tUnE-yArDs is the moniker of American multi-instrumentalist and generally awesome Merrill Garbus. The first thing you notice about Garbus is her voice, whose capacity to be brash and soothing in equal parts is, put simply, mesmerising. Garbus creates songs by layering melodies over drum loops, combined with ukulele, tambourine, and more recently, electric bass and saxophone.
The most interesting thing about tUnE-yArDs for me however, is the subject-matter of her songs. Her songs cover topics as diverse as body image (Es-so), white privilege in the USA (yep, really – My Country) and police violence (Doorstep, Bizness). These often deep topics are delivered through frenzied combinations of Garbus’s voice, saxophone sections and innovative use of a distortion pedal to deliver a near-cacophony of voice, instruments and frank lyrics. Garbus’s chilled moments are equally compelling, particularly the gorgeous Wolly Wolly Gong, a folksy lullaby. Who Kill, Garbus’s second album has seen a more polished approach to recording than self-recorded debut Bird Brains (fun fact: Bird Brains was entirely recorded on a handheld voice recorder and was initially released only on recycled cassettes!).
So there you have it, tUnE-yArDs, with its bizarre spelling is one awesome feminist musician to check out. As an aside, Garbus plays the Powerhouse on January 22. Check out her Youtube clip of Doorstep performed on the streets of Paris back in April for a teaser. She literally keeps the beat by hitting drum sticks on a nearby concrete pole.
~ Rosie Cuppaidge