Merrill Garbus has a lot on her mind these days, and her sound is changing as a result of it. I can feel you creep into my private life is a rumination of white privilege and the divided state of America. While Garbus and newly-official bandmate Nate Brenner have done a very admirable job in calling out injustices in their previous work (like with “Gangsta” and “My Country”), they set out to confront their privilege head-on and in doing so created the most focused work of their career. (You can listen to our podcast episode on I can feel you creep into my private life here.)
In this episode Kevin, Adam and Quinn convene in the rawk basement to get drunk and break shit while taking in Old 97’s latest, Most Messed Up…but not before they dive deep into Nikki Nack, the new record from TUNE-YARDS. PLUS! After seeing the tour closer at the 9:30 Club, Kevin commits to converting Adam over to the Future Islands cause. And the Pixies put out a new album last week? Without Kim Deal? What’s the world coming to? Go ahead and waste some time with us to find out!
Words by Andre and Kevin
Saturday may have brought the rain - and oh boy did it rain - but it also brought stellar performances from artists old and new alike.
Sunday proved to be no different, with acts ranging from the raucous rock of Rhode Island's own Joe Fletcher & The Wrong Decisions to the scorching guitar blues of Gary Clark, Jr.. There was pop-folk aplenty with bands like Trampled By Turtles and The Head And The Heart taking over the main stage, and if you were willing to go off the beaten path a little bit you could catch acts like Of Monsters And Men, traditional sets from The Kossoy Sisters, Spider John Koerner, or a blistering performance by ex-Rage Against The Machiner Tom Morello. It was, as everyday at the Newport Folk Festival is, a celebration of music writ large.
On Sunday, June 3rd, tUnE-yArDs played DC’s 9:30 Club. ChunkyGlasses was lucky enough to spend some time with Merrill Garbus, the creative force behind tUnEy-ArDs’ energetic and experimental music. In 2009, tUnEy-ArDs released its debut album, BiRd-BrAiNs, which was self-produced and recorded by Garbus on a handheld voice recorder. The band includes Garbus on vocals, percussion, ukulele, and drums, Nate Brenner on electric bass, and occasional guests on the saxophone. The band is currently on tour in support of their 2011 album, w h o k i l l.
CG: Your music is very different, and as you’ve said, you really “push “instruments such as your voice or the ukulele to the extreme in ways that others haven’t tried or been willing to try. It takes a lot of self-confidence and courage to push boundaries of music. Where do you get that self-confidence from, and do you ever have trouble finding it?
MG: It’s interesting, I’ve been thinking about that because people have been reminding me about the times in my life that I’ve done this independent-minded kind of thing. Even though from my perspective, I come from a place of being a quiet, shy person who isn’t like, “I just do whatever I want to do!” and has that face in the world. And yet, I remember for instance, when studying theater at Smith College having an attitude of “this is all very old and I want to change things.” I think I’ve always had that point of view. I think it’s not so much courage, but the sense that things need to change and that I want to be part of that movement. And I think that applies to everything—for example, society and politics, and culture and music included in that. I feel like it’s less courage and more that this is so obvious that this needs to happen and that I need to be a part of something progressive, whether that’s in my politics or in my social activism and charity work or if that’s embedded in the creative part of what I do—it applies across the board.
I've heard a metric f@#@-ton of music this year. More bands than I can even remember have gone in one earhole and out the other. I'm sure in the process of checking out absolutely everything I could get my hands on a few bands might have slipped through the cracks, and to them I can only hope to catch up with them again at a later date. These next 10 bands are the ones that didn't slip through the cracks though. They're the groups/individuals who managed to make their magnificent noise rise up above the rest, and in the process make 2011 a quite exceptional year for music.
#10 Caveman - Coco Beware
The simple act of discovery can color one's opinion of a band, and it certainly has in Caveman's case...for everyone that's ever heard them apparently. I "discovered" Caveman opening up for The War on Drugs at The Red Palace here in DC earlier this year, and from that instant I was hooked. This record is drenched in moody, dreamscape inspired Radiohead-esque harmonies and sounds, and yet plays like something only Caveman could create. I know, I know, that sounds circular, but when a band this early in their existence can so well define who and what they are as a band, borrowing liberally from everything around them and somehow managing to put forth those collective influences as something better is the sign of a great artist. They've already got the attention of the music-nerd set (including NPR) and in 2012 they're the band to keep an eye on, because with a debut this good, sooner or later everyone is going to catch on to Caveman's fire. (Yes, I just wrote that)
Today our "Word Economist" steps up to the plate to let you know what he's been putting in his earholes over the course of the year. I'm not gonna lie, we've had e-fights over some of his picks that generally result in me telling him to GTFO my lawn, but at the end of the day, the man knows his shit and has gotten me to listen to more music that I probably wouldn't have otherwise than any contributor this year. Now if he could help me unhear half of it, we'd really be getting somewhere! (I kid, I kid).
#10 Buke and Gass – Riposte
It is just short of incredible how much sonic variety the two members of Buke and Gass (Aron Sanchez and Arone Dwyer) can coax from the plethora of instruments (including the experimental instruments from which the band takes its name) that they play on their debut LP. But, while such experimentation could (and often does) descend into unlistenable navel gazing, Aron and Arone use their innovations (and Arone’s amazing voice) in the service of some truly excellent songs.
Best Tracks: Bundletuck, Medulla Oblongata
Hope everyone enjoyed Ethan's picks yesterday. Today we move on to Andre's picks, which per his instructions are in no particular order. But, um, he may like Blitzen Trapper a little bit.
Fruit Bats - Tripper
I've never been addicted to crack, but there were times this year that I understood what it was like when you just needed that fix. Easily the album that got the most spins on the old player this year for me, or at least the album I would have gone on Maury Povich to tell the world that I've accepted that I have a problem.
It's finally here! We've reached the end of yet another year, and as is the custom it's now our duty to try and make some sort of sense of the good, the bad and the outright ugly and put it all into list form for your consumption. Why do we do this? A need for some sense of order? A byproduct of our secret desire to have bands fight it out Hunger Games style for the title of SUPREME MUSICAL OVERLORDS of the year? Who knows.
Now, here at ChunkyGlasses, we all have some wildly varying tastes. Sure there is a common ground, but the phrase "what in the f@#$" has been thrown around quite a bit this year (more often than not by me) as we've made our journey through the musical landscape that 2011 has presented us with. With that in mind you won't ever see an absolute top 10 list. We like too many types of music for that. Instead we're going to give you our individual lists and let you take from that what you will.
So let's get to it. First up we have Ethan's list for the best albums of the year.
Hope you've got your dancin' shoes on.
#10: EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints
Grungey, dark, emotional and hard hitting. EMA takes her time, this is an unrushed album so full of slow builders that it is hard to believe that it is only 37 minutes long. At times the pacing is maybe even a little too slow.
The always fantastic and frequently mindblowing tUnE-YarDs payed another visit to DC this past Saturday, and I'd like to say we're all a little better for it. Merril Garbus, the engine that drives this "group" is simply one of the best, and most capable perfomers on the scene today. And her album whokill is a must hear for anyone who even has the inkling of an appreciation for challenging, thought provoking music that still manages to satisfy on every level. Put simply it's one of the best album released this year.
When we saw Merril and Co. last time here, the buzz was beginning to build behind the album, but had really only spread throughout critics circles and completely obsessive music nerds. She played the Red Palace on H Street, a room that fits 200 on a good day, and at that point in time came off as almost scared of the crowd ammased before her. When she was in the song, she was a veritable hurricane of musical muscle, but the spaces between revealed a somewhat shy performer who may not have quite been sure yet as to why exactly all these people were here in front of her.
Jump forward to Saturday night at the Black Cat. During opener Pat Jordache's (more about him in a minute) set, her and bass player Nate Brenner could be seen side-stage GETTING THE F@#@ DOWN to the 80's inflected sounds that Jordache and his crew were pumping out. It was a joyous discovery to glance over and see this celebration taking place, and it fairly set the tone for the rest of the evening.
The short version of our feelings about last nights show are "F@#@ing Awesome!!", but we'll have a full review for you in the coming days.
In the meantime, why don't you check out some of our shots from what proved to be one of the most energizing, engageing, and flat out FUN performances that we've seen all year.
Merrill Garbus, you are our hero.
The entire ChunkyGlasses team.
Sounds Like: TV On The Radio, Animal Collective, tUnE-yArDs.
Why You Should Care: Any friend of Merrill's is a friend of ours.
tUnE-yArDs is coming to town this weekend. We all know it. We all love it. And we all (hopefully) have our tickets. But we're here to tell you that you need to make sure to get to the show EARLY or your going to miss an artist that could prove to be just as exciting as the main event.
Hailing from Montreal, Pat Jordache writes challenging music frequently attacks the idea of exactly what a pop song can be. This should come as no surprise as Jordache used to be a bandmate of Merrill Garbus's (the face behind tuneyards) until she spliet for the west coast and her ultimate feaky cool destiny. Make no mistake though, these are two birds of a very different feather.
Welcome back to PART TWO of our countdown! The place where shit gets REAL, or something. Agree with our picks? Hated them? Why don't you wait until you've heard us out before you get to trashing/praising us in the comments. It's only fair. So we've only got 5 more to go, but before that why dont' we have a look at what ChunkyGlasses contributors Paul and Andre were feeling this year. While I will admit, we all share some similar tastes in music, what makes this whole thing work is that we all see music from very different from very different perspectives, and I think that's reflected in their picks. Of course, being the authority here, they are WRONG. But hey, it's entertaining to think your opinion matters, right? (Just kidding guys..just kidding)
First up have a gander at Paul's list..in order from best to not so much with the best thing...
See that smile to the right there? Well that's what the tUnE-Yards show (damn that's hard to type) on Thursday at The Red Palace was all about. The absolute exuberance and joyfulness of tUne-YarDs alter-ego, Merrill Garbus is hinted at on her butt-shaking, brain-breaking 2011 album whokill, but unleashed on stage it was as infectious as it was endearing.
Garbus isn't making what you would call easy music these days. Her songs are full of crashing conflicting chords laid down over polyrhythmic beats that slip in and out of the music all the while her voice perfoming acrobatics rarely attempted in the pop music sphere, much less pulled off. whokill, her latest album, is a hard, at times brain-breakingly genius record that takes more than a few listens to quite get, and even then it takes a few more before you become completely at ease with it. But once it opens up even some of its secrets to you, it's the most rewarding album that you'll hear all year. So how does it play live?...
Careening from freak folk to R&B to funk and back again, Thao (Nguyen of Thao with the Get Down Stay Down) and Mirah (Yom Tov Zeitlyn) have crafted an album that is deeply listenable despite itself. If you think that the opening Merrill Garbus (aka tUnE yArDs) produced track Eleven would set the tone of the album, you’d be as wrong as you are right. As soon as that explosion of everything-going-on-at-once-but-it-still-makes-sense ends, the duo launches into Folks, which is exactly what you think it is …a folk song.
That back and forth runs the course of the record and as a result, the whole thing doesn’t come together as a cohesive unit as well as one would want it to. But who cares about the sum when the individual parts are this good? Rubies and Rock sports an ominous yet danceable groove that you would expect to find in the top 40. And that’s before the horns come. The very next track, Teeth, seemingly abandons the pop polish in favor of a lo-fi sound full of hand /knee claps. But by the time it has built to the chorus of ”Next time I swear more hope less fail,” the song has managed to erupt all over the place with a giant swell of strings, timpani’s and voices joining in to drive the heartache of this breakup song home.
Take a whole bunch of acid and surround yourself with reggae, hip hop, R&B and some just plain freaky sh!@ and you'd be getting close to the sound of Tune-Yards.This track is from her (it's a one woman show) new album WHOKILL (buy it right here...NOW), which is, despite what the influences would suggest, quite excellent.
Look for our review a little later in the day, but for now enjoy this sample.
Tune-Yards - Bizness
Oh new releases, why do you tease us so. Last week was a positively stellar week for new music with releases from the like of TV On The Radio, Alison Kraus and, who can forget, John 'The Moustache" Oates. Yep, those were the days.
This week...well lets see. Wayne Brady, a Gorillaz album that everyone already has (and was less than impressive) and The Freakin' Steve Miller Band. That's just sort of..hmmm.
Oh wait..here to save the day is DUFF McKAGAN!!!!
Look. I tried.
All kidding aside, I hear that The Head and the Heart album is actually quite good, and I'm never one to scoff at Llamas, especially when they are HIGH. Sorry. Too easy. I actually like those guys though so you should check them out if you get the chance.
That's it for this week. Sorry to be so brief, but as well as being an overzealous music fan, I am also an overzealous fan of the game Portal, which saw it's sequel released today, so if you need me...just don't need me. OK?
Oh wait..THERE IS SOME GOOD STUFF. Please definitley check out the album ROAR by Dirty Gold and WHOKILL by Tune-Yards. We'll be reviewing both before the week is out.
Now really. I've got to get off this computer and practice some science.