Kanen, Mitshuap review

Kanen, Mitshuap: REVIEW

“On her debut album, the Innu singer-songwriter creates a moody atmosphere of melodic, folky indie rock that can be brooding, soothing, fierce, spellbinding or unsettling.”

Kanen, Mitshuap (Musique Nomade)

The French-language press release of Kanen’s Mitshuap calls it “a first album full of sweetness and punk energy,” and that’s a pretty apt description. Hailing from the Innu community of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam, Kanen (born Karen Pinette-Fontaine) offers a debut LP that swerves between feeling brooding, soothing, fierce, calming, spellbinding and unsettling depending on which part of the album you’re at. Mitshuap (Innu-aimun for “house”) doesn’t rely on bombastic instrumentation to carry it (it’s more a mélange of acoustic guitars and rustic-sounding electric ones), but she does have a penchant for creating a moody atmosphere of melodic, folky indie rock with a sprightly feel. An Indigenous answer to someone like Feist, perhaps?

Code-switching between French and Innu-aimun (a language she’s still learning to master) with each song, Kanen’s artistry comes through most effectively on minimalistic opener “Assi”, “Nimueshtaten nete” (her duet with Louis-Jean Cormier of Karkwa fame),and the toe-tapping “Fuck That Shit.” “Ekuan Ek(u)” is the album’s most pop-leaning tune (with an Innu-aimun hook and French verses), while the tension-fuelled “Par la fenêtre” sounds light and feathery on the surface, but almost menacing everywhere else. Such a backdrop is fitting given its lyrical subject matter attending vigils and marches for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. 

Though the album’s sequencing can feel unsettled at times (and the number of acoustic tracks risks making it feel like a slower listen), Kanen is an artist with plenty of potential still to be tapped, while delivering a debut that feels like a captivatingly warm and cold listen at once.

7.5/10 Trial Track: “Nimueshtaten nete” (feat. Louis-Jean Cormier)

“Nimueshtaten nete” (feat. Louis-Jean Cormier) by Kanen, from her album Mitshuap

For more on Kanen, please visit her Bandcamp.

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