tUnE-yArDs
w h o k i l l


4.5
superb

Review

by Conrad Tao EMERITUS
April 11th, 2011 | 256 replies | 26,694 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Don't take her life away.

Merrill Garbus does not like to stay still. She doesn't want you to stay still either. In fact, she would like nothing more than for you to get off your ass, put on some face paint, run outside with some tattered clothes on, and dance recklessly. Regrettably, her audience is composed primarily of basement dwellers blogging about music behind thick spectacles and in the emptily luminous light of their laptop screens, the type of crowd that stands around doing an awkward shuffle while Garbus is onstage with saxophones, loop pedals, and an endearingly awkward bass player wailing away, and basically just kicking ass. It's hard to resist the urge to just shake these guys up, to force them to loosen up and open their eyes up to the sheer uninhibited joy that Garbus' infallibly charming personality so effortlessly projects.

w h o k i l l, Garbus' second album as tUnE-yArDs, is a wild ride, restless both sonically and lyrically, and it is nothing short of absolutely delightful. It's also a marked improvement over BiRd-BrAiNs, Garbus' already-excellent debut, taking everything that made that record as winning as it was, distilling it to its very essence, and amplifying it tenfold. Not by turning up the volume, per se, but by going into a studio, removing the excessive noise that hampered BiRd-BrAiNs' weaker moments, and basically adding a newly polished sheen to Garbus' formally audacious approach to pop. Yet while w h o k i l l is clearly a more hi-fi affair than its predecessor, it loses none of the blissful idiosyncrasies of, say, "Little Tiger" or "Hatari". Quite the contrary, in fact; those quirks are in sharp focus on tracks like "You Yes You" and "Gangsta", their impact significantly strengthened by the cleaner production.

Throughout w h o k i l l, these quirks are melded to soaring vocal melodies and ingenious arrangements, rendering the album remarkably accessible despite its undeniable weirdness. There's not a single weak track to be found across the record's ten songs, and there are several transcendent ones. The best moments on the album display not only keen understanding of composition, which at this point is almost a given, but also an uncannily effective way of expressing emotion through cryptic language. "Bizness", the superb first single, is masterfully fluid in its approach to words; in the song's massive chorus, "I'm addicted, yeah" transforms into "I'm a victim, yeah", suggesting that the two may be one and the same. Most astonishing, however, is the closer, "Killa", which begins with a lilting melody and pseudo-rap that finds Garbus making something of a manifesto for herself: "I'm a new kind of woman / I'm a new kind of woman / I'm a don't take shit from you kind of woman." This being Garbus, the sentiment is delivered with a healthy dose of good-humoredness, but the startlingly clear-headed, astute display of self-awareness that follows is as dead serious as it is offbeat. Abandoning the sharply rhythmic phrasing of everything that has been presented in the last thirty-odd minutes, Garbus lets completely loose: "Would you call me naïve and an idealist if I told you I am disheartened that in this day and age, I do not have more male black friends? I cannot take it, I'm so hip; I'm hip like a yuppie is hip, confident and yipping at the heels of my yuppie forefathers!"

Not even James Murphy could capture being a ridiculously trendy commodity this well. Except that Garbus is so much more than a collection of fashionable signifiers. w h o k i l l is loaded with her distinctive personality, at times practically exploding with pure energy, yet it never comes across as contrived or silly (aside from the glaringly cutesy spelling and stylization, that is). Because everything about tUnE-yArDs seems at once unrestricted and organic, which helps explain why this record sounds so appealingly loose despite having the most tightly wound sonic constructions this side of Deerhoof vs. Evil. Garbus is a genuine oddity, not a calculated one, and on this irresistible album, her winning eccentricities are on full display. "Don't take my life away," she sings urgently on "Bizness". Psh. As if anybody could.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
conradtao
Emeritus
April 11th 2011



2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Streaming here!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2011/apr/11/tune-yards-whokill-album-stream

AggravatedYeti
April 11th 2011



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

oh man conrad
fucking nailed it.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
April 11th 2011



23804 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Fever To Tell you say? You hooked me, hard.
That album title must be a bitch to type out repeatedly.

(nicereviewposomgyourethebest etc.)

PuddlesPuddles
April 11th 2011



4772 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Listened to Bizness. Pretty great, will listen to the album

conradtao
Emeritus
April 11th 2011



2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks, guys. I'm hoping this gets some positive notices here..

Gyromania
April 11th 2011



15480 Comments


I haven't heard this whole album yet, but I've enjoyed what I've heard. I guess I'll get on that stream. Nice review, Conrad.

DoubtGin
April 11th 2011



6748 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

reminds me of Vampire Weekend


plane
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2011



6093 Comments


You fucking rule Conrad and come the end of the summer I might feel the love as strongly as thou doth. I'm sitting at a strong 4 now.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2011



15008 Comments


her voice is really weird and awesome and versatile

thought it was a dude at first and all that. bizness is awesome, will get. youre my fave conrad

Defeater
April 11th 2011



5782 Comments


Would it kill you to add bands into the database normally? These stupid character patterns are irrelevant to the music.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2011



15008 Comments


i'm sorry does it hurt your feelings


robertsona
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2011



15008 Comments


guys band names are irrelevant to the music


did you know this


Defeater
April 11th 2011



5782 Comments


It just tells me the band is really fucking gay is all.

acorncheese
April 11th 2011



7119 Comments


Just heard a song by these guys a few days ago. It was pretty cool. Not really my thing though. Video was whacky.

plane
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2011



6093 Comments


Would it kill you to add bands into the database normally? These stupid character patterns are irrelevant to the music.

I take it you mean the way tUnE-yArDs is spelled? That's how it is released officially on the albums and press releases, and beside that very relevant tidbit, Conrad didn't actually add the band to the database.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2011



15008 Comments


ediT: never mind

Defeater
April 11th 2011



5782 Comments


That's how it is released officially on the albums and press releases


Obviously.

Conrad didn't actually add the band to the database.


It was a general question. It's just a pain in the ass to spell it tUnE-yArDs.

shazwagon
April 11th 2011



84 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Superb review, man!

This album is such a blast!

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
April 11th 2011



15008 Comments


defeater where are you going honestly

Gyromania
April 11th 2011



15480 Comments


Defeater just likes to bitch.



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