Celebrating Canadian music

Winnipeg-based Polaris Music Prize jurors set to discuss the award and the albums that might make their list

Polaris founder Steve Jordan, pictured here with Bif Naked, will be in Winnipeg on Feb. 15 to take part in a panel discussion about the coveted music prize. Supplied

For nearly six years, the Polaris Music Prize has celebrated the best music that Canada has to offer.

Started by Steve Jordan, former artists and repertoire executive for Warner Music Canada and True North Records, the Polaris Prize is used to exhibit Canada’s diverse and progressive musical offerings.

Jordan will be in town Wednesday, Feb. 15 to moderate the Polaris “Half Year in Review” salon at the Winnipeg Free Press Cafe. The event will give local Polaris jurors the opportunity to champion some of their favourite albums from the past six months.

According to its website, the jury for the Polaris Prize is composed of “200 members from local and national media who display a wide breadth and depth of knowledge of Canadian music and passion for discovering new medias.”

Jill Wilson is one such adventurer who has sat on the jury since 2006.

The current editor of The Tab and Detour sections of the Winnipeg Free Press began her music journalism career by editing the University of Winnipeg’s Stylus Magazine from 1994 to 1998.

Wilson has much to say about how the Polaris Prize has changed the Canadian music industry.

“Canadians can be self-deprecating about their music at times,” she says. “(The Polaris Prize) legitimizes Canadian music and makes people see that it’s worth something.”

Each year, jurors submit a list they think are the five best Canadian albums from the past year.

Depending on how many jury members pick the same album, there is a long list of 40 albums that is compiled and released in June. The jury then resubmits their top five picks from the long list. Finally, the 10 shortlisted albums are released in July.

These are then voted on by 11 panelists in September at the Polaris Prize gala which takes place in Toronto.

Among the 200 jurors is Winnipegger Mykael Sopher. His blog, PaintingOverSilence.com, is on CBC’s Top 30 list for Canada’s Best Music Website.

This is his second year on the jury and he has a few highlighted albums he will be discussing at the salon.

“I’m planning on talking about an album by The Weather Station called All of It Was Mine,” says Sopher. “It’s a one-woman project from Toronto. It’s really stripped-down, soul-bearing folk.”

Wilson also agreed that the album was a standout for her after she gave it a listen. Both she and Sopher also agree that Firecracker/Cloudglow, the debut LP from local duo Cannon Bros., was a standout and may make it on to their lists as well.

The Polaris Prize is exclusively judged on musicianship, a trait that Sopher says is a blessing and a curse.

“There are a lot of records that have to be consumed. It can be overwhelming by the sheer choice and the sheer amount of talent that’s out there.”

Polaris Record Salon “Half Year in Review” will take place Wednesday, Feb. 15 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Winnipeg Free Press Café (237 McDermot Ave.) with Sopher, Wilson, CKUW’s Jenny Henkelman and Uptown Magazine’s Jared Story and John Kendle. Visit www.manitobamusic.com details.

Published in Volume 66, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 8, 2012)

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