After months of anticipation, the winner of this year's Polaris Music Prize was announced this evening (September 24) during a ceremony at Concert Hall Studios at Bell Media's Masonic Temple in Toronto. The prize's grand jury announced its pick for the best Canadian album released between May 31, 2011, and June 1, 2012, based on artistic merit alone: Metals by Feist.
"Oh the thoughts that are racing through my head," Feist told Exclaim! from the stage, where she was presented a giant novelty cheque for $30,000, before admitting that she'd been living in a bubble on tour the past year. "[Tonight] I learned so much about the amazing things going on."
While Feist took home the top prize of $30,000 (plus a free week-long rental of a VIP Deluxe Splitter tour bus for a future UK tour), the runners-up each took home $2,000 apiece.
Feist's Metals, her fourth studio album overall, was released in October of last year. And while it didn't generate a massive hit single like "1234" (from 2007's The Reminder), it was bombarded with positive reviews.
The Polaris Gala featured live performances from seven of the 10 shortlisted nominees, with Drake, Japandroids and Handsome Furs (who broke up earlier this year) opting out.
Things kicked off with a pair of tracks from past winners Fucked Up. The band were actually banned from the venue after trashing an MTV bathroom back in 2007. The year the band won, they were frisked going in and out of the venue and escorted onstage by police. This year, Fucked Up managed to move around with a little more freedom.
"It's water under the bridge when they don't make you sign waivers," the band's bassist Sandy Miranda told Exclaim!
But Polaris is about more than just noise and spectacle. Awarded to the best Canadian album, as voted by over 200 music journalists and media types, shortlist nominee Kathleen Edwards applauded the diversity of the nominees.
"The fact that I'm nominated as a singer-songwriter is a validation of the fact that it's not about making the most out-there record," she said, acknowledging that she was, unsurprisingly, pulling for fellow nominees Feist and Cold Specks.
Still, making a really good out-there record never hurt. During the pre-gala press conference several artists, including Grimes and Cold Specks, tipped their hat to self-described "noh wave" rockers Yamantaka//Sonic Titan as their favourite to win.
"They're fucking awesome," said Al Spx — a sentiment echoed by Grimes' Claire Boucher (who was accompanied by a giant plush Totoro), saying, "Everything [about them] is good."
With Drake a no-show at the event, Cadence Weapon was left to rep Canadian hip-hop, and spoke about the perceived divide between himself and the more commercially minded Toronto MC.
"We're two very different artists," he said, but he welcomed the diversity amongst the nominees. "In Canadian rap, we need to stick together."
Cadence Weapon, Roland Pemberton to his mother, also shot down notions about a perceived bias against hip-hop amongst Polaris jurors, who have never crowned a rap album with top honours.
"All three of my records have been nominated," he said. "So I can't agree with it."
Vancouver journalist (and CBC Radio 3 mainstay) Grant Lawrence co-hosted the event for the sixth time, and he was joined by MuchMusic's Lorne Toyota. The show was also dedicated to the memory of late Canadian music industry icon Sam "the Record Man" Sniderman.
A one-hour selection of highlights from the night will air on MuchMusic on Saturday (September 29) at 10 p.m. EST.
Feist is the seventh act to win the Polaris Music Prize. Past instalments of the award have been won by Arcade Fire, Karkwa, Fucked Up, Caribou, Patrick Watson and Final Fantasy.
Besides Feist, the other artists who made the Polaris Music Prize 2012 shortlist are as follows:
Cadence Weapon - Hope in Dirt City
Cold Specks - I Predict a Graceful Expulsion
Drake - Take Care
Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur
Fucked Up - David Comes to Life
Grimes - Visions
Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital
Japandroids - Celebration Rock
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan - YT//ST