tUnE-yArDs - W H O K I L L - Album Review

Merrill Garbus, the Cinderella of DIY, has a mouth that could swallow a whale. Her pet project, tUnE-yArDs and its first album BiRd BrAiNs, was a lonely two-year endeavor recorded entirely on recycled cassette tape. By this description, one might think Garbus should have been relegated to the fringes of "Outsider Music", but the result couldn’t have been any different. On BiRd BrAiNs, Garbus’s harshly soulful voice belts out passion over ukulele-highlighted garbage-can beat loops. Indeed, she quickly won over every pair of ears that had become tired of overproduced conventionality.

But what about the second album? What happens to a DIY princess when you give her money, a studio, a band (even a saxophone)? Surely the fickle fixed-geared hipsters will abandon her, right? The answer is an astounding, resounding 'NO!' Garbus's W H O K I L L, released in April of this year, has all of that refined yet unrefined conundrum that made her first release so powerful. Here, dirty (oh, so dirty) beats and bass lines combine with saxophone farts, field recordings and confident vocal phrasing into a cut-and-paste anti-pop piece of perplexity. The lyrics range from disenchanted apathy to satirical humor to loneliness and guilt.

What tUnE-yArDs does is, simply put, magic; magic in the sense of its indescribable allure. The music is choppy in its rhythm and eclectic in its nature. It’s an amalgamation of influences (afro beat, oldies, Ella Fitzgerald, even reggae (maybe) that astonishingly sounds like no one else.

Yes, dare I say it, Merrill Garbus is a pop artist from an alternate universe. Take a look at (and have a listen to) the music video for W H O K I L L ‘s single Bizness. Be mesmerized, and try your best not to get swallowed whole.

Album Review: W H O K I L L
Artist: tUnE-yArDs
Album: w h o k i l l
Release Date: April 19, 2011
Reviewed By: Bill Stranberg

Track Listing:

1> My Country (3:40)
2> Es-So (3:30)
3> Gangsta (3:59)
4> Powa (5:04)
5> Riotriot (4:13)
6> Bizness (4:24)
7> Doorstep (4:17)
8> You Yes You (3:33)
9> Wooly Wolly Gang (6:07)
10> Killa (3:12)