July 10, 2007

Feist, Fire get Polaris noms

Arcade Fire (CP file photo)

TORONTO (CP) - The Montreal music scene continues to thrive, at least according to the list of nominees for this year's Polaris Music Prize.

Half of the 10 discs shortlisted for the $20,000 award come from Montreal acts, including Arcade Fire, Patrick Watson, the Dears, Miracle Fortress and the Besnard Lakes.

Other nominees announced Tuesday include releases from Calgary's Feist, Halifax's Joel Plaskett, Sackville, N.B.'s Julie Doiron, Hamilton's Junior Boys, and Calgary's Chad VanGaalen.

The award is meant to recognize Canada's best album based on creative quality, regardless of musical genre or sales figures, much like the esteemed Mercury Prize in the U.K.

Plaskett said he was happy his disc is among the contenders, many of them from lesser-knowns who organizers say can expect to see a jump in record sales.

"I'm thrilled, there's some great records in the category," said Plaskett, on hand for the announcement at a hip hotel patio bar also featuring 2006 nominee Cadence Weapon spinning records.

Despite the strong Quebec presence, none of the nominated discs come from francophone acts, unlike last year's diverse lineup, notes CBC Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence.

"Compared to last year's list, which included an incredible balance of music styles, cultural diversity, and levels of success (Malajube, K'Naan, the Deadly Snakes, Sarah Harmer, Broken Social Scene, Metric, the New Pornographers, Cadence Weapon, Wolf Parade, and the eventual winner, Final Fantasy), this list seems quite ... narrow in scope," Lawrence, a member of the 2006 jury, blogs on the Radio 3 site.

"Still an amazing list of records ... but ... seems kinda ... white."

Montreal emerged as a hotbed of music buzz in recent years, buoyed by the international success of bands like Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade and the cross-over gains of francophone acts like Malajube and Les Breastfeeders.

This year's shortlist was drawn up from submissions by more than 170 Canadian music journalists, broadcasters and bloggers who provided their top five picks.

To be eligible, an album had to be released between June 1, 2006, and May 31, 2007. A jury of 11 people will pick the winner at a gala concert on Sept. 24.

Last year's winner came from the violin-based act Final Fantasy, who beat out more well-known groups to snag the inaugural cheque as well as increased sales and concert bookings.

The week after the win, Final Fantasy, basically the one-man project of musician Owen Pallett, saw record sales double for the disc "He Poos Clouds," manager Steven Himmelfarb said in a Polaris press release.

Those behind 2006 nominees Harmer, Wolf Parade and Malajube said they also saw a jump in sales after their discs made the shortlist.

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