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October 30, 2014
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Postcards from the Polaris Prize (Part Two)
Brief evaluations of every album on the long list

Natalie Zina Walschots wrote an impressionistic mini-review of every Polaris Prize nominee. The first batch was published last week.

A Tribe Called Red — A Tribe Called Red

Gangly. Uncoordinated. Two left feet. You hide by the bar and weddings, never go to clubs. I don’t care. You have to move. You have to move. Your body wants to. Your body must. Listen. Listen. It’s right here. Heart and muscle and fat and bone. It knows. Listen. Move.


Marie-Pierre Arthur — Aux alentours

In every movie that ever brushes against the narrative of a young woman coming-of-age, there is a scene is which she is sitting in the passenger seat of a car, the window rolled down, holding her hand out in the wind like it is a smooth bird.


Blackie and the Rodeo Kings — Kings and Queens

Hot, fat summer. You spent the day splayed out on the kitchen floor, limbs akimbo, trying to draw some coolness from the fan. Finally, it is night. You peel your back from the floor like a piece of sliced cheese from its plastic sleeve and retreat to the porch. Through the screen door, you hear your parents fight and break dishes. The fireflies come out.


Kathryn Calder — Bright and Vivid

We all imagine ourselves foundlings. The secret queens and kings of the world, set afloat in reef baskets, left on doorsteps on stormy nights, or kidnapped by witches. We imagine our true parents hiding us in obscurity to protect us from evil plots, waiting for us to grow until our true identities can be revealed, our thrones reclaimed. What if you were right?


Coeur de Pirate — Blonde

When I was 22, I cut my hair for the first time in my life. When I was a baby, my face was ringed by strawberry blonde waves; by the time I was a toddler, my hair was so pale and bright it was almost white; by four or five, it became the buttercup blonde, the bright flame yellow of a fairytale princess. It hung in waves to my waist, and eventually reaches the back of my knees. On my wedding day, my hair was my gold veil. A few months later, I cut it all off with kitchen shears. I left a puddle of purity, of childhood and magic, on the bathroom floor. Sometimes I dream of my hair, the weight of it. This albums sounds like that weight, like the phantom limb of old beauty.


Cold Specks — I Predict a Graceful Expulsion

Belladonna is also called Devil’s Berries and Death Cherries. All parts of the plant are toxic, especially the berries, so much so that they can be used to tip poison arrows. It causes narcosis and paralysis. Or, dripped into the eyes, it makes you look like you are in love.


Rose Cousins — We Have Made a Spark

This record sounds like a warning. Sweet and warbling, it counsels against following gold threads deep into labyrinths, worries for all of us wandering into the dark to slay monsters and trusting in something so easily snapped to lead us out again.


Drake — Take Care

Why do we expose our pain? Are we hoping for the sweet release of an opiate? Are we longing for sympathy and tenderness, clucking tongues and kind words? Or are we willing to face the white-hot cauterizing needle? Are we willing to grit our teeth and burn it out?


Fucked Up — David Comes to Life

David fires a rock at the forehead of Goliath. David is seventeen feet tall and made of marble. David is willing to send a soldier to his death after watching a woman bathe. David is an award-winning environmentalist and broadcaster. David is sometimes called Ziggy Stardust, sometimes the Goblin King. David is married to a Spice Girl. David has been frozen, buried, and locked in a plexiglass case suspended above the River Thames.


Japandroids — Celebration Rock

Electric, alien popcorn.


Mares of Thrace — The Pilgrimage

In Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the pilgrims are wives and clerks, squires and physicians. Here, the journey is undertaken by a company of welcoming, broken monsters. They don’t walk so much as heave and crawl, drag twisted limbs or tentacles after them as they go, sometimes oozing noxious substances. Sometimes they weep. They’d like you to walk with them a while.


Lindi Ortega — Little Red Boots

I hate this record.


Sandro Perri — Impossible Spaces

Cup your hands together, not quite touching. Feel the heat radiate off your own skin. Feel yourself radiant. Grow that little kernel of heat in your hands until it becomes a sweet light. Pull your hands apart slightly. Watch the light grow. Play with the warmth you have built like a child plays with a rubber ball.


Joel Plaskett Emergency — Scrappy Happiness

Twice, I have almost swallowed bugs that could have killed me. Once, a huge cicada few in Carl Haffer’s rolled-down window as we drove around small-town Ontario, and went straight down my throat as I sat singing in the back seat. Had the force of my showtunes not blown in back out of my mouth I could have choked. Later that summer, I took a swig of Coke and spat. A wet and irritated wasp flew away. The tickle of a live thing in the back of my throat is the same weird tickle of this album.


Shooting Guns — Born to Deal In Magic: 1953-1976

A slightly itchy sweater smelling of woodsmoke, the perfect weight and warmth for a cold night. Too much maple whiskey. A bug-zapper. Rocking chairs, hammocks, the simple movement of a body comforting itself. And a punch to the face when everyone else has been too sympathetic, and really you just deserve to be hit. The satisfaction of sucking that fat lip.


The Slakadeliqs — The Other Side of Tomorrow

No, not tomorrow; right now. This album is all about immediacy and presence. The way the present moment is always retro because we still own a beloved Walkman and can’t quite bear to throw out all our old tapes. The box of awful love letters, some of them actual fucking printed emails, that a stupid boy wrote us in high school. Because our phones are too complicated for most of us to use properly. Because past and future are really just right now, being confusing.


Patrick Watson — Adventures In Your Own Backyard

Elementary, my dear.


The Weeknd — Echoes of Silence

Once or twice in your life, you will meet a voice that makes you stupid. A voice that stops you in your tracks, your heart. A voice that writhes in your mind, cruelly rakes across the sad and sodden meat of your heart. A voice that can pin you to a bed.


Yamantaka // Sonic Titan — YT//ST

Take off your shoes. This is a holy place. Feel the joints in your feet kiss the stone, the joints give and spread in sweet, spongy obeisance. Focus on your breath. Focus on the cold. Focus on the drip, the drone, the thunder. Let the weather becomes drums and your sinews guitar strings. Sing.


Yukon Blonde — Tiger Talk

Enough with the wood panelling and nostalgia for when everyone smoked inside, already. I don’t miss rabbit ears or TV dinners either. Make some damn noise.


Natalie Zina Walschots is a poet and music writer based in Toronto, Ontario. Her second book of poetry, DOOM: Love Poems for Supervillains, was published by Insomniac Press this spring. You can follow her on Twitter at @NatalieZed.

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