Final Fantasy snags Polaris
Let the backlash begin! After an evening-long deliberation that found industry folks and Canrock entourages absorbing the atrocious comedic stylings of event host Jian Ghomeshi, Final Fantasy, aka T.O.-based Owen Pallett, was awarded the inaugural Polaris Music Prize Monday (September 18).
The award, which snags Pallett winnings of $20,000 along with the ephemeral honour of having his disc He Poos Clouds (Blocks Recording Club) named the best Canadian album released between June 1, 2005 and May 31, 2006, is the country's largest music prize determined by critical criteria (not album sales). Patterned after the UK's Mercury Prize, the Polaris was awarded based on the decision of a jury made up of highly skilled simianso oops, established music critics, including NOW's Sarah Liss, who debated the 10-album short list (other contenders were Broken Social Scene, Cadence Weapon, Deadly Snakes, Sarah Harmer, K'Naan, Malajube, Metric, the New Pornographers and Wolf Parade) in a sequestered room while the Polaris festivities raged elsewhere in the Phoenix.
Polaris criteria dictated that each album was to be considered in a virtual vacuum, removed from concerns of the individual artists' relative careers, financial circumstances or label backing. But it's hard not to feel pleased that, as Pallett himself noted during the post-Polaris press scrum, one of three nominees on true indie labels with little to no economic support scored big.
Beyond just rooting for the little guy, the effect that $20,000 can have on the lives and art of a Final Fantasy, a Malajube or a Cadence Weapon is massive compared to its effect on, let's say, an act signed to a major-backed label and already earning five-figure guarantees for live performances. The Polaris process may not yet be perfect, but at least the results were quite fantastic the first time round.