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Drake performs during his ‘Would You Like A Tour’ show in Toronto, Oct.24, 2013.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

The 2015 Polaris Music Prize short list is a study in contrasts.

While the list leans on a number of previous nominees, including rapper Drake, Montreal band Braids and London-via-Ontario electronic artist Caribou, the traditionally indie-leaning award also included some unlikely firsts: acclaimed Cree musician Buffy Sainte-Marie, whose career spans six decades, and a collaboration between Toronto Jazz band BadBadNotGood and Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ghostface Killah.

An album is considered eligible if more than 50 per cent of its performers is Canadian, allowing the Ghostface collaboration, "Sour Soul," to qualify – a first for the annual prize.

This is the award's 10th year. The Polaris Prize is awarded to an album of "the highest artistic integrity" each year, regardless of sales or genre, selected by a jury of journalists and media members The shortlist was announced Thursday morning at The Carlu in Toronto. Other nominees included Maritimes-turned-Toronto dream-pop band Alvvays, Toronto songwriter Jennifer Castle, North Vancouver's Tobias Jesso Jr., indie supergroup The New Pornographers, and Calgary post-punk band Viet Cong.

The winner will be awarded $50,000 at a gala on Sept. 21 at the Carlu in Toronto. The remaining shortlist nominees will each walk away with $3,000. Both prize tiers have been raised in value this year after a sponsorship from Slaight Music.

Renowned children's artist Fred Penner was announced as the gala's host, and revealed the shortlist Thursday. (In spite of the Polaris's indie-rock reputation, the oldest people mentioned at the gala – he and Ms. Sainte-Marie – got the biggest cheers of the morning.)

"I truly believe in what the Polaris stands for," Mr. Penner told the crowd of journalists and music industry types. "It seems to be head and shoulders above any other organization that works with music in Canada."

Jennifer Castle said she was honoured to be nominated alongside the diverse group. "I mean Buffy, right?" she told The Globe and Mail with a chuckle. While the album is under her name, she was careful to thank her collaborators: "I'm proud for everybody that played on it and for more people to listen to it," she said.

No Francophone artists were shortlisted this year. Polaris founder Steve Jordan told The Globe that "there was quite a bit of traction" for many Franco artists who were longlisted, such as Jean Leloup and Pierre Kwenders, though none wound up making the cut. "The difference between making the long list and the short list can come down to one vote," he said.

He described the list of nominees, nonetheless, as diverse and excellent. "It's like having a litter of kittens every year," he said. "I love them all."

Just under 200 jurors selected the 10-album list from a group of 40. (Full disclosure: This reporter is a jury member. Of his five-artist ballot, only Drake was shortlisted.)

The long list was announced in June in Halifax.