Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Score One for the Frogs

Karkwa is officially the first francophone winner of the Polaris Music Prize, Canada's annual prize for best album of the year. It's  selected by critics on "artistic merit" regardless of sales, label, or genre. You can tell it's Canadian because of the pseudo-hippie, thoroughly unoriginal, nature-based title. (If you are going to name something after anything in Canada it must be northern nature, aboriginal words that mean nothing to most people, or Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Even we can't think beyond our own stereotypes.)

For a fifth year, the rotating panel of critics got together to drink Kokanee, argue about which region of empty land is the best, build a bonfire, and pick a genuinely good album out of a list of genuinely good albums to celebrate. Because Canadians might have little to nothing to get off on beyond waterfalls and maple syrup, but we do manage to churn out some pretty good fucking music now and then.

This year, Karkwa is walking away with the Polaris prize for Les chemins de verre. And if you speak French or don't care about understanding lyrics, you might be pretty excited about this. I think it's alright. Don't get me wrong--Chemins is a good album. A pretty great one, actually.  But to me it also sounds like what you'd come up with if you had the sensibilities of Arcade Fire but couldn't afford half the line up. The anglophone half, I guess.

I'd have liked to see Broken Social Scene walk away with it, but they were arguably the most popular band on the shortlist. And if the critics can't point out that they like more obscure tunes than the average man, how will we ever know we need them?

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