CBC Aboriginal's top 10 indigenous music picks for 2014

Here's our list of top 10 indigenous albums for 2014. Some have already taken prestigious music prizes and garnered mainstream awards, while others still have accolades coming.

Here is a list of 10 top indigenous albums that deserve to be on your play list over the holidays. Some have already taken top music prizes and garnered mainstream awards, while others still have accolades coming.

It's been a banner year for Canadian indigenous artists, so it wasn't easy to narrow this down to just 10.

Let us know who is on your #IndigenousTopTen in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Starry Skies Opened Eyes - Silver Jackson

It’s difficult to define Silver Jackson’s latest disc.

This experimental album is confusing, alluring and addictive.

It is a soundscape for the senses and an escape from reality. If Starry Skies Opened Eyes was a movie, it would be a cross between Cloud Atlas and Interstellar. You’re not really sure what you’re hearing but you know it’s beautiful.

The best part about the current indigenous music scene is the eclectic mix of genres and the fearlessness of the artists to explore the culture through language, traditional beats and innovative sounds. Silver Jackson encompasses all of this on Starry Skies Opened Eyes.

Livin’ Like Stars - Shawn Bernard

Hip-hop artist Shawn Bernard released his latest and most likely his last album from his hospital bed in Edmonton.

Bernard had already completed the CD when he was stabbed in the neck after giving people known to him a ride. Bernard was rushed to the hospital on April 25, 2014, but he was left a paraplegic.

Six days later with the help of friends, Bernard released Livin’ Like Stars on iTunes so he could qualify for the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards.

Bernard generously shares his songs with follow artists like Nathan Cunningham, Beatrice Love and Chelsea Young.

Although Bernard may not perform on a regular basis, it will be interesting to see him take up the producer's chair.

Kickin Krotch - Kickin’ Krotch

Kickin' Krotch (Kickin' Krotch)
It’s not often an all-indigenous heavy metal band comes along. But this five-piece group from Tobique First Nation, N.B., blends ‘80s heavy metal and a more contemporary sound while tying it all together with a cultural reflection of their community.

Nominated for Aboriginal recording of the year at the 2014 East Coast Music Awards, Kickin Krotch deliver everything from guitar laden licks on Seven and Fearless to acoustic power ballads like Ghost Town and Karma.

Native North America Vol. 1 - Various Artists

This collection of hard-to-find musicians from the ‘60s to '80s has drawn a lot of attention from Rolling Stone to MacLeans.

The collection is available on a two-CD or triple-vinyl set and features indigenous artists from across Canada and the northern United States. It comes complete with interviews with artists who are still living as well as archival photographs. 

Some of the music on the album is so rare only a handful of 45s were pressed and then distributed to northern CBC locations for play.

If you are a true music aficionado,​ then you should definitely add this album to your collection.

Indigenous Girl Lifestyle - JB the First Lady 

JB the First Lady (JB the First Lady)
JB has an unique vocal style that is instantly recognizablepart hip-hop, part spoken word, all rhythm and rhyme.

JB sings about residential school, reconciliation and what it means to be an indigenous female in a time of Idle No More. She also touches on the time-honoured tradition of girl meets boy with dubstep beats.

When JB isn’t in the studio or on the stage, you can find her working with Vancouver’s youth to raise inspire them to take chances and engage in learning.

The (Post) Mistress - Tomson Highway

You may know him as an incredibly thought-provoking, intelligent, even hilarious playwright, but did you know that Tomson Highway is also a music composer?

His one-woman cabaret show The (Post) Mistress was released in album form and stands up even without seeing the show on stage. It’s jazzy and fun and sure to put you in the dancing mood.

Iskwé - Iskwé

Iskwé has been around the Winnipeg music scene for a while now, so it was surprising she only released her first album in 2014.

It was definitely worth the wait.

Described as trip hop, Iskwé (pronounced iss-kway) explores and blends electronic music with overtures of soul, funk and jazz. Her hypnotic vocal can make even the loudest club quiet down to listen to what she has to offer sonically.

One Better is a song you can instantly sing along to when the catchy chorus hits as you drift off into the dance beats, but most of the album is moody and you would do well to have a good bottle of Malbec handy when partaking in these sounds for your soul.

The Whole World's Got the Blues - Crystal Shawanda

Crystal Shawanda - The Whole World's Got the Blues (
I have to say I have not always been a fan of Crystal
Shawanda’s music.

A fan of hers, yes. How can you not like someone of her profile returning to her community every year and hosting a concert on her reserve of Wikwemikong First Nation -- not to mention her support of other indigenous musicians?

Her latest offering The Whole World's Got the Blues leaves her country music roots in the dust.

Finding her inner Janis Joplin, Shawanda wraps her vocals effortlessly around lyrics like: “Mother Earth feels it too, where she ain’t been treated kind. The way the earth’s been quaking, that’s her heart breaking, and all our leaders have lost their mind.”

Animism - Tanya Tagaq 

What can I say about this album that hasn’t already been said? Oh, I know! As soon as Tanya Tagaq was short-listed for the Polaris Music Prize, I immediately knew she would be taking home the $30,000 prize.

She is a brave, unapologetic, mesmerizing artist. Her music brings insight to the Inuit cultural tradition of throat-singing in a way that is accessible to mainstream audiences. If you ever get a chance to see her perform live, don’t pass it up -- and remember you may just want a cigarette afterwards.

For the Light - Digging Roots

Each Digging Roots album is like a discovery of sound.

Every time you listen to it in it’s entirety, you discover a new nuance, a new favourite song, a new instrument.

My favourite tune on For the Light, is the soft, romantic, sexy Stay. 

Considering the featured instrument is a ukelele, it’s a surprising choice for such a sensual song.  But then you have Shoshona Kish delivering lines like “You’re the house that I want to move my heart into,” in her throaty, rock-blues style vocals.

Let us know who is on your #IndigenousTopTen in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.


Kim Wheeler is an Anishinabe/Mohawk. She is a writer and an award-winning producer living in Winnipeg. Her work on the CBC radio series ReVision Quest garnered a New York Festival silver medal and two ImagineNative awards. Wheeler currently works as an associate producer for the CBC Aboriginal Digital Unit and Unreserved on CBC Radio One.


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