Arcade Fire, Destroyer, Ron Sexsmith score 2011 Polaris shortlist spot

Like many independent music lovers, I grow tired, bored or, often, angry at the lack of unknowns named as nominess for the Grammy Awards. But outside the U.S., there are awards shows that open the door to lesser-known albums, including the Mercury Prize in the U.K. and the Polaris Music Prize in Canada.

The latter’s organizers announce this year’s shortlist of nominees today, which include world-renowned Canadians Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs,” of course, but there’s also some shockers and newcomers to uphold.

Here are the shortlist of artists and albums up for the 2011 Polaris prize:
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Austra – Feel It Break
Braids – Native Speaker
Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
Destroyer – Kaputt
Galaxie – Tigre et diesel
Hey Rosetta – Seeds
Ron Sexsmith – Long Player Late Bloomer
Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin” On
The Weeknd – House Of Balloons


Ron Sexsmith is a perennial favorite up there, and even though the prize has been around only since 2006, it’s surprising that this mark’s Destroyer’s first appearance on the shortlist. And Stetson’s connection to Arcade Fire as a touring saxophonist couldn’t have hurt him.

But perhaps the biggest shocker is the inclusion of The Weeknd’s “House of Balloons,” as it was released as a free mixtape through the mysterious songwriter’s website in time for the eligibility period. I’d love to see the Grammys come up with a wild card like that.

Those are debut albums from Austra, Timber Timbre, Braids and Galaxie; the latter seems to be the sole French-only lyricist on the list.

I’ll admit that I haven’t spun “Tigre et Diesel” or “Native Speaker” ever before, so I’m certainly planning on brushing up. Arcade Fire’s album was supurb, but I would love to see a lesser-known take the honor, particularly Destroyer, or, hell, why not one of the lady-led groups like Austra or Braids?

Winners will be awarded C$30,000 this year, with the winner announced on Sept. 19.

Who do you like from the list?