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November 16th, 2011 MATTHEW SINGER | Music Stories
 

Primer: Tune-Yards

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Formed: 2006.

Sounds like: Hip-hop, R&B and Afro-pop reflected through a post-punk lens.

For fans of: The Slits, Essential Logic, Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s Mambo Nassau.

Latest release: This year’s whokill, on which singer-songwriter Merrill Garbus evolves from a subway busker casually toying around with found sounds and a ukulele into a squawking art-funk bird of paradise.

Why you care: Conventional wisdom would suggest that an artist who took more than two years to piece together her first album, then self-released it by dubbing the finished product to cassette tapes, would be straitjacketed by a more “professional” recording process. But, then, conventionality isn’t a trait often associated with Tune-Yards’ Garbus. For the follow-up to 2009’s avant-folky Bird-Brains—originally picked up by Portland’s Marriage Records, then reissued by 4AD—the 32-year-old, Connecticut-born vagabond got to run wild in an actual studio and, instead of feeling constrained, took the opportunity to do things she couldn’t do working by herself with no budget. As a result, whokill is even more creatively bonkers than her homemade debut. Adding crooked bass lines, heavy percussion, skronky saxophones and layers of her elastic voice, Garbus adapts the charmingly patchwork nature of Bird-Brains into an album bursting with ebullient color. If anything, being in a real studio encouraged her to shed the art-school pretensions that sometimes muddied her previous record’s DIY sense of discovery, leaving intact the joyous primitivism that turned heads in the first place. And now you can dance to it. 


SEE IT: Tune-Yards plays Wonder Ballroom on Monday, Nov. 21, with Pat Jordache and Malikat Dan Singa. 8 pm. $17. 

 
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