By: Max James Hill, Courtney Miller, and Jessica Whitesel

We Are the Halluci Nation by A Tribe Called Red

A Tribe Called Red is impossible to ignore. Having steadily gained popularity since its inception in 2007, the band’s latest is its best yet: a visceral and endlessly inventive mix of hip-hop, electronica, and traditional First Nations singing and drumming.

But what elevates We Are the Halluci Nation from being a great album to an essential one is neither its virtuosic experiments with sound, nor its impressive guest appearances — notably from Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) and throat singer Tanya Tagaq. Rather, the album’s greatest strength is its political immediacy: We Are the Halluci Nation is to the First Nations experience in Canada what To Pimp a Butterfly is to the black experience in the United States.

Deftly unpacking the lingering effects of colonialism and the ongoing erasure of First Nations communities across the country, We Are the Halluci Nation is as illuminating as it is engaging. You can’t afford to miss it. — MJH

They Don’t Know by Jason Aldean

I can’t think of a more aptly titled album than Jason Aldean’s They Don’t Know, because I sure as hell don’t.

His last album, Old Boots, New Dirt, was lacking the country rock sound that took Aldean into the public eye. He’s managed to find some of it again with the title track (“They Don’t Know”) but overall the album is still lacking that harder sound. Ultimately it sounds like any other country artist could have recorded this album.

It’s not that the songs are bad. As far as country music goes, it’s perfectly middle of the road,  but I expected more and I was definitely hoping he’d put the formula he’s been using lately away. Redneck anthems and sultry songs about sex are allowed to evolve. — CM

22, A Million by Bon Iver

Five years after releasing Bon Iver, Bon Iver is back with 22, A Million, an album that goes deeper into the electronic dimension of a sound that had only been hinted at previously.

I feel like it needs to be made clear that this is not an electronic album — it still stays true to the Bon Iver sound that has been cultivated since the days of “Skinny Love.” It is apparent though that Justin Vernon took some sonic inspiration from former collaborators Kanye West and Jay Z when putting this album together. The opening to “715 – CRΣΣKS” and subsequent use of pared down autotune sounds like something off of West’s 808s and Heartbreaks. This is the most electronic track on the album, and even though it is highly produced, it doesn’t feel out of place on the album or in the Bon Iver catalogue.

This album is Bon Iver’s strongest work to date, and even though the band broke up temporarily in 2012, the hiatus didn’t hurt the band. If anything, it made them stronger and more open to musical experimentation. — JW