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iTunes Review

Digging hard grooves out of spindly, spare arrangements, this batch of tunes is responsible for getting more genteel, bearded, indie-rockers onto their feet than a “FREE BEER” bar sign might. Garbus uses her unusual, gymnastic voice as an instrument, her twitters, chirps and bold howls looped along with drum and percussion parts, and layered in West African-flavored polyrhythms (Garbus has lived in Kenya, where she taught singing). “My Country” opens Whokill with a vibrant explosion of colorful sounds, the hollow whomp of a floor tom and a surprise, metallic cartwheel of a keyboard note joined by (surprise again) freewheeling saxophones. The ukulele that was so ubiquitous on her Bird Brains debut only makes scattered appearances here; Whokill serves up exuberant, white-hot energy, pouring forth from jazzy horns and bass, clattering percussion, and brick-hard rhythms ... not to mention, of course, Garbus’ show-stopping vocals. The improved production here may put some people off, but we think it only adds to the power of the music, and the urge to dance. What are you waiting for?

Customer Reviews


Jamiroquai for Hipsters..

Album of the Year?

A meticulously crafted interpretation of a beautiful mess. Throw M.I.A., Santagold, and Florence + the Machine into a blender (figuratively, of course), then add a couple tablespoons of "afro-electronic rhythm & blues"...mix well & enjoy!

Listen, then listen again

Tune-yards’ sophomore album, w h o k i l l, is rich, complex, and deserving of many repeated listens. Merrill Garbus displays and incredible vocal range, from masculine belts to airy, high-pitched note fluttering reminiscent of Mariah Carey (at the end of Powa). Her vocals serve as the rhythmic background in many of the tracks, most notably in the album’s catchy single, Bizness. (In live performances, Garbus loops and overdubs her vocals on the spot!) Bizness is the reason I purchased w h o k i l l , but the strength of the album does not rest on just one, or even a few tracks. In my opinion, each track is a worthwhile listen.

The sound is a very unique, with elements of jazz, Afropop, experimental hip-hop, and inventive layering of drums, ukulele, bass, synth, and Garbus’ own field recordings. Each song is an interesting collage of these various elements. On the whole, the album sounds bright and upbeat, but an attentive listen reveals that many of the songs deal with race, class guilt, and body image issues.

w h o k i l l is much more accessible than Tune-yards’ debut album, Bird-Brains, because of its higher production quality. Bird-Brains was recorded on a handheld voice recorder, edited with Audacity, and released on cassette tape. In an interview with, Garbus said of the sound-quality of her voice recorder, “I really like how it compresses everything, especially my voice. I know people have had problems with my voice being distorted and unclear but I actually think it's been my favorite vocal sound of any recording session I've ever done.” For w h o k i l l, Garbus collaborated with bassist Nate Brenner and engineer Eli Crews, among others. The most notable difference between the two albums is the presence of Nate Brenner’s jazzy bass accompaniment. This addition makes Garbus’ creations seem more like cohesive pieces and less like patchworks of collected sound. However, Brenner’s influence does not result in a complete departure from Garbus’ earlier style.

Garbus maintains much of the same elements from her earlier album, but employs them more musically. For example, she continues to incorporate vocal distortion in w h o k i l l, so that her words are as much an instrument as the synth or drums. Her melodies often crescendo into loud synthetic tones or are made glitchy and choppy to become at the same time both melody and percussion. Also, the fuzzy tape hiss audible throughout most of Wolly Wolly Gong is reminiscent of the low-fi aesthetic of Bird-Brains, but is much more than a mere product of the recording-method. The tape hiss adds to the eeriness of the lullaby, making Garbus seem like a lurking poltergeist caught fuzzily on tape as she coos, “I will watch and weep at your peace-ly sleep and make sure the beddy-bugs don’t get you..” w h o k i l l is well worth a listen or two (or ten) and Merrill Garbus herself is worth following as developing artist.


Born: 1979

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Beginning as the lo-fi experimental folk project of Merrill Garbus (also of the noisy indie pop band Sister Suvi) 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 homespun patchwork of found sounds, field recordings, ukulele, unusual percussion and surprisingly soulful vocals. It took Garbus two years to craft debut album,...
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Whokill, Tune-Yards
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