I once called tUnE-YaRdS “an art project gone very very right.” That was, of course, back when the music of New Englander Merrill Garbus was recorded entirely on a Sony digital voice recorder. No longer just an art project, Garber has released her second full-length, w h o k i l l, an album recorded in a real studio and written with a wider audience in mind. It’s a bold move that threatens to sacrifice Garbus’ art for sake of popularity and a bigger pay day–at least it would if Garbus was any ordinary musician.
She is, in fact, extraordinary. With the instincts of a tribal chieftan, the recklessness of a modern artist and the confidence of a pop diva, Garbus makes beautifully chaotic noise. Imagine a cross between M.I.A., Man Man and Feist and you’re just about there. tUnE-YaRds is something wholly unique and exciting in a very basic sense. Garbus appeals to the human soul on some sort of subconscious level, pulling at the strands of DNA that make us dance, smile and make sweet, strange love.
Her first album, BiRd-BrAiNs, experimented with song structure and creation. Garbus crafted tracks from a collection of sounds gathered over the course of two years, including a host of power tools and what sounds like a child coughing. The single “Sunlight,” however, showed she had the capability to create emotionally powerful and brilliantly-written songs.
On w h o k i l l Garbus takes the opportunity to work with experienced musicians who help her hone her craft without interrupting anything creatively. Lead single “Bizness” is an empowering anthem that culls from the trademark tUnE-YaRdS tribal sound and highlights Garbus’ powerful vocals. The rest of the record takes every opportunity to hit you over the head with at times catchy, at other times straight danceable, tracks.
At the end of “Bizness” Garbus yells “Don’t take my life away,” as if anybody really wanted to.
tUnE-YaRdS – “Bizness” [MP3]