CBC Music presents
Polaris Music Prize 2016
Black Mountain, Basia Bulat, Andy Shauf, U.S. Girls, Jessy Lanza, White Lung, Carly Rae Jepsen
444 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON, M5B 2H4
Doors 6:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
Polaris Music Prize 2016
The Polaris Music Prize is a not-for-profit organization that annually honours and rewards artists who produce Canadian music albums of distinction. A select panel of music critics judge and award the Prize without regard to musical genre or commercial popularity.
Le Prix de musique Polaris est une organisation à but non lucratif qui honore et récompense annuellement les artistes ayant créé des albums de musique canadiens de renom. Un groupe sélectionné de critiques musicaux jugent et décernent le Prix sans considération pour le genre musical ou la popularité commercial.
"We were toying with the idea of calling the album Our Strongest Material To Date"laughs Jeremy Schmidt. The Vancouver outfit's keyboardist can afford to joke about what they describe as "the dog-eared ace of spades of all rock band platitudes." It was during a solo show under his Sinoia Caves alias that he performed a revelatory electronic prototype for Mothers Of The Sun. This quintessentially Black Mountain tour de force kicks off the renamed but still accurately titled IV. "It's actually an older song which we couldn't get quite right before," explains Schmidt. "It has all the elements that we gravitate towards, built into one miniature epic."
Chief among these elements is the distinctive voice and breathtaking range of Amber Webber, whether she's powering through interstellar boogie on Florian Saucer Attack, setting the celestial tone for her beautifully orchestrated ballad Line Them All Up, or constructing the choral midsection for Space To Bakersfield, a psychedelic soul finale inspired by Funkadelic's deathless Maggot Brain. "We'd meant to have an actual choir, but I ended up singing all the parts. It's a choir of me! I'd never written an arrangement like that before."
The group's sense of rediscovery as a creative whole is tangible throughout. They were joined in the studio by spiritually attuned bassist and veteran purveyor of the riff, Arjan Miranda (formerly of S.T.R.E.E.T.S, Children, and The Family Band) whose roots, heart and soul are connected to the same soil and cement that Black Mountain were borne from. Recording was primarily done in close collaboration with Sunn O))), Wolves In The Throne Room and Marissa Nadler producer Randall Dunn, at his trusted Avast! facility in Seattle. "It's got some grit,"enthuses guitarist and co-vocalist Stephen McBean. "And there's a history there: Northwest punk, grunge and general weirdo outsider stuff, plus it houses the same Trident mixing board used for Alice Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies."
A heightened mystique and dramatic yearning can be heard on such perfectly formed earworms as Cemetery Breeding, described by drummer, engineer and occasional pianist Joshua Wells as "a dark pop song with an emotive urgency to it that taps into my teenaged eyeliner-and-trenchcoat wearing sensibilities."Wells' eclectic tastes and multitasking flair – his supple percussion also provides the backbone for Dan Bejar's world-conquering Destroyer ensemble – inform Black Mountain's wider palette as well as their rhythmic choices. "It's like painting. All sound colour. And space is really important. People think of us as this heavy rock band – and we are sometimes – but it has to be tempered with space. There has to be these emotional cues. It's not just about rocking out."
Check out the way Amber and Stephen's harmonies telepathically entwine on cosmic standout Defector, or Constellations' unforced confluence of synthesizer
pulse and double denim riff. In addition to being blessed with a melodic facility that eludes most rock groups, Black Mountain effortlessly echo the limitless possibilities of the internet age. Sonic tributaries that never met in the real world – AC/DC and Amon Düül, Heart and Hawkwind, King Crimson and Kraftwerk –flow together on IV as they do online. It fits with McBean's unifying theory of the modern YouTube stoner, wherein "kids discover their own alternate universes online, from Cologne to Melbourne... Detroit to Laurel Canyon.. the ice age to annihilation. There's a new scene with a different set of headphones creating a postmodern futuristic Fantasy Island. All those fledgling heads in waiting escaping within their computer screens!"
This impulse to connect is reflected by the band members' activities and journeys outside the mothership. Josh and Amber have their self-run Balloon Factory studio and pop-noir Lightning Dust project. Stephen relocated to Los Angeles six years ago. Traveling and creating via his Southern Lord released hardcore unit Obliterations and ongoing post-punk rock 'n' roll combo Pink Mountaintops (whose heady sometimes electronic throb led to the majestic, mantra-like You Can Dream). "There's something very West Coast about us all."he says. "That rambling restlessness of keepin' on guides us and keeps the music alive. Whether it's the gravitational pull of the Pacific Ocean that draws us back together or simply a good taco... The turning up, turning on and getting down is Black Mountain. It's home, and it always feels good to come back to. "
Back in Canada, meanwhile, Jeremy, channeled his analogue synth mastery and youthful John Carpenter worship into the hugely acclaimed cult science fiction film score Beyond The Black Rainbow. He's been busy of late conceptualizing Black Mountain's "mystic Concorde" art direction. Referencing the hallowed aircraft's future/past iconography, his designs are emblematic of IV's spatial diversity and maximalist astral-rock vision. You know, it really is their strongest material to date.
Basia entered the public's ears in 2007 with a critically acclaimed foray into indie-folk. Her characteristic honeyed vibrato, baroque femininity, sweetly minimal arrangements and silver arrowhead-like lyrics make her one of Canada's most conspicuous talents. Her third, Juno-nominated and 2014 Polaris prize short listed album Tall Tall Shadow charted a new path with echo and reverb, electronic flutters and electric autoharp alchemizing heartbreak into buoyant, inventive, hook-laden pop. Her 2016 Polaris shortlisted, Jim James (My Morning Jacket) – produced album, Good Advice, is a fizzing, phosphorescent affair, filled with songs of desire and redemption, lit up with a bottle-rocket of liberated, faintly psychedelic sounds.
Andy Shauf is a storyteller, a singer of heartbreak and regrets, isolation and loneliness, reflecting his prairie surroundings in Regina, Canada. Meticulously written over four years, Shauf's The Bearer of Bad News is a warm and welcoming album, bathed in weathered piano, dampened drums, softly-strummed guitars and clarinet, which lends its unique timbre to frequently brighten – or hauntingly underscore – the songs' darker undercurrents. Fans of Elliott Smith, Nick Drake and Harry Nilsson, take note.
U.S. Girls is Illinois-born, Toronto-based artist Meghan Remy, who releases new album Half Free on September 25th.
Half Free is Remy's first album for 4AD and is her most realized yet, focusing on characters in everyday struggles, with narratives inspired by the work of director John Cassavetes and Bruce Springsteen. Throughout, Remy explores themes relating to abuse and gender inequality, whether the broken wife in 'Sororal Feelings' (a track loosely based on the character Nora Bass in Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter), or the exasperated war widow in 'Damn That Valley', soundtracked by its intoxicating combination of thick dub flavours and Wall of Sound dramatics.
Other tracks include the glam stomp of 'Sed Knife', a minimal song poem (which first appeared on a 7" back in 2012) recast here as a Misfits-flavoured rocker; and the lush Cocteau Twins-laced 80s soul of 'Navy & Cream'. Elsewhere, Half Free finds Remy ripping into Gloria Ann Taylor's 70s deep-cut disco to create the wondrously dramatic heartbreak of 'Window Shades' (written after Meg watched the Katy Perry movie, Part of Me), before closing on 'Woman's Work'; a nagging, arpeggio-laced ode to Moroder that picks at themes of beauty, anxiety and paralysis in the face of aging.
Part of a vibrant Toronto scene, both Meg's husband Slim Twig (DFA) and Onakabazien (who produced three tracks here) have again been summoned for the U.S. Girls roll call. Half Free also features Amanda Crist (Ice Cream), who provides vocals alongside Meg on a number of songs including 'Damn That Valley' and 'Woman's Work', and Ben Cook (Fucked Up, Young Guv), who worked with Meg on the track 'Red Comes In Many Shades'.
Half Free is an enchanting document of life at the point when it feels most on its knife-edge.
Jessy Lanza's second album 'Oh No' is addressed to her own constant nervousness. The pressure of music making, which used to calm her nerves, has led to a whole new world of contingencies that stoke the anxiety mill. The exclamation 'Oh No', for Jessy, marks yet another incident of randomness interrupting her tranquillity. All of which seems at odds with the confidence and spontaneity of this second album as well as recent collaborationswith the likes of Caribou, DJ Spinn and Morgan Geist and his Galleria project.
White Lung are known for their furious yet melodic approach to punk. Since adding guitarist Kenneth William in 2009, Mish Way (vocals), Anne-Marie Vassiliou (drums) and Grady Mackintosh (bass) have received nothing but critical acclaim for their distinct brand of punk and their tight, live stage shows. White Lung's debut LP It's The Evil (Deranged Records) was Exclaim's Punk Album Of The Year in 2010 and the band was nominated for Punk/Hardcore Artist/Group of the Year at the 2011 Canadian Music Week Indie Awards.
Their second LP Sorry (Deranged Records) was released spring 2012 and pushed the band to a wider audience, receiving critical acclaim from SPIN, Pitchfork, Bitch, E! Music. Sorry landed on "Top Albums of the Year" lists Exclaim!, Magnet, amongst others while Rolling Stone marked Sorry in their "Top 10 Albums Of The Year". Sorry was also nominated as "Best Album Art of 2012″ by NME and made the shortlist for "Best Album Art" by Art Vinyl in London. A vinyl exhibit was held worldwide from Japan to Britain to Sweden. The band has toured through out North America extensively and went through Europe and the UK Fall of 2012.
Carly Rae Jepsen
On the follow-up to her U.S. debut album Kiss—a 2012 release featuring the Grammy Award-nominated, multi-platinum-selling breakout hit "Call Me Maybe"—singer/songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen brings new depth and dimension to her undeniably hooky but heart-driven breed of pop music. With a sense of pure feeling and passion inspired by classic pop records of the early '80s, E·MO·TION finds Jepsen conjuring up pop's most thrilling paradoxes and delivering songs both carefree and introspective, tender and bold, sensitive and self-assured. "The one intention I had going into making this album was to take my time and create something I was really proud of—something that showed sides of me that I hadn't ever revealed in my music before," Jepsen says.
The result of years of experimentation and creative soul-searching, E·MO·TION includes lead single "I Really Like You," a Billboard Top 40 hit praised as "pop perfection" by BuzzFeed and "mind-blowing, fantastic, catchy-as-hell pop" by Idolator. Though Jepsen first sketched out many of the album's tracks on the back of her tour bus while traveling the world in support of Kiss, she also teamed up with songwriters like Sia, Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange), and Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Madonna, Vampire Weekend) in bringing E·MO·TION to life. When it came time to record, Jepsen journeyed from New York to L.A. to London to Stockholm to join forces with such producers as Mattman & Robin (Tove Lo, Taylor Swift), Greg Kurstin (Charli XCX, Katy Perry), and Carl Falk and Rami Yacoub (Ariana Grande, One Direction).
With its bright and shimmering layers of melody and texture, E·MO·TION gracefully captures both the joy and risk in following your heart. "A lot of the album's about me trying to get some power back," Jepsen says. "I'd recently broken up with someone and moved to New York, so it was a scary new world for me—but at the same time I felt like I was coming into my own." And in naming the album, Jepsen decided to go for a deceptively simple title. "At a photo shoot one day I was looking at the definition of 'emotion,'" she recalls, "and I loved the example that went along with it: 'She was attempting to control her emotions.' In some ways that's exactly what I was doing with all these songs."
Kicking off with the slow-burning but epic "Run Away with Me," E·MO·TION begins by twisting restless longing into blissed-out escapism ("That song's about being away from someone for so long and having to make this one weekend together count," Jepsen explains. "It's totally romantic and not very real-life, but there's something kind of magical in that"). From there, E·MO·TION leads into its title track, whose stark beats and airy synth brilliantly play against lyrics channeling desire and empowerment ("Tell me there is nothing I can't have and nothing you won't do"). With "All That" (a "Best New Track" pick on Pitchfork), Jepsen offers up a lush and dreamy, piano-laced ballad hailed by Rolling Stone as "a Paisley Park-esque slow jam reminiscent of Prince's Purple Rain classic 'The Beautiful Ones.'" On the breathless and hypnotic "Gimmie Love," E·MO·TION slips into a sensually charged and sweetly demanding piece of retro-dance-pop. And for the moody and urgent "Your Type" (a song about "someone I was stuck in the friend zone with, and trying to come to terms with that"), Jepsen uses her sly vocal play to take on the kaleidoscope of feelings inherent in unrequited love: jealousy, regret, heartache, and unbreakable hope.
The first burst of inspiration for E·MO·TION's heart-on-sleeve sensibility came to Jepsen several years ago, after catching a Cyndi Lauper concert in Japan. "I was really struck by the quality of the songs—how they were incredibly catchy but also so emotional," says Jepsen. "It seemed like a pretty common element of '80s pop, and it made me want to explore that dynamic in my own music." That exploration continued during her 2014 run starring in the Broadway production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, for which Jepsen earned rave reviews. "Rodgers and Hammerstein is so beautiful, but you do need a palate cleanser every once in a while, so on my morning runs I'd listen to a lot of old-school Prince and early Madonna," she says.
As she crafted the songs that would eventually make up E·MO·TION, Jepsen took a pressure-free approach and allowed herself unlimited time and space to find the sound and feel that best represented her growth as an artist. "Taking so much time to work on these songs and making sure there wasn't one track on the album I didn't completely love, I really felt like I got back to the spark that writing songs gave me back when I started making music," she points out. That spark first hit when Jepsen was a teenager growing up in British Columbia, raised on soulful singer/songwriters like Van Morrison and James Taylor. "My first attempt at a song was a letter to a boy I liked," she says. "It was all very amateur, but I was hooked right away and just loved the rush of finding melodies that reflected what I was feeling." Several years after independently releasing her first album (2008's Tug of War), Jepsen landed a deal with Schoolboy Records/Interscope and soon made her major-label debut with Kiss. Along with "Call Me Maybe"—which climbed to #1 on the iTunes Singles charts in more than 47 countries, sold over 17 million singles worldwide, and earned Jepsen 2012 Grammy Award nominations for Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year—Kiss featured follow-up hit "Good Time," a duet with Owl City that's now been certified double-platinum.
Through immersing herself in the intense songwriting process that yielded E·MO·TION, Jepsen ended up having to do away with over a hundred songs. "Writing so many songs and then narrowing it down to the few that actually wound up on the album was rough in a lot of ways—it's hard to kill your darlings," she says. "But despite all that it never felt like work, because I really do love writing so much." And for Jepsen, the ultimate reward of all that effort lies in her connection to each listener. "So much of why I love those '80s pop songs has to do with their timelessness, and the way you can so easily fit them into your own life," she says. "As much as all the songs on E·MO·TION are personal to me, I really just want everyone to let them be their songs, their emotions. The best feeling to me is that we can all share the same stories, even if we don't know each other."
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