The Best Albums of 2014, #20

band0120. Tanya Tagaq, Animism (Six Shooter)

When Tanya Tagaq won the 2014 Polaris Prize this past September, the vast majority of onlookers from outside the Canadian music scene wondered, “Who?!” Many observers of the Canadian music scene, however, knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only was Animism, the Inuk singer’s fourth album, a fully deserving winner of the illustrious prize, but no Canadian album released in 2014 evoked Canada – in its awe-inspiring breadth, its idiosyncrasy, its crucial aboriginal roots – than this record. Ranging from rhythmic, otherworldly throat singing (“Uja”), to mournful, harrowing groans (the unforgettable “Fracking”) to some rather sweet-voiced singing – “Caribou” is arguably the best Pixies cover ever recorded – producer Jesse Zubot adds subtle modern touches, from electronic enhancements and beats, to striking, sparse percussion and screeching violin, resulting in an album that feels terrifying, mesmerizing, and oddly liberating all at once. Although it’s not my highest-rated Canadian album of 2014, it’s one of the strangest, most enthralling pieces of work I have ever heard, and its Polaris win was a huge triumph for not only aboriginal music, but Canadian music as a whole.

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