Two Thousand and Eleven Tunes part 4

4} Tune-yards : Whokill

Tune-yards could so easily be a disaster. Much of the best music takes chances, does something difficult to pull off, something that could be laughable or cringe-inducing unless you get it just right. But most of the time these truly ear-popping bits only happen once in a while– even in really talented, interesting artists’ work. Merrill Garbus and friends made a whole album of songs that seems entirely made up of those edge-of-your-seat aural cliff jump moments. Tune-yards makes a kind of urban dance-rock that successfully breathes in hiphop, African and Dub reggae stylings, then sweats out the result in exhilarating blasts of compressed melody and super-powered rhythm. A band made mostly of ukelele and drum loops sounds like a hipster nightmare on paper, but Tune-yards music manages to feel simple, natural and new, intricate, alien and ancient. Every track on Whokill takes a great pop song, strangles it, chops it up, paints the pieces forty shades of  hot pink, then rebuilds a sexy, funky frankensong that shouldn’t be– but somehow– it’s alive! Maybe the key is Merrill Garbus’ elastic knockout punch of a voice. As cool as it is to hear the instruments breakdancing all over punk/funk/pop/rock history, it wouldn’t be a fraction as impressive without that growling, caressing, kissing, biting, sweet-n-sour bundle of vocal dynamite to set it off right.

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