Artist of the Week: tUnE-yArDs
tUnE-yArDs started in 2006 as the moniker for the homespun experimental folk project of New England native Merril Garbus. After the release of Bird Brains (2009), her fully DIY-inspired debut, bass player Nate Brenner joined Merril and added a paramount groove to her voice and artful patchwork of beats, loops, ukulele and field recordings. The result can be fully heard on Whokill (2011), a tremendous sophomore effort that combined jazz, folk, hip-hop and R&B in a exhilarating and accessible way. The record would a few months later voted #1 in the prestigious Village Voice annual list, making it likely the lowest-selling and lowest-charting winner in the poll’s history.
After what must have felt like an unending hiatus to their fans, tUnE-yArDs’ third and recently released album, Nikki Nack, adds with great effect non-Western musical traditions and glimmering electronic sounds to Merril’s habitual rapid-fire, rich and melodic wordplay. Though their sophisticated melodies and classing sonic patterns may have never sound as fit to the playground as in this record, the truth is that Merril’s imaginary and themes have also become more adult and violent than ever: it’s precisely from this tension that one can genuinely find the sheer uniqueness of tUnE-yArDs‘ songcraft.
João Pedro da Costa is a web studies scholar and a music fan.