Photograph by Yuula Benivolski

UPDATE: This contest is now closed.

Bruce Peninsula may not have made the shortlist for the 2009 Polaris Music Prize as we would have liked, but that doesn’t change the fact that their debut album A Mountain Is a Mouth is one of the more memorable Canadian folk albums of recent years. Deservedly so, they’re some of the first stars to come from the loosely-affiliated collective growing around Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park, who may give that other Toronto social scene a run for their money in the coming years.

After the band concludes their American tour with an appearance at South by Southwest later this week, Bruce Peninsula will be returning to Canada to play a few shows and festivals. Courtesy of Collective Concerts, we’ve got two tickets to give away to their first show back in Toronto on March 25 at The Garrison. To enter to win, send an email to with “Bruce Peninsula” somewhere in the subject line and your full name in the body of the email. This contest closes March 23 at midnight.

Bruce Peninsula – Shanty Song

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— , March 15, 2010    2 Comments

Handsome Furs

A couple of weeks ago, the Polaris Music Prize announced its  long list of nominees for 2009. Each year the prize is awarded to the best Canadian album chosen by a jury of a hundred-odd music writers, editors and bloggers from all over the country. Any album produced in Canada within the last year by a Canadian band is eligible for nomination. How it goes is that jury members select their five favourite albums, and the top forty make the Polaris long list. A few weeks later, after the albums on the long list have been played repeatedly and agonized over, the Jury selects their top ten for the Polaris short list. This year the short list will be announced on July 7 and the grand prize, an amazing $20,000, will be awarded on September 21.

The Polaris Music Prize was started a mere three years ago in 2006. The very first winner of the prize was Final Fantasy for his album He Poos Clouds. Since then the contest has served to assist numerous Canadian artists by promoting their albums and giving a massive boost to its winners. In 2007, Patrick Watson won for his album Close to Paradise and in 2009 Caribou won for Andorra. Other giants have been included in the Polaris short list for their remarkable releases, including Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Feist, Miracle Fortress, the New Pornographers, Sarah Harmer, the Weakerthans, and the list goes on and on.

This year’s long list features a ton of amazing Canadian talent. Many bands are fresh members of the music scene and many are well-established veterans. The Arkells, Beast, and Coeur de Pirate have all been nominated for debut albums, whereas Metric, The Stills, Martha Wainwright and Leonard Cohen are all recognized for their ongoing work. Patrick Watson is back with another album after his big win two years ago, as are Wolf Parade, Junior Boys, Joel Plaskett and Chad VanGaalen who also all made the short list in 2007. Finally, Ca Va Cool favourites Japandroids, Handsome Furs, and Pink Mountaintops made this year’s long list, much to Ca Va pride.

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— , July 1, 2009    27 Comments

Bruce Peninsula

On top of having just been announced as being on the Polaris Music Prize 2009 long list late last week, Toronto’s Bruce Peninsula have just started their three week Canadian tour with their first  performance taking place on Saturday in a slightly soggy Kingston, Ontario at the annual Skeleton Park Music Festival. More a collective than a band, the group usually consists of anywhere from 7 to 12 members. Started in 2006 by Matt Cully and Misha Bower, the group has grown to include a dynamic cast including Neil Haverty, Andrew Barker, Steve McKay, Leon Taheny, Kari Peddle, Daniela Geshundheit, Katie Stelmanis, Caseey Mecija, Maya Postepski, Isla Craig and Doc Dunn.

Bruce Peninsula’s sound ranges from folk to gospel, from jazz to soul. Focus is put on choir vocals. Honest, uninhibited and gutty, they use beautiful harmonies and call-and-response singing to utterly enchant their listeners. I challenge you to listen to them without finding yourself wishing to be a part of that beautiful choir, or at least thinking you’re lost in some alternate ethereal universe.

Listening to Bruce Peninsula is a pleasure. They are an awesome gang with an awesome sound. In the spirit of awesomeness, I sat down with Matt and Neil. Rather, I sat, they stood. What else can you do when its pouring rain and you have to crash the remnants of a bake sale tent to make sure your paper stays dry? As you read: start with a listen to ‘Shanty Song’, included below, off the well-deserved Polaris nominee A Mountain Is a Mouth.

So we didn’t steal the last lonely muffin or the crumbs that sat next to it, but we did talk some music. I learned some pretty cool things about this band, two things in particular that need to be shared: how Bruce Peninsula has chosen to approach their music and what their up-coming tour means to them.

Matt let me know that when putting the band together it was important for them to make sure they were doing so from a non-commercial standpoint. Therefore, they weren’t going to allow themselves to be in any way constrained by questions of “why?” but ask instead, “why not?” So when they added instruments or their amazing choir there was no need to consider whether or not they could do it. As Neil put it, “we want to hear what we want to hear.” Never mind the rest. Following on that same ethic, they told me of how the Bruce Peninsula sound is a result of songs being worked and re-worked – that writing a song can take up to six months – that the sound cannot be accepted without everyone getting to put their own hands in the plasticine and everyone having their say. As Matt put it, “we are our own audience.”

Bruce Peninsula – Shanty Song
Bruce Peninsula – 2nd 4th World War
Bruce Peninsula – Weave Myself a Dress

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— , June 22, 2009    1 Comment