Monday, June 20, 2011

Tune-Yards - Whokill

I knew the moment would come when Merrill Garbus, the oddball creative force behind Tune-Yards, would have to abandon the literal D.I.Y. of her debut Bird-Brains and take her muse into the sterile confines of a real studio. There have been countless lo-fi artists that have had to make similar decisions, and I’ll be damned if I can remember one that completely flopped thanks to the additional recording tracks or professional mics that a studio provides them.

After all, most of these artists had plenty of noticeable talents within the hiss and noticeable lack of perfections and in Tune-Yards debut, there was an undeniable creativity behind all of the clutter.

It’s just that the story of Merrill’s D.I.Y.’s journey made for some infectious reading while trying to get a handle on her out-of-control delivery.

Thankfully, all of the studio “sheen” and “professionalism” don’t damper her zaniness and on her journey towards accessibility, there’s still a wide gap between what the public is willing to accept from her and what’s she’s willing to relent to them.

The result brings Whokill between the Raincoats’ Moving album and some Tom Tom Club album, if both were fronted by a woman with enormous vocal talents.

Garbus is not afraid to come across like some savant with no noticeable inner control mechanism to let her be concerned with such trivial things like embarrassment. And when you take a look at some of the subject matter within Whokill, it’s obvious that she also isn’t afraid of things like body image (“Es So”), her neighborhood (“Gangsta”), and the fact that she doesn’t mind having her lover bang her from behind (“Powa”).

Her self-empowerment and confidence is so infectious that it transcends how it was recorded. And the fact that the main storyline behind Whokill is that it was legitimately documented makes it even more stunning as you clearly hear how there’s a method to Merrill’s madness, and that method is borderline genius.

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