This is the inaugural year for Canada's Polaris Music Prize (modelled after the UK Mercury Prize), awarded for artistic merit. The short list of nominees for the $20,000 award was only announced on July 4, so Polaris executive director Steve Jordan has performed an impressive feat by turning around a compilation CD of sample album tracks by each of the 10 finalists (chosen by ballots cast by Canuck journalists, broadcasters and music biz insiders) in a matter of weeks. The select group of critics' darlings - Broken Social Scene, Cadence Weapon, K'naan, Final Fantasy, Sarah Harmer, the Deadly Snakes, Malajube, Metric, the New Pornographers and Wolf Parade - makes for a solid mix, if overly weighted toward alt-rock. In any case, it's a much better representation of the great music being made in Canada than you'd ever get from a Juno CD. Subsequent Polaris comps might be improved by the inclusion of previously unreleased tracks, artist photos, biographies and discographies, but it's a very good last-minute job for the first time through.
See who takes the cash when the jury selects the 2006 Polaris prizewinner at the Phoenix on September 18.