Tackling big issues like gender, body image, race, and human brutality, she confronts society head on.
tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
After the 2010 M.I.A. album /\/\ /\ Y /\, I became weary of over stylized albums. Blame it on my fondness for the English language or, perhaps, on my aversion to juvenile StudlyCaps. Whichever it is, the chance of me picking up tUnE-yArDs’ newest album, w h o k i l l, on my own volition are pretty unlikely. But fate and talk radio stepped in, introducing me to an impressive new and individual take on music.
tUnE-yArd is the brainchild of Merrill Garbus, a New England native. Comprising her music of drum loops combined with a ukulele, bass guitar, and saxophones, Garbus manages to create a huge sound with in a small instrumental space. What really carries the record, however, is her huge voice. The album’s novel blend of lo-fi R&B mixed with poppy afro-beats gives it an almost carefree, estival feel. But there is a force in Garbus’ music, tucked within the funky loops and impressive vocals.
This is Garbus’ second release and her sound is clearly evolving. Her lyrics are provocative from the opening track through the end. The goading of the lyrics reminds us that she is not simply writing her personal narrative, but something more universal. By acknowledging duality that she feels as a woman and as an American, she is confronting what it means to living in a world with limitations. The America that Garbus sings about is raw and brutal. Tackling big issues like gender, body image, race, and human brutality, she confronts society head on. Yet, throughout all of this chaos and hurting Garbus never loses her optimism. She embraces the viciousness of the world around her, the America of the twenty-first century, while still holding it accountable and allowing it room to grow.
Music will forever be a source of social commentary. When it is done with style and esteem, there is the opportunity to create something worth believing in. With this album, Garbus has clearly done that in her own very individualistic way.