With one of the more soulful voices I have heard in recent times combined with a massive sense of urgency drafted with pure pop sensibilities linked, but not confined to, electronica, world music and splashes of RnB comes this fresh faced American musician. Yes, it is a she which in these days is hardly surprising as so many of the fairer sex play hard ball when it comes to creating music. More and more I find satisfaction in listening to female artists. So it is with Merrill Garbus. Incidentally, and before I shoot myself in the foot, she is not alone in her endeavours with tUnE yArDs. At her side is bassist Nate Brenner and yes, he is a bloke. Merrill started recording as tUnE yArDs in 2006 but it wasn't for another three years that she and Nate released 'Bird Brains.' This was followed by 'Whokill' in 2011.
The sheer delight of creating music hits you with a wet kiss when you slip CD, or whatever method you use to listen to music (vinyl preferably), into machine. It is youthful, energised and expressive. There is a direct connection to the youth music of the past sixty years, a connectivity that lessens those gappy decades into instantly recognisable progressions. Joy, mischief but thankfully lacking that faux sneer as prostrated by the likes of Oasis and other New New Seeker type bands.
The tUnE yArDs share with St. Vincent an uncompromising desire to couple experimental with listenable. I have always, ever since 'Revolver,' enjoyed artists who achieve both. My collection, sadly depleted now due to circumstance, boasted a set of similar acts. From said Fabs to Bowie, Bush, Cream, Paul Simon and Yes. Recall, if able, 'Roundabout' which throbbed with a propulsive beat melded with those delightful harmonies and shifting time signatures. A step too far was 'Tales of Topographic Oceans' which is something Merrill and Nate seem keen to avoid.
By fusing Afro-like harmonies across a tape looped sound replete with ukulele, horns and that buoyant bass, tUnE yArDs come ready armed as progressive, ones who do not feel the need to hoist the mantle of classical music over their yard arm. Being experimental does not mean being preposterous or pretentious.
Earlier this year the band, she and he, released the supremely confident and cocky album 'Nikki Nack' the title of which makes me want to laugh aloud. I find there is something within this album, the music contained, that brings to mind, even though the sound is completely different, the early Beatles, Madness circa 1979/80, the slap happy cockney lambasts of the Blockheads (with Ian of course) or indeed the spunky Talking Heads. If this were a can then it is rammed full of delight. She and he are having bucketful's of fun as they create music fresh and uncompromising.
What more could you ask for?
tUnE yArDs have presented to me another album that must feature as one of the better ones this year.
And just what is that deflated red membrane adoring the cover of said album? Answers by return please...
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.