Well, the new Tune-Yards album rules.
On her new album w h o k i l l, Merrill Garbus spends 40 minutes doing what I like best: looping shit. Throughout the album, layers upon layers of noises are piled up to create endless soundscapes, at first seemingly random and rather abrasive. However, these collections of sounds twist and turn into some sort of melody that, God knows how, can for real get stuck in your head. I keep finding myself trying to hum along to heavily-distorted and hard-to-listen-to vocals over blaring saxophone, as is the general feel of “Gangsta”, as if that is even possible. (I fail, of course.) Also note the (French?) police siren that opens the song. I think that acknowledgement alone captures the general essence of Tune-Yards sound on w h o k i l l.
On the other hand, maybe you’re familiar with her debut album BiRd-BrAiNs and cannot fathom how she could get more abrasive? Well, to be honest, w h o k i l l is significantly more poppy and smooth. Tracks like “Powa” and “Doorstep” are gentle and generally digestible. With this in mind, Tune-Yards sucessfully created a rather diverse and kickbutt album with wide-appeal without losing her crazy cred.
…Cause don’t get me wrong, this chick is still crazy. Have you seen the video for “Bizness,” the first single from the album that was released in February? Incredible, but undeniably crazy. (And just to be clear, by “crazy” I mean slightly differing from the norm of both mainstream pop and underground indie rock, and thus because I don’t know where she fits I’m going to give her a “crazy” because that’s what I imagine you’ll understand most simply) So yeah, if you haven’t seen it, check it out here:
At this point, “Bizness” is one of my top tracks of the year. It has everything, and then you remember it’s being performed by one lady who you admire more than most musicians today. This track builds it self up from nothing, beginning with a few ‘oohs’ amongst other layered vocal bits. Then add some snare, taps, lyrics, drop the oohs, bring the oohs back, add a bassline, (in that order) and BAM! Funkiest jam of the year. Not to mention it’s beautiful and powerful and flawless.
W h o k i l l is an incredible display of both musicianship and general disregard for the status quo of pop music. Amidst all the looped guitar plucking, distorted whatever, and spoken/shouted word is a fantastically catchy and impressive album. Garbus rules, and that’s that.
W h o k i l l was released on April 19th, 2011 on 4AD.
Review by Ari Mygatt