Last night, the 2007 Polaris Music Prize was awarded to Montrealer Patrick Watson, for his album Close to Paradise. For non-Canadians (or those living under a rock which isnt serviced by any decent music or culture news), the Polaris Prize, now in its second year, is awarded for the best album released each year. Unlike the Junos (which featured a Watson performance this year), which is based primarily on album sales, the Polaris Prize criteria is meant to focus more on creative integrity than commercial success.
Watson's stellar debut of dreamy orchestral pop was chosen by over 170 Canadian music journalists over a horde of strong competition. The other nominees this year included:
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
the Besnard Lakes - ... Are the Dark Horse
the Dears - Gang of Losers
Julie Doiron - Woke Myself Up
Feist - the Reminder
Junior Boys - So This is Goodbye
Miracle Fortress - Five Roses
Joel Plaskett - Ashtray Rock
Chad Van Gaalen - Skelliconnection
Along with bragging rights and utmost recognition and respect, Watson and his band also receive a solid raise in the form of a $20,000 bump.
Close to Paradise was an underdog to say the least; the solid majority of Watson's fan base (and album sales) remains in his home province of Quebec. His celebrity status in English Canada is still non-existent, having done very little touring outside of his home province since the release of the record late last year. Even Pitchfork, who reported on the win yesterday, was completely blindsided.
Perhaps the only people not totally surprised were people who actually own the record (which are few east of Ottawa) or Grey's Anatomy fans, who caught on to Watson after a track from Close to Paradise was featured on the popular show last season.
That's not to say that the Patrick Watson was undeserving - the record, which I first heard shortly after its release (through a friend closely affiliated with the Watson camp), is reminiscent of the most wonderful of daydreams; each song painting a new, vibrant image - both lyrically, thematically, and aesthetically. And he puts on a killer live show.
Nonetheless, it'll be interesting what the Canadiana music snobs have to say about this one.
Patrick Watson joins violinist extraordinaire Final Fantasy on the list of Polaris Music Prize winners.