Polaris Picks
Polaris Pick: A Tribe Called Red — Nation II Nation
MAY 08 2013 • By Ryan B. Patrick

A Tribe Called Red — Nation II Nation
Ryan B. Patrick is an Assistant Editor at Exclaim!, one-half of the Deaf Ears Podcast and a 2012 Polaris Grand Juror. He believes A Tribe Called Red's Nation II Nation should win the 2013 Polaris Music Prize.

After such an emphatically positive response to their debut self-titled project, it seemed like 2012 Polaris Prize Long Listers A Tribe Called Red had nowhere to go but down.

One would think.

But the reason for choosing A Tribe Called Red as my pick for the 2013 Polaris Music Prize has everything to do with the fact the Ottawa-based DJ crew ( Ian "DJ NDN" Campeau, Dan "DJ Shub" General and Bear Witness) have indeed stepped up their game for their follow-up effort.

Nation II Nation is a big record. Signed to the aboriginal-owned Tribal Spirit Music and Pirates Blend labels, the band humbly describes themselves as artists who "remix traditional Pow Wow music with contemporary club sounds." A post-modernist fusion of house, dubstep dance and traditional drumming and Pow Wow vocal chanting, Nation II Nation sees the DJ crew build of the foundation that was the first self-titled record to deliver a unique and aurally satisfying project.

To say that much has been made of the band's overt political leanings — as stridently vocal supporters of Idle No More — would be an understatement. To be driven by social consciousness and political commentary is one thing, to have the musical chops to power the message with force is entirely another. It's part and parcel of ATCR's identity, yet this album still manages to maintain a level of accessibility throughout.

Where their initial self-titled effort was a challenging and complex project — one that rewards repeat listeners — Nation II Nation is a tad more refined and focused. Leveraging elements of the disparate sounds of the iTunes age comes off sounding eclectic, not frenetic. Opening track "Bread & Cheese" sounds like it could have been from the first album, while dance-ready joints like "Different Heroes" and "Sisters" and the dubstep of "Red Riddim" flow with an almost transcendent energy and pulse.

Make no mistake: Nation II Nation isn't the most commercial or AC radio-friendly album out there. Still, in keeping with the Polaris mandate to choose the best record of the album regardless of genre, A Tribe Called Red's Nation II Nation no doubt deserves heavy consideration.