TUNE-YARDS play the Horseshoe May 12. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Merrill Garbus's first album took a bit of time to grow on us, only really clicking once we caught the Tune-Yards experience live. While we respected the reasoning behind her lo-fi DIY approach, her debut doesn't even begin to approximate how impressively full and dynamic she sounds onstage, even when she's just performing as a duo. Generally aided only by a bass player, she uses a looping pedal to construct mesmerizing, intricate soundscapes from layers of her voice, a ukulele and a few drums.
Now, with a respectable label behind her, some extra money from a BlackBerry commercial and a much bigger fan base, she's gone into a proper studio and lifted that veil of noise and distortion that previously buried her off-kilter African-influenced grooves and spine-tingling throaty wailing. You can sense that she's still a bit uncomfortable flirting with pop music, and hides the most accessible and melodic songs in the second half of the album. Then again, if you can't deal with a few dissonant free jazz horn explosions, you probably weren't going to pick up this record anyway.
Top track: Bizness