain with their latest full-length In the Future. The ‘machine’ Stephen McBean and company are at their all-time best—taking elements of Volume 4-era Sabbath, cut with Amber Webber’s gorgeous voice conjuring up visions of Dusty Springfield. The epic live show seals the deal.

Basia Bulat
Oh My Darling
Recorded at Arcade Fire’s church studio in Montreal, Basia Bulat’s Oh My Darling reveals a lilting, trembling voice that would sneak through the fridge door and melt the butter where it stands. Her acousticky folk songs have an elusive shadowy side too. One of two London, Ontario natives that have made the Polaris Short List this year.

Caribou’s new LP Andorra, doesn’t stray far from the familiar 60s California electro-pop stomping ground rendered so affectionately on 2005’s Milk of Human Kindness, but on Andorra he has traded in the rhythmically linear Neu-isms for some unconventional, but highly effective nuance. Dan Snaith’s smartly balanced release will stand up to repeated listens, revealing myriad subtle textures and interesting samples- which are all his own. Definitely worth checking out through a good set of headphones.

Kathleen Edwards
Asking For Flowers
In making Asking For Flowers, the follow-up to 2005’s Back To Me, Ottawa resident Kathleen Edwards enlisted super-producer Jim Scott (think Tom Petty’s Wildflowers) and the result is honest and lovely. Check out “Sure as Shit”, and “Ï Make the Dough, You Get the Glory”.

Holy Fuck
I love this record. But my love for Holy Fuck has not blinded me to the fact that they are a jam band. A particularly good jam band at that. Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh have delivered on the possibilities that both Holy Fuck and Holy Fuck (EP) had in store and then some. St. John’s own Brad Kilpatrick has also been spotted playing with them, further proof of their excellent taste.

Plants & Animals
Parc Avenue
Named after the street in Montreal where singer Warren Spicer lives, Parc Avenue is the first full-length album from the three-piece Plants & Animals. Whether you’re looking for rock-tinged folk balladry, or explosive instrumental ornamentation, this album comes replete with both.

The Old Prince
The second London, Ontario native on the Short List is Shadrach Kabango, known as Shad K these days. Likened to Chicago’s Common, Shad has risen above his contemporaries (Buck, Cadence, SoCalled) as a would-be King of Canadian hip hop, with his new album The Old Prince.

In Our Bedroom After the War
Wow. Here’s a cinematic record: characters, plot, setting, it’s all here. Not to mention an intensely anxious mood, probably brought on by the fact that they’ve put out four albums in six years…amidst side projects galore (Broken Social Scene, Memphis, Amy Millan solo), and a busy touring schedule…that’s enough to get anyone all worked up.

Two Hours Traffic
Little Jabs
Little Jabs is the second solid effort by PEI’s Two Hours Traffic. Jangly guitar-centric power pop with inescapable 20/0 iron hooks as relayed by producer Joel Plaskett. Blast this one while sipping G+Ts on your deck, punctuated by fervent episodes of worm-icide.

The Weakerthans
Reunion Tour
John K. Samson writes a decent turn of phrase. The ex-Propaghandi bassist, and co-founder of the Arbeiter Ring Publishing Collective has been a real force within the Winnipeg arts scene for quite some time now, and hey, his band’s not bad either! Reunion Tour is their fourth album since Fallow in 1992, their third with long-time producer Ian Blurton.