Terry Uyarak
Nunarjua Isulinginniani
Aakuluk Music
Igloolik, NVT
RIYL: Death Cab For Cutie; Elisapie; sled dogs

The first sounds you hear on Igloolik singer/songwriter Terry Uyarak’s debut record Nunarjua Isulinginniani are the groans and yelps of sled dogs, followed by boots crackling on hard snow. The dogs, the snow, and the impossibly powerful voice of elder Simon Qamaniq featured in interludes recur throughout the record as leitmotifs which unite Uyarak’s tender pop and folk songs.

Nunarjua Isulinginniani means “before the world ends” in Inuktitut. In Hell World 2020 the phrase feels like a corrective to end-of-days anxiety and a nudge toward memory, joy, and connection. “Anuri” is a gorgeous ballad with Panniqtuq superstar Riit, building with dazzling strings before Uyarak’s tenor and guitar lay the track to rest. “Aniqsaatuinnarit” is backed by a marching snare and shimmering vocals from Becky Han. “Tasiunnga” brings in bedside throat singing from Celina Kalluk on the way to the stomping kitchen-party closer “Igloolik.”

Backed and empowered by his community, Uyarak has produced a serene, lovely debut. The elements present in his work—and in the recent records put forth by other Inuit artists like Riit, Silla and Rise, FxckMr, and the late, dearly loved Kelly Fraser—articulate a listening experience and pop form that reconfigure and exceed industry standards. Pay attention to the depth of artistry coming out of Nunavut and Nunavik right now.

Luke Ottenhof