tUnE-yArDs Get Down to Bizness

Photo credit: Anna M. Campbell

tUnE-yArDs are an unlikely candidate for indie-rock success.

The music of Merrill Garbus is as bizarre and chaotic as her rules of capitalization, and to call her one-woman band challenging would be an understatement. But against all odds, her recently released sophomore album, w h o k i l l, has propelled her into the limelight and earned her a coveted Best New Music distinction from Pitchfork.

Not that the recognition is undeserved. tUnE-yArDs are one of the most unabashedly original acts around, with Garbus’ billowing, androgynous vocals drilling through a junkyard heap of mangled folk, reggae, and African music.

Her first album, 2009’s wildly brilliant BiRd-BrAiNs, was recorded entirely on a handheld tape recorder with little more than her voice, a ukulele, and a floor tom. The record got her signed to 4AD, and with a proper studio finally at her disposal, Garbus set to work on a follow-up.

w h o k i l l may do away with BiRd-BrAiNs‘ lo-fi aesthetic, but the jagged edges of Gabus’ songwriting are as sharp as ever, and nowhere more so than on the first single, “Bizness.” With its polyrhythmic percussion, saxophone swells and jarring vocals, the song succinctly encapsulates everything that makes tUnE-yArDs such a singular entity.

Gabus will bring her schizophrenic sounds to Soda Bar on June 26 for a show with San Diego’s Rafter and Oakland’s T.V. Mike and the Scarecrows. Those still hoping to get tickets are out of luck — the show is now sold out. See, we told you tUnE-yArDs are popular.

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