13 Songs, 44 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner believe that anything is possible and that every genre has its place somewhere in their music. That so many others relate to this eclectic, unpredictable mix of sounds proves they’re tapping into a sound that’s greater than themselves. Listeners love to be dazzled by sound and even the sharpest critics are left wondering what’s exactly happening here. Garbus chants into her vocoders and steps out into the spotlight for a guiding lead vocal on “Real Thing” that’s accompanied by a complex mix of odd rhythms, synthetic sounds and swooping bass lines. Producers Malay (Alicia Keys, Frank Ocean) and John Hill (Santigold, MIA, Shakira) keep the minimalism rocking. The synths frequently sound like sketches that have been cut-up beyond recognition while vocals sound like schoolyard taunts and personal moments caught on tape (“Hey Life,” “Stop That Man”). This mix of casual, random and precise captures a relatively conventional tune and pop arrangement in “Wait for a Minute” and a field holler for “Rocking Chair.” Eclecticism is in.

Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics. Mastered for iTunes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner believe that anything is possible and that every genre has its place somewhere in their music. That so many others relate to this eclectic, unpredictable mix of sounds proves they’re tapping into a sound that’s greater than themselves. Listeners love to be dazzled by sound and even the sharpest critics are left wondering what’s exactly happening here. Garbus chants into her vocoders and steps out into the spotlight for a guiding lead vocal on “Real Thing” that’s accompanied by a complex mix of odd rhythms, synthetic sounds and swooping bass lines. Producers Malay (Alicia Keys, Frank Ocean) and John Hill (Santigold, MIA, Shakira) keep the minimalism rocking. The synths frequently sound like sketches that have been cut-up beyond recognition while vocals sound like schoolyard taunts and personal moments caught on tape (“Hey Life,” “Stop That Man”). This mix of casual, random and precise captures a relatively conventional tune and pop arrangement in “Wait for a Minute” and a field holler for “Rocking Chair.” Eclecticism is in.

Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics. Mastered for iTunes
TITLE TIME

Ratings and Reviews

4.6 out of 5
112 Ratings
112 Ratings
KarlGustav

Otherworld Music

If Bird-Brains represents the most interesting music that can be recorded in a bedroom, and WHOKILL shows what that sound can become in a real studio, then Nikki Nack is the point at which Tune-Yards' Merrill Garbus gathered all the earthly tools at her disposal and left the planet to colonize an alien sonic landscape. The simple melodies once plucked from a simple ukelele are still referenced here, but they have evolved in a lush environment of musical influence, incorporating elements as varied as tribal rhythms, slam poetry, and electronica. Vocals soar and hover but stop short of familiar melodic structure, leaving the listener clinging to the edge wondering where the ground went. "I can't tell my brain to not talk back," Garbus sings in "Hey Life," hinting at the manic energy coursing through the entire record. After the no-holds-barred aural assault of "Water Fountain," "Time of Dark" sounds almost conventional; haunting layered vocals build to an anthemic crescendo with an inspirational message: "There will never be a mountain I'm not willing to climb," she sings with convincing audacity. But just when things feel comfortable, a heavily distorted guitar launches into a chaotic solo as a reminder that nothing here is ordinary. Anything that might once have been a conceit has been honed and revitalized to fit within a more ambitious whole. While many artists' musical journeys lead from the center toward the fringe of pop appeal, the sound Garbus is making from beyond the visible horizon might just convince the center to move in her direction.

503Jesse

Woo Ha Woo Ha

Woo Ha Woo Ha

Cha_bubu

Good Dancing Love

So nice. Love it. Makes me do the good dancing.

About Tune-Yards

Beginning as the lo-fi experimental folk project of Merrill Garbus, tUnE-yArDs fuses indie-pop and global elements into uniquely vibrant music. Garbus began writing and performing under the tUnE-yArDs moniker in 2006, using a digital voice recorder and shareware mixing software to assemble her patchwork of found sounds, field recordings, ukulele, unusual percussion, and soulful vocals. It took Garbus two years to craft her debut album, Bird-Brains, which she offered as a pay-what-you-want download on the tUnE-yArDs website. Thanks to frequent touring with artists like Thao and positive buzz from music blogs, Garbus sold over $1,000 worth of copies of the album. In spring 2009, Marriage Records released the album on vinyl; that summer 4AD reissued it in a special screen-printed version before releasing a widely distributed CD version of Bird-Brains that fall, coinciding with a tour opening for the Dirty Projectors. For 2011's W H O K I L L, Garbus added bassist Nate Brenner to the fold and ventured into a professional studio for a more polished but still wide-ranging sound. The album earned widespread critical acclaim and topped The Village Voice's annual Pazz and Jop poll of music critics. Early in 2013, Garbus returned with tUnE-yArDs as Yoko, a single that saw her covering and remixing two of of Yoko Ono's songs to benefit the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, one of the charities helping those affected by Hurricane Sandy. When she began work on the third tUnE-yArDs album, Garbus changed her approach -- a trip to Haiti provided inspiration -- while collaborations with producers Malay and John Hill -- better known for their work with Big Boi and M.I.A., among others -- gave 2014's Nikki Nack an even more eclectic and accessible feel. Prior to the release of tUnE-yArDs' fourth album, Garbus had a weekly DJ set at an Oakland, California bar and curated C.L.A.W., a Red Bull Radio show featuring music from female-identifying artists. To record 2018's I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, she and Brenner -- now an official member of the band -- shared production duties, streamlining their music while tackling complex issues in the lyrics. ~ Heather Phares

BORN
1979

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