Nicky Nack by tUnE-yArDs
This is the second Top 10 appearance by the artist at #6, Oakland’s tUnE-yArDs. In 2011, the band made it all the way up to #4 with their second album, W H O K I L L. In that review, I wrote about the band:
tUnE-yArDs is an extension of one very talented person’s musical experimentation. Her name is Merrill Garbus, and she is a phenomenon. She creates music that’s definitely not for everyone. How she creates her music is not entirely original: she uses loops of her powerful voice along with other analog sounds to create electronic beats/rhythms/melodies (similar to Andrew Bird and St. Vincent), culminating in a cacophony of sounds that are vaguely African in origin. Hearing the recordings on her two albums, this seems somewhat apparent but doesn’t jump out at you like it does in her live show, where she is beating on anything in sight with her drum stick and creating complicated orchestrations on the strings of a ukulele.
Nicky Nack, the third and every-bit-as-fantastic album to spring forth from Garbus’s brain, is just as eclectic, as strange. Rooted in heavy beats, multiple layers of sound, and meaningful stories about trouble, conflict and cultural exploration, the album is an absolute joy to listen to. Garbus came through town on December 13, and I’m kicking myself for having not gone to the show to try and relive the experience I had back in 2011.
This music may not be for everyone, but I think everyone should listen to the above song before passing judgment. “Water Fountain” is the best song on the album. Give it at least until the bridge, which starts just past the 2:00 mark. From that point on, it builds and builds and comes crashing into the chorus one last time, at which point you should be bouncing along happily to the beat.
Earlier this year, tUnE-yArDs performed in the KEXP studios, and the entire performance is available for viewing. Watching how these songs are performed should give you a massive appreciation for how difficult it is for Garbus and the band to recreate these songs live. There’s also another video, for the song “Real Thing,” as seen here.
Buy this album. Then get her other two albums. They’re unlike anything else out there, and they are simply great.
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