For Canadian music bloggers lucky enough to be selected to submit a ballot for our Nation’s coolest music prize, the last few days have been hectic. With so many people screaming suggestions, it would be hard not to revisit your choices and consider the names you hear around the ole cyber water cooler before hitting submit. As it was, my list was pretty locked in and really, the only shifting was for the coveted number 5 spot.
Being the transparent blog we are, I figured I’d share my picks with you (or, if you are a cynic you can simply think I had no post so I went with a Simpson’s style clip show). This year was a lot harder than last year; there probably weren’t as many huge records this year that overwhelmed the masses, but the hidden gems and consistent output of the Canadian scene was in fine form. So, without further ado, here are my Top 5:
This record grabbed me on first listen, and has refused to let go. Putting together three of the most unique talents in Canada and having them revisit songs from era’s long since forgotten is an idea that would turn the ear of the most hardened critic. That being said, the results were even more impressive than I could have hoped for. As I said back in December of 2009 – when I labeled the effort my second favorite LP of the year – this project was done for nothing but the love of music and singing with those you love to be around. Ironically, it was listed behind my front runner for last-year’s Polaris (Timber Timbre) and I’d love to see it show up on the Long List and get some much deserved attention.
2) Apollo Ghosts – Mount Benson
For the purpose of this vote, Apollo Ghost might as well be called Apollo Creed, as I think getting the required number of votes to make the Long List would be as big a challenge as fighting Drago in Rocky 4. They band is probably too young – although in a brief two years, they’ve banged out a stellar debut record, a follow up EP and a game changing sophomore release – and might struggle to get the attention of jurors that haven’t seen them role through town.
But don’t mistake that lack of familiarity for a lack of talent. This punchy, pop masterpiece is the type of record I love finding. Challenging melodies that can grab a hold of you or slowly pound you into submission, paired with a nostalgia laced, HONEST look at a boy’s teenage life. Mount Benson has the chops to get you pogo-ing across the room and the depth and realized potential to make a critic salivate.
I’m not sure anyone has ridden the Dan train as long or hard as herohill. From the first time I heard early arrangements of the songs in various Vancouver venues, to the successful reveal of the “hits” on his Roboteering EP – an EP that charmed us with Dan’s playful observations and also introduced us to the voice of a touching slam poet that later became the voice of a Nation – to the release of a record that has stayed close to my stereo for well over a year. Over time, songs that seemed to slow the record have grown into the most powerful and the way Dan stood side by side many of Canada’s most talented singers and never released his spot at center stage (although, Mark Berube‘s contributions did their damnedest to take over) , Dan has spent the year earning fans at each and every stop.
I remember during some of the very limited down time we had at the Polaris grand jury last year, I mentioned to another juror that I wouldn’t be shocked to see Mangan standing amongst his peers at the gala in 2010. Flash forward to today, and I’d be dumbfounded if he wasn’t. He may be listed at number 3 here, but if any of both of the records ahead of him don’t make the final tally – and I’m assuming at least one won’t – I will happily offer this young talent my vote.
It’s hard not to through your hat in the ring when it’s time to support local boys made good, Wintersleep. Their anthem ready fuzz has impressed everyone from Sir Paul to my dad. Those anthems however, while amazing to listen to at full volume, never forced a connection with me like Paul’s Postdata did. The record, written in a few hours and recorded almost as quickly, left Paul’s heart exposed for all to see. A tribute to his family, the songs feel like something you’d want to leave your son or hear your father tell casually over a drinks in his last few years. The songs may ask questions with no answers, and help Paul process death and change, but the album is full of life.
Over the last two weeks, The Warped 45s have been in and out of my Top 5 quite a few times in the last couple of weeks. Not because the record has lost any impact over the countless listens I’ve given it; in fact, it holds up better than I could have imagined and that staying power is why it beat out The Sadies, Yukon Blonde, The Besnard Lakes, The Barr Brothers (a record whose only crime is the fact I’ve had it for only a week or two and haven’t been able to absorb every nuance) and ultimately an artist I was smitten with and assumed would make the final cut, Bahamas and his Pink Strat.
But at the end of the day, the honest feel I take from Warped 45s release helped it win out. These TO transplants play each note with love; the love of playing music with your friends without the fear and pressure of hoping anyone else will “get it.” When people hear The Warped 45s, they hear a solid group of roots rockers that bring it every time they hit the stage and it’s that road warrior mentality has helped them fine tune a collection of songs that every roots fan should have on their shelf. “Let my headstone be my favorite jukebox, loaded with the songs of my friends.”