It’s been a few days since the Polaris Long List was announced, and I’ve had a chance to let it all sink in. I’ve been asked by a few friends to give an opinion on the Long List, so I thought I’d weigh in here too.

First, let’s take a look at geography. Here’s how the Long List breaks down:

  • Vancouver – 4
  • Rest of the West (Calgary and Winnipeg) – 3
  • Toronto – 14
  • Rest of Ontario – 3
  • Montreal – 11
  • Eastern Provinces – 4
  • International – 1

Nothing should surprise you about this, it’s pretty typical of past Polaris Long Lists. Maybe the International inclusion comes as a surprise, but that’s Neil Young. Exceptions can be made for Neil Young. Perhaps it’s because I’m so close to the Victoria and Vancouver music scenes that I’m personally disappointed in the low turnout from BC. I’m also disappointed that coming off the heels of Karkwa’s win in 2010, only one album on the entire Long List this year is in French.

Geography and language aside, what about the music? I hate to admit it, but aside from maybe The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, there’s no one album on the Long List that really grabbed me. When I look back on this past year, my musical obsessions (the Hold Steady – not Canadian, Japandroids – didn’t release an album in the eligibility period, Explosions In The Sky – not Canadian, Versa – who’s that?) all were not going to make it anywhere near being nominated. Oh there are lots of albums on the Long List that I love and they all deserve to be there, but I didn’t listen to any of them over and over ad nauseum like I did with some of the nominees in 2010. This makes picking my front runners for the Short List really, really difficult.

CBC Radio 3 is once again holding its Polaris Prize Pool, where listeners are asked to name the 10 albums they think will make the Polaris Short List. The entry with the most correct picks from the actual Polaris Short List wins a CBC Radio 3 prize pack. The winner will be announced on July 6th (the day of the Short List announcement), but unfortunately for you it’s now too late to enter. I managed to get in an entry just under the wire; here’s the list I submitted. It’s based largely on what I personally like on the Long List, mixed with picks that have been popular with friends, and albums that have received buzz.

  • Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  • Braids – Native Speaker
  • Buck 65 – 20 Odd Years
  • The Dears – Degeneration Street
  • Destroyer – Kaputt
  • Diamond Rings – Special Affections
  • Hey Rosetta! – Seeds
  • Hooded Fang – Album
  • Malajube – La Caverne
  • PS I Love You – Meet Me At The Muster Station

This took me forever to put together. I changed it at least 40 times over the couple hours it took me to finalize. I think I’m content with the list though: I managed to include picks from the West, the East, Toronto, and Montreal; I included big names like Arcade Fire and Hey Rosetta! and lesser known names like Braids and Hooded Fang; there’s even a decent representation of genres there with straight up rock, pop rock, 80s inspired dance, and hip hop. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual Short List doesn’t resemble this at all. (With the exception of Arcade Fire that is – I will be absolutely shocked if they are left off the Short List.)

Hopefully my thoughts on the Long List didn’t sound too negative, that was not my intention. To counteract that, let me list some other Long List artists whose releases I really enjoyed:  Women, Shotgun Jimmie, the Rural Alberta Advantage, Black Mountain, Timber Timbre, Stars, Land Of Talk, Luke Doucet and the White Falcon, Imaginary Cities, Sloan, and Young Galaxy. I highly recommend checking out all these albums. (Full disclosure: the albums I didn’t list here are the ones I haven’t listened to yet. I doubt there’s anything on the Long List I’d totally detest.)

There were so many other amazing albums that didn’t make the cut for the 2011 Polaris Long List. Here’s some great albums that didn’t make it:

  • Tokyo Police Club – Champ
  • Mohawk Lodge – Crimes
  • Wolf Parade – Expo 86
  • Treelines – Summer Song EP (This technically wouldn’t have qualified. Why didn’t you boys add two more songs to that release?!)
  • Royal Canoe – Co-Op Mode
  • The Mountains and the Trees – I Made This For You (Long List miss #4 – I was rooting for you Jon!)
  • Kathryn Calder – Are You My Mother?
  • Gonzales – Ivory Tower
  • Chromeo – Business Casual
  • The Meligrove Band – Shimmering Lights
  • Suuns – Zeroes QC
  • Jason Collett – Pony Tricks
  • Hot Panda – How Come I’m Dead?
  • The Gertrudes – Dawn Time Riot
  • Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans – The Falcon Lake Incident (Long List miss #1. This by far is the biggest omission from the Long List. You were robbed Jim!)
  • Jeremy Fisher – Flood (Long List miss #7.)
  • David Vertesi – Cardiography (Long List miss #2.)
  • Henry and the Nightcrawlers – 100 Blows (Long List miss #5.)
  • The Liptonians – Let’s All March Back to the Sea (Long List miss #3.)
  • Memphis – Here Comes A City
  • Mother Mother – Eureka (Long List miss #6. I’m surprised more people aren’t up in arms about this one not making the cut.)
  • Slow Down, Molasses – Walk Into The Sea
  • We Are The City – High School (Another EP that’s technically not qualified, but it’s still great!)
  • Chad VanGaalen – Diaper Island

So what are your picks for the Short List? Any albums from the past year I didn’t mention and should check out? Feel free to post your comments below!

And for more Polaris speculation fun, be sure to check out NxEW’s Shadow Polaris.

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