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Rob Harvilla talks to Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs) over at the Village Voice about, among other things, Vampire Weekend and African music.

kshighway (ksh), Wednesday, 3 February 2010 02:57 (eleven years ago) link

Fwiw, I still haven't listened to her record -- I think I may have heard clips, but I did see her live opening for Dirty Projects last fall, and having known nothing of her beforehand, I left really impressed. The whole crowd seemed impressed.

Apparently this is a typical reaction. From the VV interview:

I first saw you at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, opening for the Dirty Projectors. The crowd was sort of aloof and indifferent when you started, and then totally rapt and in love with you by the time you were done. Do you have a sense onstage of winning over a crowd like that? Can you feel that bond intensifying in real-time?

Yeah, definitely. I went to school for theater at Smith College—I definitely honed the ability to demand attention. I guess I've become less comfortable with waiting for it. When I first started doing music, I was doing open mics, which were a similar kind of thing, like, "Get people's attention or die": Get people's attention in the first five minutes—or 30 seconds—or be ignored and not get any tips. And also street performance, which I did in the subways in Montreal. It's a survival technique for sure, and now I feel like I've come to make that part of the thing. It doesn't always happen, but it happens 90 percent of the time these days, and I have a feeling that's because I do demand that of audiences. I say, "If you're here, then be here. If you're here, then be part of this thing, or walk out of this room, which is also fine."

kshighway (ksh), Wednesday, 3 February 2010 02:59 (eleven years ago) link

*Dirty Projectors, obv

kshighway (ksh), Wednesday, 3 February 2010 02:59 (eleven years ago) link

i had the opposite reaction when i saw TuNeYaRdZ: i was totally impressed from the very first song but got pretty bored about halfway through

i think there's a lot of potential but at the moment the songs seem too formulaic and samey

Future "Gypsy Rasta" Perfect (Future_Perfect), Wednesday, 3 February 2010 17:39 (eleven years ago) link

six months pass...

i took a shot at it
she's amazing live.

this isn't STRAWBERRY 0_o it's RAWBERRY (forksclovetofu), Sunday, 22 August 2010 21:05 (ten years ago) link

Holy shit that first video.

Maltodextrin, Sunday, 22 August 2010 22:41 (ten years ago) link

five months pass...



Prick Squad (Ówen P.), Monday, 14 February 2011 23:25 (ten years ago) link

sounds great, digging the step up in production

bows don't kill people, arrows do (Jordan), Monday, 14 February 2011 23:37 (ten years ago) link

love this track, have not heard produced version hitting play now thank you for this owen!

الله basedأكبر (forksclovetofu), Tuesday, 15 February 2011 00:38 (ten years ago) link

okay i prefer the rawer screamy version
though this is nice and dense and the horns really help and it gains on second listen. they're different animals?
very psyched for new album

الله basedأكبر (forksclovetofu), Tuesday, 15 February 2011 00:44 (ten years ago) link

sounds great, digging the step up in production

courtesy of the great eli crews and new, improved in oakland!

Dominique, Tuesday, 15 February 2011 05:02 (ten years ago) link

this makes me feel uncomfortable don't know if i want to listen to it again. like crazy person music

flopson, Tuesday, 15 February 2011 05:06 (ten years ago) link

I have a feeling that I'll miss the dictaphone styles of the first record
But then I realized I could just re-record the album onto a dictaphone
If I ended up missing it that much

Prick Squad (Ówen P.), Tuesday, 15 February 2011 12:59 (ten years ago) link

or getting shitty headphones

الله basedأكبر (forksclovetofu), Tuesday, 15 February 2011 13:14 (ten years ago) link

Bizness is fantastic, keep coming back to it.

The Amy Misto Family Knife (Plasmon), Sunday, 20 February 2011 06:59 (ten years ago) link

one month passes...

I like this one


Shin Oliva Suzuki, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 01:32 (ten years ago) link

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

Really loving it.'gangsta', 'powa', 'bidness' and 'my country' all A+. Seems front loaded to my ears or perhaps the second half will take longer to get into.

kuyty on a mission (pandemic), Tuesday, 12 April 2011 15:49 (ten years ago) link

sinking my teeth into this right now

feels like heelys are racing up my spine (forksclovetofu), Tuesday, 12 April 2011 17:45 (ten years ago) link

HOLY FUCK the finished version of Gangsta is AWESOME

feels like heelys are racing up my spine (forksclovetofu), Tuesday, 12 April 2011 22:35 (ten years ago) link


markers, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 22:37 (ten years ago) link

album is heavily zappa-d out, much more than birdbrains

feels like heelys are racing up my spine (forksclovetofu), Tuesday, 12 April 2011 22:46 (ten years ago) link

This just got an A from Robert Christgau and is streaming on NPR. It's cool. Bizness is an obvious song of the year contender.

kornrulez6969, Tuesday, 19 April 2011 18:21 (nine years ago) link

Pareles reviewed in the NYT and he gave it a qualified rave; only major complaint was the lyrics and I don't blame him there.

My bad Van Buren! (forksclovetofu), Tuesday, 19 April 2011 18:28 (nine years ago) link

They're all over the place and often clever but sometimes just __shrug__

My bad Van Buren! (forksclovetofu), Tuesday, 19 April 2011 18:29 (nine years ago) link

basically this and the quik are pretty much my fave albums this year so far.

My bad Van Buren! (forksclovetofu), Tuesday, 19 April 2011 18:29 (nine years ago) link

freelancer Patrick Foster for the Washington Post loves it:

“Whokill” is one of this year’s boldest, freshest creations: A pulsating quick-step that feels utterly contemporary, careening down a city street while the detritus of consumed influence trails from the car windows.


curmudgeon, Tuesday, 19 April 2011 18:38 (nine years ago) link

That kinda makes want to hate it, but I will give it a shot.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 19 April 2011 18:39 (nine years ago) link

It's definitely real good. Not what I expected at all.

kornrulez6969, Tuesday, 19 April 2011 18:45 (nine years ago) link

the detritus of consumed influence

oh rlly

anyway I hated the first one and this one's more difficult but I like it a lot more!

I heard this (and Tune-Yards) for the first time today, it's definitely a good album but I'll need more time to process it. One similarity/influence I hear is dEUS circa The Ideal Crash, but maybe that's just the Zappa feel percolating down again.

Stars of the Lidl (seandalai), Tuesday, 19 April 2011 19:32 (nine years ago) link

This is a major record, people. Don't let the unconventional punctuation put you off. I'm telling you, this little lady is dy-no-mite!!!!!

kornrulez6969, Saturday, 30 April 2011 03:56 (nine years ago) link


adam, Monday, 2 May 2011 00:57 (nine years ago) link

i've come to really love this with repeated listens, it's leaps and bounds better than the first one (her ideas are too interesting to be mired in low fidelity). i've had the chance to play it out loud for some people over the past few weeks and have enjoyed the (mostly positive) reactions

tInA-yOtHeRs (donna rouge), Monday, 2 May 2011 01:00 (nine years ago) link

I can't believe how little attention it's getting around here. It's such an ILM friendly record.

kornrulez6969, Monday, 2 May 2011 01:20 (nine years ago) link

not for everyone i guess.

And thusly create the illusion of babby (forksclovetofu), Monday, 2 May 2011 01:25 (nine years ago) link

mental note: add this band to that thread about 'bands you'll never listen to because of their stupid name'

brotherlovesdub, Monday, 2 May 2011 03:57 (nine years ago) link

i.e. basically all of them?

And thusly create the illusion of babby (forksclovetofu), Monday, 2 May 2011 04:07 (nine years ago) link

She said the weird spelling was to increase her MySpace visibility.

Badmotorfinger Debate Club (MFB), Monday, 2 May 2011 05:17 (nine years ago) link

i heard the single today ("bizness"?) and her voice kinda scared me off. maybe i will give the full album a shot later.

teledyldonix, Monday, 2 May 2011 07:42 (nine years ago) link

coming late to tune-yards - heard a few tracks off the new album last week and was v impressed, then went back to the debut. sometimes hard to believe it's a woman singing, due to the timbre of merrill's voice, but only occasionally. striking. a strong & distinctive vocals, memorable songs, forward-thinking arrangements & production, and a dazzling procession of reference points (which is to say i get where that washington post guy is coming from with his "detritus of consumed influence"). exactly the sort of record i'd like to be listening to this summer.

since i can't make sense of the dirty projectors comparisons i keep reading (a product of my own ignorance), i'll say that the music reminds me v slightly of animal collective, back when i thought i liked animal collective, circa sung tongs - you know, popping their panda tare heads up among the african, doo-wop, blues, hip-hop and gospel influences. probably a lazy reference point, but i'm hardly up to date on yr contemporary indie styles. cocorosie?

normal_fantasy-unicorns (contenderizer), Monday, 2 May 2011 18:32 (nine years ago) link

neneh cherry imo

thomp, Monday, 2 May 2011 18:39 (nine years ago) link

should listen to neneh cherry i guess

normal_fantasy-unicorns (contenderizer), Monday, 2 May 2011 18:40 (nine years ago) link

Songs from the first album didn't make much of an impression on me -- I don't even remember whether I heard the whole thing or not. This one took a little while to sink in, but I'm pretty into it now. And I definitely hear the Dirty Projectors comparisons -- see, e.g., the guitar solo on "You Yes You" (about a minute in).

jaymc, Monday, 2 May 2011 18:43 (nine years ago) link

yeah, 'killa' esp. has a neneh vibe

tInA-yOtHeRs (donna rouge), Monday, 2 May 2011 19:02 (nine years ago) link

it's a fair comparison. She's got a LOT of influences going on though; references the babenzele pygmies as a touchstone.

And thusly create the illusion of babby (forksclovetofu), Monday, 2 May 2011 19:53 (nine years ago) link

should listen to neneh cherry i guess

― normal_fantasy-unicorns (contenderizer), Monday, 2 May 2011 19:40 (Yesterday) Bookmark Suggest Ban Permalink


just sayin, Tuesday, 3 May 2011 08:42 (nine years ago) link

big lol to those on another thread dissing her supposedly tokenistic/trendy/not-'authorized' appropriation of african music (weirdly patronizing suggestions to "do her homework") when she in fact spent time in africa playing with african musicians there

also surprised to find that she is 32. from her videos i thought she was like 24

anyways like a lot of AC or dirty projectors i *get* why it is praised but don't find myself reaching for it that often

teflon dawn (uptown churl), Tuesday, 3 May 2011 11:32 (nine years ago) link

Here, she makes a mockery of other so-called "live loopers". I can't even deal with this it's too good.


THE Alan Moulder?!? (Ówen P.), Wednesday, 18 May 2011 15:26 (nine years ago) link

A really obvious point to make, given all the post-Haiti-trip drumming on the record, but a lot of this sounds like a lost Slits or Rip Rig & Panic album.

Second the comment above about "Look Around". "Real Thing" and that is a great 1-2 punch.

Could happily listen to Merrill singing all day.

Jeff W, Tuesday, 6 May 2014 18:02 (six years ago) link

Also really miss the saxophones.

Jazzbo, Wednesday, 7 May 2014 11:10 (six years ago) link

four weeks pass...

Just watched their recent performance of Water Fountainon Fallon and it's way better than the recorded version -- seems like i recall feeling the same way when i watched the Tiny Desk Concert they did promoting the last album.

bodacious ignoramus, Wednesday, 4 June 2014 20:30 (six years ago) link

ultimately this album feels like a swing and a miss to me; too much exploration of "okay i have a style and i'm famous so now what"
I'll ride for Water Fountain (def fave track for this year so far), Wait for a Minute and Rocking Chair but not a whole lot else. It's easily her weakest LP in my eyes.
Strangely, one of my old interns is touring and doing back up for Garbus; she's in that Fallon performance.

Maybe Nikki Nack isn't as much of a breakthrough as Whokill was, but I think in some ways I like it better. It's more consistent. There are a couple of tracks that I skip on Whokill but none on Nikki Nack - although "Rocking Chair" doesn't feel very essential, it's short enough, unlike for instance "Wooly Wooly Gong" on Whokill which seems to go on forever.

o. nate, Wednesday, 4 June 2014 21:02 (six years ago) link

That's an inversion of how I'm listening to it! Different strokes I guess.

finally had a chance to listen to the new one a few times, and I love it. It's like an instant party in a can.
Whokill had higher highs, and parts where you go, "what is this whichcraft?" Nikki Nack just has me blissfully head bopping in the fabulous far-out mix.

nicky lo-fi, Sunday, 15 June 2014 17:08 (six years ago) link

i think the "party" aspect is a little deceptive -- the lyrics get pretty dark, all the stuff about rape/domestic violence, identity politics, depression, gentrification.

Van Spleef & R. Kellz (get bent), Sunday, 15 June 2014 21:29 (six years ago) link

(not to mention the cannibalism interlude, which i wish she'd left off the record b/c it just feels so out of place.)

Van Spleef & R. Kellz (get bent), Sunday, 15 June 2014 21:30 (six years ago) link

i love the record though; it reminds me of growing up in nyc and being exposed to the hulking and ever-mutating mass of pop/synth-R&B/freestyle/electro/new jack/reggae-inflected stuff that was on the radio and coming out of every car window, as well as all the attitudinal fringe-folk weirdos at the little clubs and festivals that my folks dragged me to. i've said before that tune-yards is really evocative of "summer prospect park 1988" for me and that's even more true with nikki nack.

Van Spleef & R. Kellz (get bent), Sunday, 15 June 2014 21:37 (six years ago) link

I like the cannibalism skit. Reminds me of the skits on De La Soul Is Dead.

o. nate, Monday, 16 June 2014 21:26 (six years ago) link

(not to mention the cannibalism interlude, which i wish she'd left off the record b/c it just feels so out of place.)

this, exactly! i don't necessarily hate the interlude, it just sucks a lot of the energy and momentum out of the record at that point!

djenter the dragon? (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Monday, 16 June 2014 22:04 (six years ago) link

Maybe 'party' was too strong, but her singing sounds so self-assured and dynamic as apposed to the more experimental stuff. I almost expect to hear her throw in a 'come on now' every now and then.

nicky lo-fi, Wednesday, 18 June 2014 16:02 (six years ago) link

She does throw in some "Woo Hah!"s.

o. nate, Wednesday, 18 June 2014 17:55 (six years ago) link

one month passes...

I've had mixed feelings about this band before but they kicked ass at Pitchfork Fest. I was really impressed. I guess they make sense as a "festival band."

Immediate Follower (NA), Monday, 21 July 2014 17:05 (six years ago) link

I was going to say the opposite -- love "Hatari" and all of Whokill that I've heard, just saw them play a festival set and they were good but I wished I were seeing them in a smaller room with fewer people.

Guayaquil (eephus!), Monday, 21 July 2014 19:04 (six years ago) link

one month passes...

I really enjoy this record - maybe even moreso than w h o k i l l - and I'm a bit surprised it doesn't seem to have the same kind of impact as its predecessor. Sure, it's a bit messy in places, and it requires a few listens to properly sink in, but that's always been the case with her, hasn't it? So many hooks, so many beautiful melodies to discover!

What's interesting to me is that she has said in interviews that she had studied 'pop composition' prior to writing the album. I vaguely remember her even mentioning a book on how to write a pop hit. It's curious, because most of the songs here tend to stray away from the typical pop structure. It's a bit more glossy, more synths and programmed beats; hooks and tunes - check, but your usual pop song structure? Not so much.

mthrn, Tuesday, 9 September 2014 13:39 (six years ago) link

huh I thought this album was explicitly more conventional in songwriting and performance than whokill

also, it rules

stacked as fuck & imposing (DJP), Tuesday, 9 September 2014 13:54 (six years ago) link

Yeah, compared to w h o k i l l, sure, but in early press she made it sound like HERE COMES MY TOP 40 RECORD. Or maybe I just saw it mentioned one time too many and expected something more straightforward. But I'm glad she didn't dumb it down; and yeah, it rules.

mthrn, Tuesday, 9 September 2014 14:05 (six years ago) link

love it

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 9 September 2014 14:14 (six years ago) link

It definitely hasn't gotten a tenth of the buzz of whokill. I have a theory--the lyric "a blood soaked dollar" from the single is to blame. It comes across as a Grade Z Occupy Wall Street trope, just so obvious and clumsy. It kinda mars what is a kickass song.

kornrulez6969, Tuesday, 9 September 2014 15:22 (six years ago) link

i just never warmed to this album.

the other song about butts in the top 5 (forksclovetofu), Tuesday, 9 September 2014 15:23 (six years ago) link

I admired the previous album, but rarely wanted to play it. This one I actually enjoy listening to.

MaudAddam (cryptosicko), Tuesday, 9 September 2014 15:41 (six years ago) link

two months pass...

Saw her live last night. What an awesome gig. It made me appreciate her songs even more, especially the Nikki Nack ones.

mthrn, Friday, 21 November 2014 11:39 (six years ago) link

they sound better live, yes.

Face facts poptimism hacks, your a scam. (forksclovetofu), Friday, 21 November 2014 21:21 (six years ago) link

two years pass...

New song:


The album, I can feel you creep into my private life, is out in January.

ˈʌglɪɪst preɪ, Tuesday, 24 October 2017 17:07 (three years ago) link

I am really surprised by how hard I've turned around on her. I guess once I acclimated to the shouting, I could start enjoying what she was doing.

Marcus Hiles Remains Steadfast About Planting Trees.jpg (DJP), Tuesday, 24 October 2017 17:15 (three years ago) link

lol reading upthread shows I have both a great mind for inference and a terrible memory

Marcus Hiles Remains Steadfast About Planting Trees.jpg (DJP), Tuesday, 24 October 2017 17:24 (three years ago) link

Very cool!!

kornrulez6969, Tuesday, 24 October 2017 19:18 (three years ago) link

Love it. Welcome back.

Jeff W, Tuesday, 24 October 2017 19:48 (three years ago) link

Love this.

Ⓓⓡ. (Johnny Fever), Wednesday, 25 October 2017 03:37 (three years ago) link

two months pass...

"Heart Attack". Like the way the track starts very basically, then gradually blossoms to an opulent 70s disco sound. Album's going to rule. Don't like this video much though.


Jeff W, Saturday, 13 January 2018 13:26 (three years ago) link

two years pass...


sean gramophone, Sunday, 27 September 2020 01:27 (six months ago) link

I like the video better than the song

curmudgeon, Sunday, 27 September 2020 19:02 (six months ago) link

four months pass...


this is the best thing i've heard from them in a long time

ufo, Wednesday, 27 January 2021 23:24 (two months ago) link

one month passes...

This 1000% reignited my fandom... I love when she plays to her strengths (biggest voice out there, puppets)


flamboyant goon tie included, Sunday, 21 March 2021 00:14 (three weeks ago) link

I mean it this performance is crazy and great, vocal performance alone even

flamboyant goon tie included, Sunday, 21 March 2021 00:14 (three weeks ago) link

yeah that's a fantastic performance

i feel pretty optimistic about the new album now

ufo, Sunday, 21 March 2021 00:39 (three weeks ago) link

i kinda like the cover of Cannonball

G.A.G.S. (Gophers Against Getting Stuffed) (forksclovetofu), Sunday, 21 March 2021 03:26 (three weeks ago) link

Me too

Hello Nice FBI Lady (DJP), Sunday, 21 March 2021 15:42 (three weeks ago) link

i really like this album, her best since whokill! haven't paid enough attention to notice if there's any of the real embarrassing clunkers there were on the last one though

ufo, Thursday, 25 March 2021 22:57 (three weeks ago) link


idioteque cover is cool too

ufo, Friday, 26 March 2021 02:03 (two weeks ago) link

oh meant to say "lyrical clunkers"

ufo, Friday, 26 March 2021 02:06 (two weeks ago) link

dang at that idioteque cover, nice blend of styles

G.A.G.S. (Gophers Against Getting Stuffed) (forksclovetofu), Friday, 26 March 2021 12:53 (two weeks ago) link

now that i've paid attention to them i can say it holds up lyrically too! delightful

ufo, Saturday, 27 March 2021 10:06 (two weeks ago) link

This album is REALLY REALY good

Dana Jel Pey (DJP), Thursday, 1 April 2021 17:31 (two weeks ago) link

I agree

flamboyant goon tie included, Thursday, 1 April 2021 21:43 (two weeks ago) link


So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 1 April 2021 21:54 (two weeks ago) link

That's quite the triple recommendation.

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 1 April 2021 23:17 (two weeks ago) link

This is great and I can't really figure out what I want to say about it besides that

Guayaquil (eephus!), Monday, 5 April 2021 02:46 (one week ago) link

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