By Devin Duckworth | October 15th, 2010
Behold a sincere yet bizarre “WTF” woman that makes no excuses for herself. Meet Merrill Garbus, the brains behind the Oakland-based hypnotic tribal-funk act tUnE-yArDs. Signed to independent record label 4AD, her debut album Bird Brains (2009) was recorded on a digital voice recorder and assembled using shareware mixing software.
What I personally love most about tUnE-yArDs is Garbus’ out-of-this-world sound. Her voice carries an array of alluring whimpers, howls of pain, and yodeling tales of love and lonesomeness. In the song “Little Tiger,” she expresses the honest truth by harmoniously reciting, “All you own you owe to someone you don’t know.” She describes Bird Brains as “a patchwork of sound snippets, of history in a present tense. It is a composer’s commitment to the preservation of stories, however small and unassuming.”
What lures the listener in isn’t just her strange animal cries and war-painted face, it’s the fact that each song represents something completely different and carries an idiosyncratic trait that is hard to recreate. I’m not going to lie, the first time I listened to tUnE-yArDs, I felt awkward and hesitant, but as I listened on, I realized that this was unlike anything I had ever heard before.
The harsh drum banging, soft ukulele strumming, and fuzzy background noises don’t steal away from Garbus’ voice; these key elements are the icing on the cake of a whole new music genre. The entire album consists of tracks that tap into your inner psycho, and you can’t help but to shake your hips and keep listening.
In the song “Hitari” she wails in abandonment from start to finish stating that “there is a natural sound that wild things make when they’re bound.” Is it just me or do those words perfectly illustrate the inner workings of her music?