As much as I have grown to love the music -- not to mention as excited as I am about the new album -- in all honesty I have to admit at first I did not want to like tUnE-yArDs, the idiosyncratic moniker of Oakland-based artist Merrill Garbus. Even before I ever heard a note, I believe I had seen the name in print and thought, “all the world needs is another quirky artist who needs a gimmicky spelling to compensate for lack of talent”... reminding me of the Sarah Jessica Parker character from the great 'L.A. Story', SanDeE* ("big 's', small 'a', small 'n', big 'd', small 'e', big 'e'... with a little star at the end"). Like an idiot, I initially passed and almost missed out on one of the most spirited, challenging and deliciously original artists making music today.
I have to thank Jason Bentley for playing the song "News" from tUnE-yArDs' debut, Bird-Brains. Right from the jump I was entranced... this strange and unlikely beautiful mix of ukulele, percussion that sounded like someone installing aluminum siding, and that voice. That voice which can float from layers of high-pitched Andrews Sisters harmonies to a deep-throated Odetta howl, shifting octaves and registers as swiftly and naturally as the wind blows. I quickly ingested the entire record, a collection of lo-fi folk songs, you might say... yet there is nothing twee about it. The album is a bold statement from a visionary artist who, despite the somewhat mercurial and unhinged nature of the music, is quite in control of her craft.
w h o k i l l is the brand new follow-up album from tUnE-yArDs (there is that spelling again, but at this point it matters not...), which is a cosmic quantum leap forward both sonically and stylistically. Listen to the funky swing of "Es-so" or the hip-hop low-end of "Gangsta", where she calls out suckers who could can't be as original as her ("singing from his heart/but he'll never be a rasta"). w h o k i l l also elaborates on the world music experiments of her debut, particularly on the Angelique Kidjo-esque vocal flutter that begins "Riotriot". There is a freedom and fearlessness that pours out of w h o k i l l... she just sounds like she is having a hell of a lot of fun, as are we.
-- Dan Wilcox, KCRW Music Host
w h o k i l l will be available to stream on demand from April 11 through April 24, 2011. The album will be released on Tuesday, April 19, 2011.
Artist website: http://tune-yards.com
1. My Country
8. You Yes You
9. Wooly Wolly Gong