England and Canada never seem so much like foreign countries to me as when the lists for their respective indie-level music awards are announced. It's that time of year again: on July 6th, the 2010 short list for Canada's Polaris Prize was announced, and yesterday, the short list for this year's Mercury Prize was announced in London.
In each case, past winners (Polaris nominees Caribou and F***** Up, Mercury nominee Dizzee Rascal) or nominees (Mercury's Laura Marling, Polaris's Broken Social Scene and The Besnard Lakes) were short listed again this year. Some, like the Jam's Paul Weller, are established veterans. But after locating a mild rooting interest, my reaction to both lists was the same: who are these bands?
Polaris nominees Karkwa, Dan Mangan, Radio Radio and Shad had all escaped my notice. Whispers of the names of Mercury nominated acts I Am Kloot, Kit Downes Trio and Mumford & Sons had never reached my eardrums, despite mainstream press notice. (Oops!)
Prizes like Polaris and Mercury exist to expose people to new music — take a look at Polaris' board of directors to see how invested its members are in the survival of the music industry — they're kind of like low-impact Indie Idol competitions. Winners, particularly in the case of the Mercury prize, are often exciting newcomers (in the last decade, Badly Drawn Boy, Ms. Dynamite, Dizzee Rascal, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, Klaxons and Speech Debelle each won for their debut).
Ideally, the prize lends an imprimatur of credibility, helps the musicians sell a few copies of their records, and boosts anticipation for a follow-up. Does it work? At the very least, I've watched videos by Mumford & Sons (see the Wes Anderson-inspired clip above) Kit Downes Trio (Patrick, is it possible that a jazz ensemble could win the Mercury Prize?) and Shad ("Maybe I'm not big 'cause I don't blog or Twitter," um....) in the last few hours. Mission accomplished?
2010 Polaris Prize Short List
- 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
- Tegan And Sara - Sainthood
2010 Mercury Prize Short List
- Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions
- I Am Kloot - Sky At Night
- Dizzee Rascal - Tongue N' Cheek
- Paul Weller - Wake Up the Nation
- Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea
- The xx - xx
- Villagers - Becoming A Jackal
- Kit Downes Trio - Golden
- Foals - Total Life Forever
- Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
- Wild Beasts - Two Dancers
- Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More