So I had thought about a few things I might listen to on my commute today and that I might write about, but that all went out the window after I went to see tUnE-yArDs last night. It was an amazing concert, just as distinctive and brilliant as the two albums released so far: 2009’s Bird-Brains and 2011’s WHOKILL. I think I mentioned the latter album in an earlier post, but since revisiting them prior to the gig and then witnessing the music live I decided that I had to pick on one of the tracks.
While there were 4 people on stage last night, tUnE-yArDs is pretty much Merrill Garbus (some of the tracks on the second album were co written with her partner). She has received plenty of great reviews and coverage, but this broadening acknowledgement doesn’t diminish the uniqueness of what she does. When you listen to the tunes you might wonder how well they will work live, but her use of live loops, a tremendous voice and sheer presence ensures that they are delivered with the same force as the originals. If you can get to see her then you really should.
Across her two albums she covers an amazing array of influences, including hip-hop, dub, doo-wop, pop and flashes of Jazz and Blues. She has a voice that at first is hard to pin down to male or female, in a similar way to Nina Simone who she apparently has an affinity to. But one of the core influences visible through all her work is that of African music (she studied there) – in the way she sings, the rhythms she uses and even at times the high-life like, melodic nature of some of her ukulele playing. I had a couple of tracks from the first album, but it was my friend who really put me on to her stuff and really got me listening to more. There is a real progression across the two albums – a lot of the methods and sounds have stayed, but the production quality (naturally and as often the case on the second album) has gone up a notch. Subsequently, the latter is more accessible but it is so without sacrificing its uniqueness or ingenuity and in fact just adds to the weight of her work.
There isn’t a duff track on either of the albums but the one I have gone for is ‘Es-So’ off WHOKILL – it was a toss-up between this and ‘Gangsta’ which is also great. I am not going to say too much about it other than it is just phenomenal (er, ok, that statement alones says quite a lot). Great lyrics, great groove, great hip hop beat and a great vocal. As i always say, there is so much music around, but very little that really stands out as truly special. tUnE-yArDs certainly falls into this category – top, top draw.
Playlist Tuesday 14th February 2012
Today was another trip to London and on the way down, after the highlight of the concert last night; I listened to both of the tUnE-yArDs albums – think I have said enough about these already. Like Aapie, my little boy has not been well so my wife and I have had a couple of sleepless nights. Subsequently I was in a mildly zombie like state as I made my way across London. I didn’t want to have to think too much about what to listen to so put it on shuffle and as I got a slightly later train this morning, the tube was relatively quiet – perfect for my frame of mind. I haven’t had a chance to change the music on my phone recently so have had much of the stuff on there for quite a while. Some of the bands have appeared in previous lists but some other interesting ones made an appearance. My journey was short but I managed to make a nice, musical journey from the orchestral beauty of ‘Aeroplanes for Schmidt’ by Kava, via the electronic lushness of Victor Bermon (from the great Arriving At Midnight) to the minimal chamber/folk of Peter Broderick’s (he of Efterklang) ‘Maps’ which built my stroll to a mildly triumphal march as I approached work.
Playlist: Kava – Aeroplanes For Schmidt, The Middle East – As I Go To See Janey, Victor Bermon – Unprepared, Sepalcure – Carrot Man, M.Craft – Out In The Sun, Peter Broderick – Maps.