September 23, 2014
The Carlu played host once again to the Polaris Prize gala on Monday night, and this historic location certainly provided for a historic night. With the short list of 10 Canadian albums nominated for the title of best album of the past year (based on artistic merit alone, as chosen by a jury of music critics from across the country), much bragging rights lay ripe for the taking.
However, the real purpose of the annual Polaris Prize isn’t really the explicit goal of determining the best album of the year, but the implicit benefit of generating dialogue and debate around what’s happening at this moment in Canadian music, and who’s pushing the envelope in terms of creating powerful, memorable, and inspiring music.
So let’s cut to the chase and tell you what you probably already know—Tanya Tagaq won the 2014 Polaris Prize for her album Animism—a breathtaking piece of complex, challenging, and confronting music that everyone in Canada (and beyond) should bother to spend some time listening to. As presenter Geoff Berner introduced her performance that night, he repeatedly stressed the importance of really listening – something we don’t often take the time to properly do with music these days.
Accessible, it might not be. But sometimes, truly great art isn’t something you are instantly struck by. Like peeling the skin of an onion, each layer provides new sensations and emotions as they make their way into your pores. Such is the beauty of Animism, with its spellbinding performances, production and raw musical passion. I won’t even get into the lyrical or political motivations inherent to this album, but let’s just say there’s a lot happening here—I mean, the album even opens with a Pixies cover.
In fact, the best part of Tanya Tagaq’s win might be that probably half of the people paying attention to this year’s Polaris process hadn’t even listened to her before last night. Not that I’m scolding—Inuit throat singing filtered through heavily layered production doesn’t exactly play big to the masses on FM radio. But that’s the point—there’s a densely rich world of music out there just waiting to be discovered, and the Polaris Prize can act as a vehicle for further exploration.
So if you’ve not heard Animism, or any of the nine other short-listed albums—or the 30 other long-listed albums—there’s nothing stopping you except for your own musical inhibitions. Was Tagaq’s album the best of this past year? Listen to the rest of the nominees and form your own opinion.
And if you still don’t like it, complain to these guys, and as they say—if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Become part of the ever-evolving discussion surrounding music in Canada.
You can replay the 2014 Polaris Prize gala show below. Skip ahead to 3:18:00 for Tanya Tagaq’s mesmerizing performance.
Polaris Music Prize Gala 2014.
Top image: Tanya Tagaq on stage, victory speech. Credit: Dustin Rabin.
*Check out a video of Tanya Tagaq performing and teaching children at NMC here.