The annual Polaris Music Prize was awarded Monday night to Feist. Once again, the prestigious award continued its tradition of surprise winners. This isn't to say that Feist's fourth studio album, Metals, was a weak effort. We wouldn't have put her on the cover for it if we didn't love it, too. But, compared to her two previous records, Metals had far less immediate pop appeal, while the performer branched out into much moodier territory. It was her least accessible recording to date, and she was up against some serious competition.
On one end of the spectrum you had Drake's commercially and critically successful album Take Care (he skipped the gala, supposedly due to illness); on the other, hyped-up buzz acts like Grimes and Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, who seem more like the kind of experimentalists to get love from a jury of music nerds and critics. In the end, though, Feist's ability to walk that line between challenging and familiar gave her the edge.
While live performance isn't supposed to be a factor in determining the prizewinner, Feist's turn onstage definitely made a strong case in her favour. Her guitar-heavy band - made up of two duos, Snowblink and AroarA (aka Broken Social Scene guitarist Andrew Whiteman and his wife, Ariel Engle) - gave her tunes a more muscular feel than on record.
However, if this were just about live music, Cold Specks' spine-tingling performance earlier that night stole the show. Even Grimes's pole dancer, Gary, couldn't overshadow the raw emotional power of Cold Specks' voice.
Considering the ongoing slow demise of the recording industry, maybe Polaris should branch out with a live performance award?