Tag Archive: Hey Rosetta


Well, the big day has come. The 2011 Polaris Prize will be handed out later tonight. You can catch the broadcast streaming on the Much Music website (video) and CBC Radio 3 (audio only, but with a running commentary from hosts) starting at 5pm PST.

To me, The Suburbs by Arcade Fire is the standout album to win. Native Speaker by Braids, Feel It Break by Austra, Kaputt by Destroyer, and New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges by Colin Stetson are all close behind and any one of these four could take the prize if the jury opts for something other than The Suburbs.

And now, a quick recap on the 10 Short List albums along with my thoughts on each:

The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

In my books, front to back this is the best crafted album of all on the Short List. The musical and lyrical echos used throughout tie it all together. It’s hard to find artistic fault with this one (and being “too popular” and having won the Grammy for Album of the Year totally doesn’t count).

Feel It Break by Austra

I might not have given this a second listen had it not made the Short List, but it has grown on me. The critics seem to love this album. I think it has some great singles but it’s a bit rough around the edges as a complete collection of work.

Native Speaker by Braids

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this album reminds me of something. I think it’s that I hear a bit in the drumming that makes me draw comparisons to the Acorn. Hailing from Calgary, Braids has put together an album that sounds more like it has roots in the scene of Montreal or Toronto. While I wasn’t blown away by the album, I wasn’t disappointed in it either; overall I rather enjoyed it. Native Speaker (or Austra’s Feel It Break) might just be the happy compromise that the jury will settle on this year.

Kaputt by Destroyer

People seem to be divided by Destroyer; either you love it or hate it. I think Kaputt sounds like a cruise boat stuck in the 80s while simultaneously floating through space, and I love it. (Truth be told, I’m a longtime fan of the eccentric Dan Bejar.) The album’s closing track, “Bay Of Pigs”, is an 11 minute album unto itself. Since the divide on this album seems to be so great, it may be difficult to sway enough jurors to vote for this one.

Tigre et Diesel by Galaxie

This album is the reason the Polaris Prize is so great. Being situated on the west coast, I find it extremely difficult to discover the albums coming out of Quebec each year. Even specifically hunting down this album (or even Karkwa’s album Les Chemins De Verre, even after it won the 2010 Polaris Prize) was a next to impossible task. Without Polaris, artists like Galaxie, Karkwa, and Malajube might otherwise fall through the cracks and go unnoticed to a large portion of this country.

I find the rest of the 2011 Short List t0 be sonically “dark” and Galaxie’s bright poppy Tigre et Diesel is a a real standout from that. (The same can be said for Hey Rosetta’s nominated album Seeds). Unfortunately I don’t see the jury voting for this one, but it was a great listen.

Seeds by Hey Rosetta!

As much as I love the album Seeds, I don’t think it’s going to take home the Polaris Prize this year. While the album shows some steps ahead for the band, I think it still sounds like the album you’d expect from Hey Rosetta! and there’s nothing really groundbreaking here. The track “Yer Spring” is amazing though, and “Bricks” is greatly under appreciated. Got take a listen to these.

Long Player Late Bloomer by Ron Sexsmith

Long Player Late Bloomer is a pretty harmless album, and it sounds like something my mom might like. I have a great respect for Ron Sexsmith, and it would be nice to see someone as hardworking as him have a major success like winning the Polaris Prize, but there’s nothing here that grabs me musically.

New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges by Colin Stetson

This is another polarizing album on the Short List (har har, see what I did there?) with reviews ranging from heralding it as a masterpiece of technical genius to saying that it’s hard to “get” what people like about the sound of “mechanical whales humping”. (Yes, someone actually said that.) This is another album I wouldn’t have discovered had it not been nominated for the Polaris Prize, and I think it’s just spectacular. I can see that there is a bit of a learning curve the average listener might have to scale in order to fully appreciate this album though, and this might sway the jury to vote for something a bit more accessible.

Creep On Creepin’ On by Timber Timbre

Most seem to have brushed this album off as not having any chance to win the prize, which is too bad. I suggest that everyone goes and takes a few more listens to this one; the opening track “Bad Ritual” is kind of amazing.

House Of Balloons by The Weeknd

There’s something I don’t quite get about Abel Tesfaye, the 21 year old behind the album House Of Balloons. This album was only released online, only as a free download, and seems to have made it on the Polaris Short list largely due to influential buzz from blogs. Prior to this (Tesfaye’s debut album), he had never performed a live show. House Of Balloons actually even made it to the Short List still without seeing anything live out of Tesfaye. When he did announce his debut concert (he has performed only once more since then) it was asked that no press be in attendance and that concert goers not bring any sort of cameras or recording devices. (Clearly, people didn’t listen.) On top of that Tesfaye has declined to perform at the Polaris Prize Gala tonight. I have two theories: either this is all a childish game of playing hard to get to build hype around the release, or Tesfaye has absolutely no interest in being involved in the music scene.  Either way, the Weeknd has pretty much lost me as a potential fan. Oh, and I did (surprisingly) enjoy the album after I forced myself to listen to it, particularly the tracks “What You Need” and “Wicked Games”.

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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.

Alright. Here it is. I’ve finally written up my last post on the Rifflandia festival. And it only took me a good four months to get it done. Sigh…

Here’s the sight I came upon when I got to Market Square for the last big night of Rifflandia:

Rich Aucoin in Market Square

This pretty much lived up to everything I had heard about Rich Aucoin’s live show: video projections, audience participation, beach balls, parachutes (think along the lines of those parachutes from elementary school gym class), and music that can really only be described as “fun”. Oh, and there was a keytar! Go read any other review out there on Rich’s live shows. I guarantee you, they are in no way hyperbolizing how great they are. You have no idea how much I kicked myself for showing up late and only catching the last two songs. My only complaint for this set was the ridiculously early time slot. I’m sure the place would have been packed to the rafters had it been later in the evening. The crowd that did show up didn’t care though. They called and called for an encore. Unfortunately there was not enough time to spare before the next set of the night, so there was no encore for us.

Rich Aucoin at Market Square

After Rich Aucoin’s set I headed over to Club 9ONE9 to catch an artist who had been getting a lot of hype: Diamond Rings. I’m often skeptical when an artist receives so much press without even releasing a full album. I can tell you though, the hype for Diamond Rings is well deserved. (Of course, now that a few months have passed and the album Special Affections has been released, I can very surely say that he deserves every bit of praise he gets.) OK, maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised at how good Diamond Rings was. After all, John O’Regan is no stranger to the stage, what with being the lead singer of the D’Urbervilles and all.

Diamond Rings at Club 9ONE9

The dance floor for this show was packed, with lots of people singing along to songs. As was all too often an occurrence at this year’s Rifflandia, the crowd called for an encore to no result. I chatted briefly with John O. after his set, and am happy to report that he is really friendly and approachable. Your next chance to catch Diamond Rings in Victoria is Saturday March 12th at Sugar along with PS I Love You.

rainbow unicorn keyboard - what does it mean??

Diamond Rings at Club 9ONE9

Now it was time for my failed attempt to see Times Neue Roman. I showed up at the Upstairs Cabaret just ten minutes into what should have been their set and I was greeted with an empty stage. Hoping that things were just a few minutes behind schedule, I stuck around. Unfortunately it seemed that things were way ahead of schedule and I had missed out on seeing the band. (Has this ever, in the history of all concerts, happened??)

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald was next to take the stage at Upstairs. Since I was already there, I stayed for a couple of songs. I loved the fact that he had a horn section. His style of music reminds me of something I can’t quite put my finger on. If you’re interested in hearing some of his songs, my recommended listening is Maxine, Movie Life, and Brand New Spaces. Your next chance to see him in Victoria is this Tuesday February 8th at Lucky Bar.

Michael Bernard Fitzgerald at Upstairs Cabaret

I had just enough time to rush back to Market Square to see a bit of Hey Rosetta’s set. Last year at Rifflandia I had to listen to them while stuck in the line outside Market Square on Johnson Street. This year I was able to walk right in to the venue, not a single person was waiting in line. Success! …Or so I thought. To fit with the running theme of this night of Rifflandia, I was greeted by a stage not running on time. I don’t know what happened during the last two sets at Market Square but the set times were a good 20 to 30 minutes late at this point. Now I had a real decision to make. Do I stick around for one or two songs, or do I head over to Sugar to meet up with friends and rock out with Hollerado? Having already seen Hollerado twice in the past few months, I decided to gamble and stick around for Hey Rosetta. I made the wrong choice. The soundcheck took another 10 or 15 minutes and by the time Hey Rosetta took the stage I had to run to catch the last band of the night I wanted to see. After two misses two years in a row, I am so looking forward to seeing a regular non-festival style set from Hey Rosetta. They will be in town on Monday March 7th at Sugar in support of their new album, Seeds, which is out on February 15th. If you haven’t already heard it, you should check out their first single Welcome.

Hey Rosetta (not Hot Hot Heat) at Market Square

Well, I finally made it to the end. The Dodos were the last band I saw at Rifflandia. Walking into Sugar for this show it would be hard to tell that the crowd had been partying for the last three days straight. They had the same level of energy as the crowds on day one of the festival. It was amazing. The downpour of rain outside didn’t even dampen their spirits. Going into the show I didn’t know much about the Dodos. I knew that they had recently opened up for the New Pornographers on their tour, and I knew that one of the guys in the band played the vibraphone with a bow. That was enough to get me to the show. In writing this post I looked back on my tweets from the festival to make sure I didn’t miss anything. What I wrote about this show was “The Dodos: three guys, lots of percussion”. For only having three members with an instrumentation consisting only of guitar, drums, and a vibraphone, it’s amazing the sound that these guys can get. This set went a long way to turning around the foul mood I was in after missing out on so many sets earlier this night.

The Dodos at Sugar

The highlight of the set for me was the encore of Fables. It’s an incredibly catchy song. If you haven’t heard it, check out the video on the link I posted.

The encore came after the crowd started up the enthusiastic chant of “Ten more songs! Ten more songs!”. No one was ready to call it a night and no one was ready to call it an end to the amazing weekend that was the Rifflandia festival.

The Dodos at Sugar

To wrap this all up (since I spread it out over so many months) here’s the rest of my coverage on Rifflandia 2010:

Rifflandia Recap: Day 1

Finally!… Rifflandia Recap: Day 2

Photos Day 1

Photos Day 2

Photos Day 3