The Polaris Music Prize has announced albums from Nomeansno and Faith Nolan have received 2021 Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize designation.
Nomeansno’s hardcore punk album, Wrong, from 1989 was chosen in the Heritage Prize public voting category, which ran this year from September 27 to October 16. Faith Nolan’s 1986 blues-folk release, Africville, received Heritage designation by the 11-member Polaris Heritage Prize jury.
This year’s Heritage Prize jury had a daunting task trying to narrow down its selections.
“Part of the role of the Heritage Prize is to shed light on great albums that may no longer be widely known and played, even though they laid the groundwork for many others,” said Heritage Prize jury foreperson Mary Dickie. “These two remarkable albums — a pioneer in fusing punk and metal and a song cycle about Black history in Canada — not only exhibit excellence in songwriting and musicianship, but are landmarks in Canadian music history.”
Heritage Prize juror Francella Fiallos says Nolan’s album expressed stories seldom told at the time.
“I first discovered Africville while working at CKDU, the campus radio station at Dalhousie University,” says Fiallos. “This powerful, moving collection of songs tells the story of Black Canadians in both city and rural landscapes. From songs about historical figures such as Marie Joseph Angélique and Mary Ann Shadd, to shedding a light on contemporary issues such as working in a box factory, Faith Nolan’s soaring voice and musicianship make this so captivating. This record is without a doubt a timeless treasure.”
Fellow juror Ken Kelley says Wrong’s un-Canadianness was one of the reasons it resonated so strongly.
“Nevermind the fact that in 1989 this album didn’t ‘sound Canadian,’ it flat-out sounded other-worldly,” says Kelley. “Nomeansno essentially tossed the rule book out of the window with Wrong, crafting an album that draws from punk, prog and so much more. Thirty-two years after its release, this is a record that has stood the test of time and with good reason.”
With the two new winners, 35 albums have received Polaris Heritage Prize designation since it was launched in 2015. Some other Heritage Prize winners include Glenn Gould, Feist, Harmonium, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Dream Warriors, and Neil Young.
Like the Polaris Music Prize, winners and nominees for the Heritage Prize are Canadian albums of artistic distinction, without regard to musical genre or commercial popularity. This is the Polaris version of a hall of fame where we try to determine who would have been nominated or won the Prize before it began in 2006.