Polaris Music Prize 2009 First Ballot
It was more difficult than ever to come up with an initial ballot for the two-stage voting process that makes up the Polaris Music Prize. I listened to more music than ever before from beyond the already-heaping pile of promo that usually graces my desk. I'd like to thank my fellow jurors for recommending so much great music. I'd go so far as to say that this year has been one of great personal growth in terms of my outlook on music in Canada, and in general.
But even so, I found my picks surprised me. There have certainly been some hints in blog entries past, but my first five look like this:
Bell Orchestre - As Seen Through Windows
Blogged about it here. A tremendously interesting listen, sonically rich, fully realized concepts & never a dull moment. I never thought that these close associates of Arcade Fire would be my #1 pick but I still marvel at this disc.
Galerie Stratique - Faux World
My colleague Eric Hill at Exclaim wrote a great review of Charles-Emile Beullac's electronically reanimated visions of South East Asia. It's like the Up! of world music... fanciful, stylish, exotic yet personal, and emotionally affecting.
Justin Haynes & Jean Martin - Freedman
Wrote about it here. Ukulele & suitcase duet makes for a unique experience in intimacy. Myk Freedman is a buddy, and his beautiful songs are more than given their due in this minimal setting.
Charles Spearin - The Happiness Project
Of all the art projects in this top 5 - and every single one of my picks qualifies - this one is the only disc with vocals. But what he does with the vocals is incredible. Spearin teases out musical arrangements from speech patterns, and the sunny vibe of the album guarantees the listener's engagement. It's many things at once - "free music" in that it doesn't follow time signatures but is linked to easily relatable rhythms, and "world music" because what could be more global in its scope than interviewing one's neighbours in multicultural Toronto?
Last Step - 1961
One of 8000 discs released this past year by Aaron Funk aka Venetian Snares. I listened to all of them - cause it's worth it (at least until they slip the straightjacket on me) - before deciding that this was my favourite. Typically, it's miles ahead of most electronic ingenuity. Most importantly takes the piss out of super-serious bedroom boffins.
Near misses/other interesting records, in no particular order:
Jayme Stone & Mansa Sissoko - Africa to Appalachia
Fucked Up - The Chemistry of Common Life
Masia One - Pulau
Slakah The Beatchild - The Soul Movement Vol 1
Timbre Timbre - S/T
AIMToronto Orchestra & Anthony Braxton - Creative Orchestra (Guelph) 2007
Women - S/T
DDMMYYY - Black Square
Lubo Alexandrov & Kaba Horo - Contrabanda
Daniel Nebiat - Hakimey
K-Os - Yes
Mantrakid - Palmflower Black