Everything you need to know about the 2023 Polaris Music Prize

The 2023 Polaris Music Prize winner celebration and gala will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 19, and while there are again 10 Canadian albums contending for the grand prize, a few things have changed this year.

Here’s everything you need to know about the 2023 Polaris Music Prize.

What is the Polaris Music Prize?

The Polaris Music Prize is an annual award of $50,000 that’s given to the best Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of sales or genre. Each year, a 40-artist long list is released at the beginning of the summer, and a month later a 10-album short list is revealed, as voted on by a jury of nearly 200 members of local and national media. This year, the eligibility period was for albums released between May 1, 2022 and May 1, 2023. 

The winner is selected from the short list by a grand jury of 11 people, who are chosen from the larger jury pool. Past winners include Owen Pallett (He Poos Clouds), Kaytranada (99.9%), Tanya Tagaq (Animism), Haviah Mighty (13th Floor) and Feist (Metals).

WATCH | Jeremy Dutcher performs at the 2018 Polaris Music Prize 

Where can I watch or listen to this year’s gala?

2023 marks the first time in a decade that the Polaris Music Prize won’t take place at the Carlu in Toronto, but instead at historic music venue Massey Hall. For folks in the city who’d like to attend in person, the event takes place on Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 8 p.m. ET and you can get tickets here.

For those who can’t make the event, CBC Music will be covering it and announcing the winner on Sept. 19 via its Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok feeds. Highlights from the gala will air on CBC Music Live on Friday, Sept. 22, at 2 p.m. (2:30 p.m. NT) on CBC Radio One and CBC Listen, and Monday, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. (6:30 p.m. NT) on CBC Music and CBC Listen.

Who’s vying for the grand prize this year?

The 10 artists with albums up for the prize this year are Alvvays, Aysanabee, Begonia, Daniel Caesar, Feist, Debby Friday, Gayance, Dan Mangan, the Sadies and Snotty Nose Rez Kids.

Shortlist nominee: Blue Rev by Alvvays

On Alvvays’ third album, the Toronto indie-pop band showcases its refined, power-pop sound with clever songs that illustrate the anxiety of growing up and finding oneself. Co-produced by six-time Grammy-winner Shawn Everett, whose credits include work with Kacey Musgraves, Alabama Shakes and more, Blue Rev weaves together memories of the East Coast over loud guitars and brash drums. 

Shortlist nominee: Watin by Aysanabee

Aysanabee’s debut album is a heartfelt tribute celebrating the Oji-Cree musician’s bond with his grandfather, Watin. The album cycles through moments of pain, resilience and healing, and each interlude is a personal conversation they shared, amplifying the themes at hand while underscoring the love that fuels the record.

Shortlist nominee: Powder Blue by Begonia

Begonia’s genre-spanning second album is an array of ballads and dance-floor pop songs. With lyrics that reference Begonia’s Mennonite upbringing as well as the many facets of her love life, Powder Blue features confessional songs that showcase the Winnipeg musician’s glowing vocals.

Shortlist Nominee: Never Enough by Daniel Caesar

Daniel Caesar’s third album was crafted during COVID-19 lockdowns, resulting in a series of ruminative tracks that touch on love, loss and Toronto. His signature R&B gets an experimental revamp courtesy of a wide array of collaborators and producers such as Mustafa, Ty Dolla $ign, Mark Ronson and more.

Shortlist Nominee: Multitudes by Feist

Feist’s sixth album is all about life: she processes the birth of her daughter, the death of her father and everything in between on songs that she workshopped in a series of live shows. Many of the songs are quiet, without drums and featuring her vocals on full display, layered over and over again.

Shortlist nominee: Good Luck by Debby Friday

Good Luck, the debut album from Debby Friday, was years in the making, following two EPs, sobriety, an MFA and a move to Toronto. Shaped by years of DJing and raving, Friday explores her inner psyche on the self-produced album over moody, industrial sounds and thundering dance beats.

Shortlist nominee: Mascarade by Gayance

Mascarade is Gayance’s debut album, and it combines the sounds of New York house, U.K. garage and more for an eclectic, experimental medley. Gayance sang for the first time on the album, and that helps make room for the entrancing, ambient sounds that appear on several tracks.

Shortlist nominee: Being Somewhere by Dan Mangan

The loneliness of the pandemic isn’t the only theme on Dan Mangan’s sixth album, but it’s one that appears prominently, alongside friendship and love. Breaking out of his signature folk sound, Mangan toys with synths and electronics on Being Somewhere, elevating some of his most melancholy songs to date.

Shortlist nominee: Colder Streams by the Sadies

Much of the Sadies’ 11th album was recorded separately by the bandmates as a result of the pandemic, but the unified spirit of the band persisted anyway, creating what many critics have labelled as the Sadies’ best record yet. Exploring themes of sadness, the album is the final release from the group with founding member Dallas Good, who died in February 2022.

Shortlist nominee: I’m Good, HBU? by Snotty Nose Rez Kids

Snotty Nose Rez Kids’ fifth album, I’m Good, HBU?, was the rap duo’s response to the emotional toll of the pandemic. With humour and fervour, the group explores everything from climate change to Indigenous rights over eight tracks, including several amusing skits.

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