I have a confession. I am a bad Polaris juror.
I went on vacation and forgot to vote for the shortlist, which means I can't really complain about the results.
Thankfully, there's not that much that I would want to whine about, other than the continued under-representation of electronic music. And to be fair, while I was originally hired by NOW to cover dance music and the party scene, most Canadian music writers didn't spend the last decade critiquing DJ sets, so it shouldn't be that surprising that internationally acclaimed albums by Canadian artists like Art Department or Azari & III didn't make the cut.
Which brings me to what I can complain about. While I've been quoted saying nice things about what participating in the process can do for critics, that was part of a much longer rant and argument on the Polaris discussion board about the impossibility of the award ever living up to its mission statement of determining the Canadian best album of the year.
Here's an excerpt of me harassing the rest of the jury:
"All we have is our own perspective, so how do we stop this from just being another popularity contest? We say that album sales don't prove greatness, so why do we put faith in the votes of critics? Why are our taste and experiences any more valid than society at large? Because we've listened to more music than the average person, and can therefore put it into a larger context?
Given how much the conversations here are so clearly driven by each critic's personal taste, I'm not convinced this is any different than just a Billboard chart for music critics."
While the post that this excerpt came from did provoke a very thoughtful and complex discussion, no one was able to convince me that this isn't just an award for the most critically acclaimed Canadian album of the year. I wish I believed that critics had some magic ability to identify greatness, but I'm far too aware of how my own tastes have been shaped by my personal history, not to mention the effect of the job itself on my tastes.
Nevertheless, the critics did come up with a pretty decent short list, and NOW has heavily covered all of the artists in the past. Maybe there truly is Canada's greatest album of 2012 lurking in there, waiting to be identified.
Click on the album title to read our reviews of the discs, and the artist name for interviews: