“It’s dark and atmospheric, but incredibly beautiful and melodic at times”

Nêhiyawak
photo: bandcamp

Review by Jake Cardinal


Nêhiyawak (Cree for “Cree People”) is a band consisting of Kris Harper (lead vocals, guitar), Marek Tyler (drums), and Matthew Cardinal (synth and bass). They are from treaty 6 territory and Edmonton and have just released Nipiy, their first album, in October 2019.

Nêhiyawak have created an album without any bad songs, which is a feat nowadays, but they have also managed to find a style that is fully their own. It’s dark and atmospheric, but incredibly beautiful and melodic at times which creates a tone I can only describe as Nêhiyawak.

In today’s world, it has become nearly impossible to create your own style (for any kind of art-form) without biting someone else’s idea. However Nêhiyawak have done it with this album. I strongly suggest you take a listen to the best tracks (listed at the bottom of the review) if not the entire album.

1 – Kisiskaciwanisipiy Peyak

Nêhiyawak kick off their first major studio album with this ambient drone track. It begins with an angelic sample, then as the song continues, after layers and layers of synths, kick drums, and sweet guitar licks, it ends only after two and a half minutes. Short and sweet. A great start as it sets the dreamy tone for the rest of the album.

2 – Copper

The second track changes energies as soon as it begins with a fast kick and snare, guitar melodies, and Kris Harper’s strong vocals. So much so, that it made me jump the first time I heard it. Although this song isn’t really my kind of jam, it is definitely a good song.

3 – Page

The intro to this song is incredible, I loved it. The drumming, by Marek Tyler, really shines. Complex and simple. A fine line that most drummers never find. The bass synth also deserves a mention as it is just super cool. Then the kick drum comes in and that’s when things reach the pinnacle of coolness. I wasn’t really into the vocals on this track, but perhaps that’s just due to my own tastes. The snare comes in and then the band sings a catchy “ooo ooo.” However, the ending is abrupt and I wish it were handled with a little more thought. The ending of a song is just as important as the beginning.

4 – Somnambulist

This song is walking down the sunny streets of Vancouver with shades and a Hawaiian shirt. The guitar reminds me of Alabama Shakes, while the vocal harmonies sound just like Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. This song is just good feelings and happy thoughts. I’d like to say this is what the Gorillaz’s The Now Now should’ve been. However, it suffers from “how do I end this song?” disease.

5 – Secret

This is one of my favourite tracks of the album, if not my favourite. Just the main hook, “I know a secret” gets me my dopamine fix. Harper knows how to make a catchy, beautiful hook. However, I think of Harper’s vocals as the cherry-on-top because the instrumental is amazing! I tell you, my shoulder’s start getting tingly and my eyes close on themselves. The song then ends in a beautiful, chaotic, fast, ambient, distorted, melodic kaleidoscope of sound. If you only have time to listen to one track off the album, this is the one to listen to.

6 – Perch

This is the song you listen to when you’re making sweet, sweet love with someone you love, or when someone you used to make sweet, sweet love with breaks your heart.

7 – Otenaw

This song is the Beatles, John Maus’s synths, and 120/km an hour on an Albertan highway all combined into one glorious track. Another stand out song on the album, so be sure to give this one a listen.

8 – Starlight

I don’t mind this song, however, I don’t really think it’s anything too spectacular. If I had to describe it in a sentence it would be: this is a Nehiyawak song.

9 – Tommaso

After listening to this song, I can say with complete and utter certainty that the Beatle’s songs written by John Lennon have probably been in the forefront of the bands creative process. To mention a specific song, it would be Tomorrow Never Knows by the Beatles. This is another one of the great tracks off the album. The guitar is cooler than an ice cube left outside in Edmonton during January. Reminds me of Tame Impala.

10 – Open Window

            This one takes a step back and slows down, allowing the atmospheric synths to take center stage. This is another track you could listen to while making sweet, sweet love. This is perhaps the sharpest song on the entire album, meaning: then treble was a little high for my liking, as it kind of cut my ears. But this was the only song where I had this issue.

11 – Disappear

            If Open Window took a step back and slowed down, then this song completely drops to its knees and comes to a halt. Although this song is nice, I’m wondering if it would’ve been better earlier in the album, as it seems that the album is now beginning to lose momentum. However, this song is primo love making tunage.

12 – Kisiskaciwanisipiy Niso

            The last song on Nipiy is the slowest of all the songs on the album. Nonetheless, I’d say that this song would probably be amazing on drugs—not that I know what drugs are like, I’m just saying, I would think it would be great while under the influence. I’m a university student. I live a good life.


Best Tracks: Page, Secret, Tommaso

Here is a link to stream playing music from the album live on CBC:

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