Tegan And Sara -- Heartthrob
Tegan and Sara were previously short-listed for the Polaris Music Prize in 2010 for Sainthood, the year Karkwa took home the prize for Les Chemins de verre. This year the twins are back with Heartthrob, one of the more polished dance-pop albums in recent years. Led by the infectious high-energy single "Closer," the record has continued to gain momentum thanks to "Goodbye, Goodbye" and the sweet "Now I'm All Messed Up." The duo was also brought on stage recently at a Los Angeles show to perform "Closer" with Taylor Swift.
A Tribe Called Red -- Nation II Nation
DJs Ian "DJ NDN" Campeau, Dan "DJ Shub" General and Bear Witness collectively are A Tribe Called Red. And the last few years have been red hot for the genre-bending trio. Following a long-list nomination (one of 40 albums nominated) in 2012 with their self-titled debut, the group returned this year with Nation II Nation. A collage of electro, dance, reggae and "powwow-step," the album's momentum from songs like the adventurous "NDN Stakes" has resulted in national and international tours. That and a slow but steady growing fanbase!
Metric -- Synthetica
Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Metric? The rock band led by the dynamic Emily Haines were nominated in 2006 for Live It Out and again in 2009 for Fantasies but didn't claim the top prize. Nonetheless, Metric returned with an equally solid Synthetica featuring the shimmering title track, "Youth Without Youth" and "The Wanderlust" featuring Lou Reed. The group toured across Canada late last year, their first time headlining arenas with fellow indie rock darlings Stars as a support act. A worthy nomination win or lose.
Purity Ring -- Shrines
Atmospheric and terribly sweet pop is the order of the day when it comes to Purity Ring. The duo of singer Megan James and keyboardist Corin Roddick put out their debut Shrines last year and they've been worshipped by many ever since for their collaboration with Danny Brown on "Belispeak II." The Halifax/Montreal duo played the taste-making Coachella festival this year and haven't looked back. British reviews raved also with New Musical Express exclaiming that "most bands never manage a statement this forceful."
Whitehorse -- The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss
Singer-songwriters Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland forged strong careers on their own the last few years, but few could've expected the chemistry they had as a musical unit. The sophomore album from Whitehorse has been hailed as a keeper starting with the sultry opener "Achilles' Desire." The terribly tender "Cold July" brings to mind a cross between Blue Rodeo and the iconic work of Emmylou Harris and the late Gram Parsons. The duo released an EP earlier this year featuring covers of Blue Rodeo and Neil Young tunes among others.
Colin Stetson -- New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
Horn instrument wizard Colin Stetson has worked with Montreal's Arcade Fire but has done quite alright as a solo artist. His 2011 album New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges was short-listed for the Polaris Music Prize but lost out to Arcade Fire's stellar effort The Suburbs. Stetson's latest album isn't a simplistic affair and rather challenging judging by the intense, slow-burning "Hunted" and the unnerving, eerie "High Above A Grey Green Sea." At times the album resembles a collaboration between the late Miles Davis and Sigur Ros.
Zaki Ibrahim -- Every Opposite
With a style and sophistication that is equal parts Janelle Monae and Sade, British Columbian vocalist Zaki Ibrahim shone on her third studio album, her follow-up to 2008's EP Eclectica (Episodes In Purple). Although calling Cape Town, South Africa home, Ibrahim has made heads turn with songs such as the sexy "Everything," Go Widdit" and "Kids Are Talking." Ibrahim was surprised by this year's nomination judging by her tweet on hearing the short list. "POLARIS PRIZE???!!!" she wrote, adding "aaaahhhh!! too chuffed, too amazing!"
METZ -- METZ
Toronto noise rockers METZ are not shrinking violets sonically. That aggressive style mirrors their rise to being a Polaris Music Prize short-lister with their self-titled debut. The trio of singer/guitarist Alex Edkins, bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies create a glorious wall of guitar on songs such as "Negative Space" and "Headache." The album has seen the group garner rave reviews from Pitchfork and other publications while taking them around the world. While perhaps the darkhorse of all nominees, a win shouldn't be a surprise.
Young Galaxy -- Ultramarine
Young Galaxy's fourth album Ultramarine is a tasteful trek through synth-pop bliss and perhaps their strongest work to date. The Vancouver group fronted by singer/keyboardist Catherine McCandless and singer/guitarist Stephen Ramsay is rooted in a rich '80s style fuelled by songs such as "Fall For You," "Hard To Tell" and the mid-tempo "New Summer." The record marks the first short-list nomination for Young Galaxy after their previous two records -- 2011's Shapeshifting and 2009's Invisible Republic -- were both long-list selections.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor -- 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Montreal orchestral rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor were sadly talked about in the past tense a few years ago after hearing no album from the band since 2002. But in 2010 a series of shows would eventually lead to new material. The result is a vast sonic escapade in 2012's 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! The Guardian's Dom Lawson's 5-star review described the four-song release as "devastatingly effective." The group known for its reclusiveness are one of the support acts on Nine Inch Nails current North American trek.