On Sun and Sequestering

20 09 2010

So, made it to Toronto safe and sound after a couple plane changes and rain delays yesterday, ready to dive into my duties as one of 11 Canadian music journalists and critics tapped to decide who will take home Polaris’ $20,000 prize tonight. The weather is gorgeous–and I did get a chance to take in some sun when my fellow juror, Jonathan Dekel, showed a few of us around the city this afternoon. But now,with mere hours to go before we get shipped over to the Masonic Temple to deliberate the top 10 Canadian albums of the year, I’m chilling out in my hotel room at the Drake (which is awesome, by the way) and doing some last-minute listening after lastnight’s engaging dinner discussion.

While the official deliberations and votes don’t go down until the gala starts at 8pm tonight, it’s Polaris tradition for the 11 jurors to meet for dinner and have a casual preliminary discussion of the top 10. The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night, Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record, Caribou – Swim, Karkwa – Les Chemins De Verre, Dan Mangan – Nice, Nice, Very Nice, Owen Pallett – Heartland, Radio Radio – Belmundo Regal, The Sadies – Darker Circles, Shad – TSOL and Tegan And Sara – Sainthood.) Since most of us are there championing one of these 10 albums, Polaris founder Steve Jordan and Jury Mistress Extraordinaire Liisa Ladouceur go around the table and ask each of us to present the case for our record of choice. What ensued lastnight was an engaging, intense but extremely interesting four-hour discussion around the top 10.

I’ll admit, I was pretty nervous coming into that room. As a generalist (my work at Monday involves writing about everything from theatre to visual art to music and even the occasional news story), I was feeling a bit out of my league surrounded by folks who immerse themselves in music–not to mention some of the people in the room have been writing about and studying music since I was in nappies. But while I can’t comment on the specifics of the discussion, I can say the atmosphere was great. No one got an easy ride on their pick by any stretch of the imagination, but there was a lot of thought and consideration in everyone’s responses, whether they be critical or supportive. Two things were really apparent during lastnight’s talk: 1) that everyone around the table had done their homework and really, really listened to the records and 2) everyone really cared about the Polaris Prize and making the best, most informed decision humanly possible. Sure, most of us came in there with a favourite, but we also came into that room with an open mind, ready to listen to each others’ opinions and give some records another listen.

I can honestly say that, out of the 10 albums, there are only one or two on the list that I would be disappointed if they won. I’m awaiting tonight’s jury deliberations with nervous excitement…although I just realised I forgot my dress shoes at home.

And hey, if you want to listen live to the Polaris Gala at the winner announcement, it’ll be broadcast live on CBC Radio 3 (Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 86 or radio3.cbc.ca) or at Muchmusic.com starting at 8pm EST (or 5pm PST).  I’ll also be live on CBC Victoria’s On the Island tomorrow at 6:45 PST talking about my jury gig.

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