TUNE-YARDS plays Massey Hall as part of NXNE on June 19. Rating: NNNN
For tUnE-yArDs' third album, Oakland-based Merrill Garbus used a handful of new instruments to create her sonic fusion of Afropop, experimental folk and R&B: drum machines; a bag of white rice whacked like a cowbell; a leather-cushioned stool as a snare; a Casio keyboard she received as a gift when she was nine; and the boula, a small Haitian drum that Garbus learned to play while visiting the country last spring. But despite her new musical toys, her voice - as always - is the most impressive instrument.
Garbus's vocals transform from a piercing, chanting choir to silky-smooth spoken word without missing a beat. On Real Thing, she crafts a one-woman call-and-response section, showing off her prowess and lung power. But her pipes stand out most on Wait For A Minute: interestingly enough, it's when she sounds softest (surrounded by cool R&B-inspired synth lines) that she's most commanding.
Top track: Wait For A Minute