I predict I Predict a Graceful Expulsion, the arresting debut disc from enigmatic Al Spx (a.k.a. Cold Specks) will be expulsed contentiously from Polaris contention. The album's foreboding blues are too heavy for voters with mainstream leanings and too pre-hyped for snobbier types. As for the albums that will make the short list, here are the predictions:
I predict juror love for Sound Kapital, from the now disbanded Montreal alt-rock duo Handsome Furs. A broken-up act making the short list happened only once before: The Deadly Snakes, in 2006.
Speaking of sound capital, voters finally get over their disinclination to acknowledge high-wage earners for the $30,000 prize. With winning LPs from Feist (Metals), Leonard Cohen (Old Ideas) and Drake (Take Care), the per-capita income of the nominated artists will be the highest ever.
The filthy-rich, self-pitying rapper Drake is known in Polaris circles as the "poet laureate of the bottle service VIP section." He'll be joined in the battle for the big cheque by the former poet laureate of Edmonton, Cadence Weapon (Hope in Dirt City).
, the stylishly affecting disc from Kathleen Edwards, prevails.
Montreal fares well, predictably. Joining Cohen and Handsome Furs is Coeur de pirate (the pop pixie Beatrice Martin, whose album is Blonde) and Grimes (Claire Boucher, whose electro-tinged effort is Visions).
For their danceable self-titled debut album Azari & III, these warehouse ravers will invoke the most "who the ... ?" responses following the short-list announcement.
I predict Vancouver troubadour Dan Mangan (Oh Fortune) squeezes past summer-soul smoothies the Slakadeliqs (The Other Side of Tomorrow) and Vancouver rockers Japandroids (Celebration Rock) as the final nominated disc.
Ten albums that should be on the Polaris short list, in no particular order:
Old Ideas, Leonard Cohen
For his first disc in eight years, the self-described "lazy bastard living in a suit" got off the couch and wrote all the music himself, in this strong, well-seasoned return to the level of his work before his lyrics-only albums with co-writer Sharon Robinson.
True to its name, this disc grapples with the hard substance of sorrow, in tough-minded, shrewdly-arranged songs that put a lot of distance between Feist and the sunny commercialized tune that made her famous.
Little Red Boots, Lindi Ortega:
There's an outlaw edge to this collection of scuffed country odes, sung by Ortega in a husky pop soprano, with dirt-road instrumentals more attuned to Austin than Nashville.
Hope in Dirt City, Cadence Weapon:
The prolific Edmonton rapper's rhymes are still more nimble and literate than many, and they careen through a wide array of musical environments, from junkyard percussion to samples that strike sparks against the words.
We're All Dying To Live, Rich Aucoin:
Aucoin's festive tuneful pop is like a movie in Cinemascope that's just dying to burst into 3D. He goes all out for this rambunctious collection, in which the only sin is not having the heart to express yourself fully.
Echoes of Silence, The Weeknd:
Abel Tesfaye combs through the wreckage of many bleak Saturday nights and bleaker Sunday mornings, with little pity for the casualties. His smooth desperate nocturnes may offer the best queasy listening of the year.
The edgy pale voice shivers through a cloud of reverb, above a mass of heaving synthesizer sounds. There's something extraterrestrial about Grimes's brand of electropop, whose prettiness may conceal a deathray.
YT//ST, Yamantaka Sonic Titans:
The debut disc from the Montreal "Noh-Wave" collective is massive, tuneful and mysterious, with a mythic scale to many tracks. This is the most distinctive of any Polaris nominee this year – shame on us if it doesn't make the finals.
MA, Ariane Moffatt:
Moffatt's first bilingual disc shows her changing shape with disarming ease, as she guides her sleepy-intense singing voice through songs that alternately cuddle the ear and scrape the skin. A real find for the 2012 Polaris.
Death Dreams, PS I Love You:
The Kingston duo dispels the demons of daily life with slurry, shaggy rock songs, whose grandiose feeling is tethered by the yelping New Wave anxiety that ripples through Paul Saulnier's singing.