A Tribe Called Red makes a return to the Polaris Prize long list

A Tribe Called Red makes Polaris Prize long list. Photo: Timothy Nguyen

The 2017 Polaris Prize long list was unveiled at the National Arts Centre on Tuesday. It included A Tribe Called Red’s newest hit album called We Are The Halluci Nation.

Also on the list were albums by Leonard Cohen, Gord Downie, The Tragically Hip, Drake, The Weeknd, Feist and Carly Rae Jepson. Former Ottawan Leif Vollebekk made the grade with his latest disc Twin Solitude. He now lives in Montreal.

The annual announcement of the long list moves around the country, said Steve Jordan, the founder and executive director of the prize, in an interview Tuesday.

“We have been doing events with the NAC for a few years now and we have a good relationship with them and they seem to want to be involved. We are a national award. We move the long list around every year. We’ve done Vancouver, Montreal Calgary, Halifax, Whitehorse and now here.

“This is a way of us having more of a national footprint.”

The release of the Polaris long list attracts a fair bit of attention with lots of speculation about which bands will be selected. Jordan calls those who track the list “first responders. They are the ones who want to find out whose on the list when its announced because they want to check out that half of it that they haven’t heard yet. These are people who are more into discovery mode. These are people who are super into culture.”

As to the mix of albums on the list, Jordan says, “we don’t really analyse it. We leave that to other people.” This year there are some very well-known artists but about half the names are first-timers, he says. “That’s astounding. You almost need the popular ones there to draw people in.”

The 12th prize will be handed out in September, Jordan says. And from his perch since the beginning, he has always seen a great diversity in the music produced in Canada. What has changed is an explosion “in the attention to the diversity. Maybe we are a part of why that is happening.”

One of the things also driving the interest in the diversity of Canadian music, he says, is the evolution of the idea of curating music and the creation of play lists by individuals.

And, even though sales are down, Jordan believes the album still matters.

“(People) aren’t buying them, but they still are consuming them. There is still an appetite and we see that daily. There’s no drop off in interest. And the recordings are still the centrepiece of an artist’s output. It’s a lasting document.

“What is changing is the length of recordings is coming down. Now an EP is, as far as were are concerned, an album. It is still a collection that is a statement of where that artist is at the time.”

The 40 names on this year’s long list were chosen from 188 titles that made the first ballots of the massive 201-member jury.

Past Polaris nominees Kathleen Edwards and The Acorn’s Rolf Klausener helped to reveal the list at the NAC on Tuesday afternoon.

A short list of 10 albums will be revealed July 13 and the winner will be chosen Sept. 18 at a gala evening in Toronto. Albums considered for the 2017 prize were were released in the period from June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2017. The winner receives $50,000.

The 2017 Polaris Music Prize Long List:

A Tribe Called Red: We Are The Halluci Nation
Alaclair Ensemble: Les Frères Cueilleurs
Ancients: Voice of the Void
Arkells: Morning Report
Philippe B: La grande nuit vidéo
Louise Burns: Young Mopes
Chocolat: Rencontrer Looloo
Clairmont The Second: Quest For Milk and Honey
Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker
Antoine Corriveau: Cette chose qui cognait au creux de sa poitrine sans vouloir s’arrêter
Le Couleur: P.O.P.
Marie Davidson: Adieux Au Dancefloor
Mac Demarco: This Old Dog
Good Downie: Secret Path
Drake: More Life
Feist: Pleasure
Figure Walking: The Big Other
Fiver: Audible Songs From Rockwood
Geoffrey: Coastline
Hannah Georgas: For Evelyn
Japandroids: Near To The Wild Heart Of Life
Carly Rae Jepsen: E.MO.TION Side B
B.A. Johnston: Gremlins III
Lisa LeBlanc: Why You Wanna Leave, Runaway Queen?
The New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions
Klô Pelgag: L’Étoile thoracique
Peter Peter: Noir Éden
Lido Pimienta: La Papessa
Jessie Reyez: Kiddo
Daniel Romano: Modern Pressure
The Sadies: Northern Passages
John K. Samson: Winter Wheat
Tanya Tagaq: Retribution
The Tragically Hip: Man Machine Poem
Leif Vollebekk: Twin Solitude
Weaves: Weaves
The Weeknd: Starboy
Charlotte Day Wilson: CDW

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.