Godspeed You! Black Emperor Takes Polaris Prize, Will Donate $30k Check

The cover of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's "Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!"

Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the post-rock, variably cacophonous and somnambulant Canadian music collective which has re-emerged over the past few years following a decade-long hiatus, has won the 2013 Polaris Prize for its record "Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!" released last October by Constellation Records.

In a statement following their win, GY!BE explained that it will donate the entirety of the $30,000 Polaris Prize money to found and fund a program which will provide musical instruments to prisoners in Quebec, "if they need them." Also in that statement the group criticized the corporate sponsorship of the Prize, not to mention its very existence in our current "horrifying malaise." From their statement (which you can read in full below):

3 quick bullet-points that almost anybody could agree on maybe=
-holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do.
-organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn't serve the cause of righteous music at all.
-asking the toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS FUCKING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.

The group has been politically outspoken throughout its history, illustrating the interrelationships between major labels and military-industrial corporations on the back cover of their album "Yanqui U.X.O." as well as presenting artistic depictions of third-world strife and radical politics throughout their (often extensive) liner notes.

The annual prize is awarded by an 11-panel jury to the best Canadian album of that year "without regard to genre, sales history or label affiliation." The members of this year's jury were: Alan Cross (Indie 88.1), Kat Dornian (CJSW), Katherine Duncan (CBC), Stuart Henderson (Pop Matters), Jenny Henkelman (CKUW), Ryan McNutt (freelance journalist), Sean Michaels (Said The Gramophone), Ian Steaman (Different Kitchen), James Tennant (CFMU), Phil Villeneuve (Xtra) and Andrea Warner (freelance journalist). Previous winners include Arcade Fire, Fucked Up, Feist and Owen Pallett (billed as Final Fantasy).

This year's other shortlisted nominees included:

Zaki Ibrahim – "Every Opposite"
Metric – "Synthetica"
METZ – "METZ"
Purity Ring – "Shrines"
Colin Stetson – "New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light"
Tegan And Sara – "Heartthrob"
A Tribe Called Red – "Nation II Nation"
Whitehorse – "The Fate Of The World Depends On This Kiss"
Young Galaxy – "Ultramarine"

GY!BE's statement on their win, in full (via Constellation Records):

A FEW WORDS REGARDING THIS POLARIS PRIZE THING
hello kanada.
hello kanadian music-writers.
thanks for the nomination thanks for the prize- it feels nice to be acknowledged by the Troubled Motherland when we so often feel orphaned here. and much respect for all y'all who write about local bands, who blow that horn loudly- because that trumpeting is crucial and necessary and important.
and much respect to the freelancers especially, because freelancing is a hard fucking gig, and almost all of us are freelancers now, right? falling and scrambling and hustling through these difficult times?
so yes, we are grateful, and yes we are humble and we are shy to complain when we've been acknowledged thusly- BUT HOLY SHIT AND HOLY COW- we've been plowing our field on the margins of weird culture for almost 20 years now, and "this scene is pretty cool but what it really fucking needs is an awards show" is not a thought that's ever crossed our minds.
3 quick bullet-points that almost anybody could agree on maybe=
-holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do.
-organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn't serve the cause of righteous music at all.
-asking the toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS FUCKING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.
these are hard times for everybody. and musicians' blues are pretty low on the list of things in need of urgent correction BUT AND BUT if the point of this prize and party is acknowledging music-labor performed in the name of something other than quick money, well then maybe the next celebration should happen in a cruddier hall, without the corporate banners and culture overlords. and maybe a party thusly is long overdue- it would be truly nice to enjoy that hang, somewhere sometime where the point wasn't just lazy money patting itself on the back.
give the money to the kids let 'em put on their own goddamn parties, give the money to the olds and let them try to write opuses in spite of, but let the muchmusic videostars fight it out in the inconsequential middle, without gov't. culture-money in their pockets.
us we're gonna use the money to try to set up a program so that prisoners in quebec have musical instruments if they need them…
amen and amen.
apologies for being such bores,
we love you so much / our country is fucked,
xoxoxox
godspeed you! black emperor

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