With the short list announced coincidentally close to Canada Day, the Polaris Music Prize has been cleverly disguised as an icon of national pride. The saga of Polaris says that not only are we geographically gargantuan as a nation, but musically we’re in fine proportion to our size. It takes time to look at all the details, since we as a nation put out an obscene amount of music, but an award like Polaris gives us great cause to wear out our Canadian vinyl through the summer months. From the Besnard Lakes to Broken Social Scene and from Shad to the Sadies, the short list has once again rolled out a tight batch of competition spanning a wide array of genres. Splicing and comparing the ten albums selected for the short list this year can be a daunting task, so we at Ca Va Cool have decided to divide and conquer, to leave you more time to enjoy and celebrate not only the ten albums on the short list or the forty albums on the long list, but as many Canadian albums from the past year as you possibly can.

Broken Social Scene – All to All
Radio Radio – Tomtom
Shad – Rose Garden

Photograph by Chris Gergley

The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night (Jagjaguwar)

If there’s a dark horse in the Polaris race, it may just be the Besnard Lakes. The second-time shortlist nominees are once again looking to take home the big prize. An album blending shoegaze, progressive rock, and psychedelic rock, The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night harkens back to the 1970s, drawing comparisons to bands like Fleetwood Mac and the Alan Parsons Project. Husband-and-wife team  Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas trade vocals throughout.  Goreas takes centre stage on album highlight ’Albatross’, bursting through the droning guitars, singing of a heartfelt remembrance of an age long since passed. ‘And This Is What We Call Progress’ eschews that beauty, preferring a condemnation of the darkness of the surrounding world, soundtracked by a workman-like drumbeat and some of the sweetest guitar licks heard since the days of classic rock. Their world is on fire, and the Besnard Lakes channel that intensity into 10 tracks of Polaris-worthy goodness. — Kevin Kania

The Besnard Lakes – And This Is What We Call Progress

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— , July 31, 2010    8 Comments

The 2010 Polaris Music Prize Long List was released a couple weeks ago, and it is a long list. At first, I thought I was reading a list of all the albums released in this country over the last year. Not surprisingly, Swim, the latest release from Caribou, the moniker used by expatriate canuck and 2008 Polaris winner (for his 2007 LP Andorra) Daniel Snaith’s electronic orchestrations, made the list. I don’t expect the jury will award him the honour again, not that it wouldn’t be deserved. With Swim, Snaith has deviated from the course established on The Milk of Human Kindness and taken to its most euphoric on Andorra, veering for a darker, more nuanced sound, that remains fundamentally Caribou at its heart.

Caribou – Bowls
Caribou – Jamelia

In anticipation of catching Caribou live at Sasquatch! Music Festival, we caught up with Snaith on his cellphone before a show in San Diego to talk about being a Canadian making placeless music, why Snaith works alone (except on tour), and the city-cum-genre he looks to most for musical inspiration, Detroit.

Justin: Can you talk a bit how being Canadian has shaped the trajectory of your musical career?

Dan Snaith: Generally, I kind of feel like I’ve made music that is geography-less, that it doesn’t really have a national identity. I’m not particularly interested in making Canadian music. The music that I listen to comes from all over the world and I want the music that I make to sound like it could come from anywhere in the world. On the other hand, I guess the thing that challenged or changed that perspective was the Polaris prize a couple years ago. You know I work in an isolated way, so I always thought of myself doing my thing over in this corner, you know in my own little apartment, my own little world. Being included in the community of Canadian musicians and being able to meet all the other people who were nominated was really nice, really affirming. Pretty much all the musicians I collaborate with are in one way or another Canadian, just because of the kind of personal connections growing up living in Canada.

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— , July 2, 2010    3 Comments

Photograph by Christopher Nelson

Though not the first of the major summer festivals, Sasquatch! sure felt like early summer. The Gorge Amphitheatre is nestled in the eastern foothills of the Cascades just outside George, Washington (really), the mountains to the west managed to keep the coastal rains at bay, but the altitude and dry air made for some sunburnt days and brisk nights. We were woefully unprepared for these climatic factors, not to mention the sheer scope of this year’s lineup. Festivals like this one lure you in with a laundry list of bands you would love to see, and then dash those dreams when the schedule is announced and you realize you will only be able to see approximately a third of them – given you’re still standing at the end of the day.

Some tough choices were made to give you the best coverage we could, that is we made game-time decisions and saw whatever we felt like. It would have been lovely to have seen more up and comers but schedule conflicts and the occasional sleep-in (see Day Three) conspired against that notion. Sasquatch!, despite its laid-back west coast feel, is still a commercial festival. If you want cutting edge, beg one of our Toronto writers to cover NXNE, you probably won’t have to beg too hard. What follows is our take on the best of Sasquatch! Music Festival 2010, day by day.

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— , June 9, 2010    3 Comments

Plants & Animals

I just checked out Montreal’s Plants & Animals this weekend at the Wolfe Island Music Festival and couldn’t have been more pleased. A bit Wolf Parade, a bit Apostle of Hustle, but undeniably their own, Plants & Animals is definitely becoming one of Canada’s indie bands to watch. They released their debut album on Secret City Records this February, which was announced in July as one of the contenders for Canada’s Polaris Music Prize.

Plants & Animals – Bye Bye Bye
Plants & Animals – Good Friend

The winner of Polaris will be announced on September 29. The 2008 shortlist is as follows:

I’m rooting for Two Hours Traffic because they’re pretty much my favourite Canadian band right now, their album rules, and they’re the underdog. Any other favourites?

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— , August 15, 2008    2 Comments