The Polaris Music Prize is awarded every September to acknowledge the greatest Canadian album of the year based solely on artistic merit. It’s a $30K prize that gives Canadian indie fans a chance to do what they do best: argue about music.
Each year we hear the same arguments: one band doesn’t need the money, another isn’t “indie” enough for the prize, the nomination of what’s-their-name is just a patronizing nod to a genre the judges don’t actually care about. And this year is no different. But the crop gets better every year, so let’s look back and see what happened to all of the previous winners since the first Polaris Prize was awarded in 2006. (BTW, Team Lanza.)
2006: Final Fantasy – He Poos Clouds
Final Fantasy was the name Owen Pallett used to release music under until a potential lawsuit forced him to change the name. Owen was up for the Polaris again this year for his record In Conflict. He’s also the go-to string arranger for everyone from Arcade Fire to Taylor Swift.
2007: Patrick Watson – Close To Paradise
The band toured extensively for years after their big win and most recently have been involved in work for preventing climate change. The last record we heard was in 2012, which had songs licensed to American Idol and Haven.
2008: Caribou – Andorra
I attended the 2008 Polaris Gala with my good pal Dan Snaith, A.K.A. Caribou, and could not have been happier for him. He is one of the smartest, most hardworking musicians I have ever met and I’m sure we’ll see his new record Our Love (out October 7) on the ballot next year.
2009: Fucked Up – The Chemistry of Common Life
Fucked Up continue to be critics’ darlings, releasing albums at a break-neck pace. Frontman Damian Abraham was a host on MuchMusic’s The Wedge (R.I.P.), but now contributes to Vice and is even moderating a mayoral debate here in Toronto on September 29.
2010: Karkwa – Les Chemins De Verre
A polarizing choice among music fans, as most people eloquently inquired, “who the hell are Karkwa?!” The French band released a live album in 2012 and a solo effort from the singer. Unfortunately, they seem to be on hiatus at the moment.
2011: Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
In 2011, a tiny band named Arcade Fire won the prize, as well as the Grammy for Album of The Year. They continue on their quest for indie rock world domination in 2014, with their nomination for Reflektor showing up on this year’s ballot.
2012: Feist – Metals
Feist took the 30 G’s home in 2012 for her moody follow-up to The Reminder. She’s won loads of awards since, and most recently starred alongside Zach Galifinakis in Kevin Drew’s “You In Your Were” video.
2013: Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
This might have been the most controversial year in the history of Polaris. Notorious musical outsiders GBYE boycotted the ceremony and donated their prize money to fund music programs in Quebec prisons. I loved the album and was happy to see GYBE get the recognition they deserved – but I was probably in the minority on this one.
2014: Tanya Tagaq – Animism
This year’s winner was Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq for her album Animism – you can familiarize yourself with her here.