Home Album review Album review: iskwe – nina

Album review: iskwe – nina

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Photo by Lili Peper.

Juno-nominated Cree Métis artist, iskwe, released her fourth album nina this past month, which Billboard Canada called “iskwe’s most adventurous yet.” Listeners will for sure feel as though they are on that same adventure that iskwe promised with these tracks, taking them through different experimental beats and instrumental mixes.

Serving as an autobiographical album about her life, nina, which is the Cree translation of “me,” delivers poetic lyrics, iskwe’s rich toned vocals, and a beautiful blend of powerful and soft synth pop tones from Grammy-nominated producer, Damian Taylor.

The album began production while iskwe was stuck in Mexico City during the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns. Her experience of a rekindling romance was the beginning of the album’s concept, and soon after, its title represented her rebirth. nina’s 10 tracks tell a narrative about heartbreak and healing, showing how the acclaimed artist was able to overcome obstacles thrown her way and reconnect with herself.

The album’s opener “A Little Piece” transports us into iskwe’s mind, letting us learn about the internal struggles she faces. A dainty melody of keys with a bass beat gradually build up along with iskwe’s soft-toned voice providing a great introduction to the story we are being told.

A majority of the songs included powerful rhythms to accompany iskwe’s story. “Part Two” experiments with synth beats, giving the song a poppy vibe while telling a story of a struggling relationship that is always being given second chances. Other tracks also introduced string accompaniment along with the beats, bringing forth a calming presence. For instance, “Blown Away” features the dainty sound of ukulele strums, pairing well with iskwe’s whisper-like vocals. “Waiting for the Laughter” uses violin melodies halfway through along with the sound of pounding drums, making you feel the rush of the song.

One of the trending songs featured on the album, “I Get High” featuring Nina Hagen, received praise for its production and message about supporting others upon its release. Its place in the album fits well with iskwe’s narrative on struggling and healing, featuring a funky melody. The collaboration between the two artists intertwines together well, with iskwe’s slightly raspy vocals blending with an old-school-like remix of different sounds and voices.

“Exhale” was a uniquely blissful and exhilarating conclusion to iskwe’s story. Starting off with a pleasing harpsichord-like melody, the song takes a sudden turn with a charging synth beat, and a commanding drum beat build-up. As the melody and beat start to slow down, it symbolizes the end of iskwe’s journey of rebirth, as the final lyrics she sings are “It’s time for you to breathe out.”

A riveting musical journey from start to finish, iskwe’s nina shows that the struggles we face as humans can help us discover our true identity within.

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