Polaris Music Prize finalists recommend their favorite books


The Polaris Music Prize annually celebrates the best Canadian album of the year, awarding the artist $50,000. There are 10 albums on the shortlist.

The winner will be announced on September 19, 2022. The virtual event will be hosted by CBC Music’s Angeline Tetteh-Wayoe and will stream live on CBC Gem, CBC Music’s Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter pages and globally at cbcmusic.ca/polaris.

Seven of this year’s finalists have recommended books to CBC Books. If you’re looking for a great new read, check out their picks.

Toronto rapper Shad recommends Yes to Life, a collection of lectures by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. (Secret City Records, conception by CBC Music; Beacon Press)

Shad says: “The book is an argument that life has meaning – which is obviously a massive and intractable question, but it’s always heartening to hear someone bravely and forcefully defend the inherent value and meaning of human life. Especially someone like Frankl, who had at this point experienced things – including the loss of his pregnant wife in the Holocaust – that would lead anyone to the opposite conclusion.

Frankl argues that in every moment there is the possibility of giving meaning to life through our action or our attitude towards our circumstances.– Shad

“What stuck with me after reading yes to life was the idea that you shouldn’t ask yourself what you want from life as much as you should ask yourself what life wants from we anytime – I love this crop.

“Frankl argues that in every moment there is the possibility of giving meaning to life through our action or our attitude towards our circumstances.”

Toronto rapper Shad (aka Shadrach Kabango) is known for his smart, thoughtful lyrics tempered with humor and heart – all amply featured on his sixth full-length album, tao. Shad is now the most nominated musician in Polaris history, with five nominations to date since the award was first presented in 2006.

tao takes a close look at the current state of the world – touching on everything from the increasingly dystopian digital reality to our complicated relationship to work and spirituality – and the related impacts on us as humans.

Toronto singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Charlotte Day Wilson recommends reading Bluets by American writer Maggie Nelson. (Othello Grey, Wave Books)

Charlotte says:I had never read the type of poetry/prose that Maggie Nelson used in this book and it really opened my horizons to a different style of writing – a style so close and similar to my own inner dialogue, but one that would take left turns in places where my mind would never fully allow itself to go.

My creative brain felt seen and I felt inspired.-Charlotte Day Wilson

“His obsessive desire to make connections between inanimate objects, colors and life gave my imagination and my heart a real burst.

“My creative brain felt seen and I felt inspired.”

Toronto-based R&B singer-songwriter and producer Wilson’s soulful voice captivated listeners as early as 2012, when she began releasing her first solo songs. But it wasn’t until 2021 that she released her first feature film, Alpha.

Alpha features the signature Wilson sound which blends R&B, soul, jazz, gospel and folk, with evocative lyrics that explore love and personal identity from a queer perspective.

On the left, a black and white photo of musician Ouri, whose braids fly away from her face.  She is looking at camera and wearing white t-shirt.  On the right is the cover of The Ethical Slut book, with black drawings of human figures with purple hearts on the chest.
Montreal singer, producer and instrumentalist Ouri recommends reading The Ethical Slut by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton. (Hamza Abouelouafaa, ten-speed press)

Ouri says: “I love opening my mind to the versions of freedom and intimacy that people embrace in their lives. It’s one thing to try to copy someone else’s version of happiness and freedom. , but there’s no such thing as actively pursuing your own version.”

This book broadened my perspective on belonging – the quality of communication on sensitive topics is what really inspires me.– Uri

“This book broadened my perspective on belonging. Exploration is one part, but the quality of communication about sensitive topics is what really inspires me. It also clarified some restrictions that people have set in the traditions to avoid difficult feelings.

“I think everyone should read this book, just to take a step back and recognize the level of shame that has been passed on to them or imposed on others. It’s something that everyone on this planet can identify themselves.”

2021 album by Montreal singer, producer and instrumentalist Ouri Frame of a Faun brings together her classical roots with the electronic beats she discovered later on the dance floors of the city. In many ways it’s a record that explores the cycle of life – the album begins in London, where she was with her sister when she gave birth and ends a year later in Brazil when saying goodbye to her mother.

Adam Sturgeon, right, of the Anishinaabe duo Ombiigizi, recommends reading Waubgeshig Rice’s novel Moon of the Crusted Snow. (Rima Sater, ECW Press)

Adam says: “The Book of Waub Rice Crusted Snow Moon is a post-apocalyptic futuristic book. It brings our journey to a close with a return to the land, the teachings and the simple direction of our cultural spirit.

“Recently I spent some time in the woods with my family. With a spring water hookup and a little roof over our heads, we were completely removed from the world. We had to climb a mountain for service. cellular, so it was only suitable that we read Crusted Snow Moon out loud on a rainy day. Although I wish it was Waub himself who read the audiobook to us, I did my best to make it an experience.”

I am still concerned about certain images in this book, which have a very strong evocative power.– Ombiigizi

Daniel Monkman and Adam Sturgeon are no strangers to exploring their cultural history through music. Both Anishnaabe artists have released albums in recent years – Monkman with their solo “moccasin shoegaze” project Zoon and Sturgeon with his band Status/Non-Status – that directly reference their Indigenous heritage and personal stories.

But by coming together as an Ombiigizi duo, the duo tap into the very sense of community that is central to their culture, offering their take on Indigenous futurisms on their 2022 debut album. sewn together.

Pierre Kwenders is a 2022 finalist for the Polaris Music Prize. (HarperCollins, Daniel Fummo, Editions Philippe Rey)

Peter says: “I really enjoyed reading all about love by bell hooks because it’s all about love. [laughs] I love the fact that she went through all her relationships to talk about love. I can understand, because my own relationships are the main subject of my album.

“It’s all my experiences with love – either with my partner, or with my parents or friends, or with anyone I’ve met who I have a connection with – it’s the kind of story that I I was telling, and it’s those parallels that I really liked.

“I just started reading The most secret memory of men by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr. I was traveling in Europe, I was going to see my brother in Brussels, and I was at the station and I picked up this book there.

I can understand, because my own relationships are the main subject of my album.-Pierre Kwenders

“The story is about this young writer who comes across a book that came out in 1938 by a black author who then just disappeared. So this young writer goes through the book, relates it through his own experiences. I just found it very cool – it almost felt like a sci-fi movie to me, the mystery aspect where the writer tries to connect the dots in his life.”

Congolese-born, Montreal-based musician, singer, songwriter and DJ Pierre Kwenders (born José Louis Modabi) bases his sound on the joy and abandonment of dance, creating a unique blend of Afro-influenced electronic sounds. inspired by Congolese rumba.

His third full album, José Louis and the paradox of loveweaves together memories of the past and thoughts about the future, while exploring the intricacies of love.

Quebec singer-songwriter Hubert Lenoir recommends reading Paul McCartney’s The Lyrics. (Provided by Hubert Lenoir, WW Norton)

Hubert says: “There are a lot of music books that come out every year, like rockstar biographies and stuff. But this book is kind of special – I’ve never really seen this kind of thing before. You can really feel that McCartney put his heart and soul into it.

“If you write songs, but also if you’re just passionate about songwriting and also love The Beatles and his solo writing, it’s a different kind of book – I don’t feel like it’s something that was just bought at Christmas, you know?

You can really feel that McCartney put his heart and soul into it.-Hubert Lenoir

“It’s the work of someone who reflects on his catalog and is proud of what he’s done, but he’s also very humble throughout this book – he just talks about songwriting like what he likes to do.”

On Pictura de Ipse: direct musicthe sequel to his groundbreaking 2018 album DarleneQuebec singer-songwriter Hubert Lenoir is inspired by the concept of cinema direct, a style of making observational documentaries in Quebec that emerged in the late 1950s.

Acadian singer-songwriter Lisa LeBlanc recommends reading The Name of the Wind by fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss. (Annie France Noel, DAW Books)

Lisa says: “One of my favorites is The name of the wind. I read The golden compass [the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series] — I was so addicted to this book, and I had a little hangover. After that I came across The name of the wind – I think it was either through a friend or through Goodreads.

“From the first chapter, I was totally hooked – I don’t think I really talked to anyone the whole time I was reading it.

What’s interesting about this book is that it doesn’t sound hopeless at all.-Lisa LeBlanc

“I thought the prose was amazing in there, and I felt so connected to the characters and the depth of the whole world around them. I’ve never highlighted so many passages! It was really poetry in a book – I thought his writing style was absolutely beautiful and unique.”

Moncton Acadian singer-songwriter Lisa LeBlanc is a 2022 finalist after the success of her album in the running for the 2017 Polaris Music Prize Why do you want to leave, Runaway Queen? with the impetuous Chiac Nightclub — a tribute to the era of disco chic and funk, shimmering with catchy melodies and groovy percussion.

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