tUnE-yArDs – Whokill

Today we begin our new season of the club with a pick selected by Josh.  Essentially a one person (sometimes two) outfit hailing from our own homeland of Connecticut.

tUnE-yArDs – Whokill

Listen to it here: http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/Tune+Yards+WHokill/74747615

Read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tune-Yards

One year Ago: We listened to Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis.  I’m guessing today’s female singer will be a little different.

Fun Facts:  Garbus changed the album’s original working title (Women Who Kill) to its final released version as an expression of modern dissonance. The irregular spelling and spacing represents, in her words, “what we get from texting and e-mailing all the time, when nothing is ever exactly right”

Original Date Assigned: 6/26/12


tUnE-YaRdS – W H O K I L L

I’ve heard this album before. It’s been awhile, but I have a couple of the songs from it on random playlists. I don’t remember the other songs, so I’m not sure why I haven’t revisited it.

Mood: So happy!

After Listening:
Ah. Yeah. I remember now. This album is one that I cannot listen to if I’m having a stressful day or have a headache due to the reverb and some of the repetition. I think that there might be something wrong with me, because this album had great reception from critics. Also, it’s a girl with a ukulele and a mustache AND I LOVE ALL OF THOSE THINGS. Sadly, I didn’t feel anything when this album ended except relief. My head can only register so much repetition and squealing reverb before I get angry and turn something off. This is still heaps better than the one I couldn’t even get through last season in record club.

Favorite track/tracks:
Powa – It’s a tad too long for the vibe it gives when you listen to it, but it’s on one of my striptease playlists.
Wooly Wolly Gong – I don’t think I ever heard this one before. I must have stopped listening after Bizness because this was such a lovely and creepy surprise. So, of course, it’s been added to a playlist.

Least favorite track/tracks:
Es-So – This is disappointing for me, because I really enjoyed it up until the end, when the looping stacked and it essentially teakettled my brain.

Overall (1-5 stars):  2


tUnE-YaRdS – W H O K I L L: 4 stars

Precon: I heard “Gangsta” on UNH radio a while back, was intrigued, made a mental note to search the lyrics when I got home and find out who it was, then of course I left the mental note out and my mental dog ate it. A few months later, I heard the song again, luckily as I was pulling into my driveway this time, and was like oh yeah I was supposed to look these guys up. I was suprised to find out they’re a one man operation and that the man is a woman who sounds like a man and has a mustache. She seems to be kind of an indie darling at the moment, so I thought I’d give her the RC treatment…if you know what I mean.

Favorite Track: Gangsta
Least Favorite: Killa

There’s so much thrown into “Gangsta.” Like how it just kind of breaks down in the middle, sputtering to momentary stops and starting back up again. A good example of the wild creativity displayed throughout the album.
She uses a lot of the same melodic themes, going up and down with her voice, but I think it’s intentional rather than a product of her limitations.
A pretty tight album with no real missteps. Some great beats, creative arrangements that still hold strong pop sensibilities, and singing that is interesting to say the least. I wasn’t able to fully digest the subject matter, but that’s kinda good because it leaves more to be discovered on future listens. It seems to deal with some weighty cultural issues, and the messages I was able to glean are violence is bad but also captivating, femininity is changing yo, and posers won’t move to the hood.

Magic the Gathering Card: Attunement



Preconceived Notion: I’ve never heard of this band/artist/duo act before.  At first I instantly thought of the Yardbirds, which I guess I would be excited if they/she/he sounded like, but I’m guessing the likelihood of that happening is slim to none.  My lack of familiarity always puts me in a more negative than positive mood, causing a long inhaled breath to occur before the thought “let’s do this” rolls through my brain as I grit my teeth and press play.

On some tracks the voice is reminiscent of Diana Krall, who I like quite a bit.  At other points, it’s got a indie male voice sound, by which I mean, yes, men in skinny jeans do sound different than man NOT wearing skinny jeans. At other times these sound like lost Erykah Badu songs.  I’m thoroughly confused, but it is a unique sound, which certainly can’t be said about all that many albums.  I just looked at the Wikipedia so I could know which appropriate pronoun to use through the rest of the review.  I mean I know I shouldn’t care about that stuff anymore, we are on the cusp of being a post-gender society, but forgive me if you can, for referring to tUnE-YaRdS as “she” from now on.

I get the feeling that there are influences from just about every genre, and the surprising thing is that most of the time the mellowness of the voice acts as the common thread holding everything together.  At least on the tracks I like.  There are moments when she really pushes her voice well beyond it’s natural limit, which I’m not a fan of, but she does know how to use her voice as an instrument, allowing it to take on a wide array of characters depending on the story she’s telling, and that makes for a more interesting album.

After Listening:  As much as I tried to tell myself this was just hipster indie nonsense, there was something just ridiculously listenable about the album.  As much as is thrown in the production on some of this, and in some cases I’m pretty sure there’s a baby AND the bathwater, there was only a couple of times where I felt like it was just too jumbled.  The rest of it, carried along by some really great and interesting vocals made for an odd combination of an 80s beach party on acid that made me never want the summer to end.  I can’t give it a perfect score because there were several times where a squawking sound emerged that I could never hear again, out of the context of this album, along with the fact that I couldn’t help wondering where some of the basis for her songs were coming from and they didn’t so much feel genuine as much as an exercise in songwriting, but when it all worked together, it worked really well.

Overall: 4.2

Favorite tracks: RiotRiot and Wooly Wooly Gong.  One feels like something off of the Slumdog Millionnaire soundtrack and one feels like a creepy French lullaby from a gothic film, but they’re effective
Least Favorite: Gangsta, probably but on a second listen it wasn’t as jarring as the first time around.


Preconceived Notions:  Ah a new season, and we begin with an artist who loops beats, plays the ukulele, sings and is originally from our neck of the woods?  Excellent – after doing barely anything more than that opening line as research, I put Tune Yards (spelled incorrectly due to my laziness to adhere to the caps pattern) in my top 5 anticipated listens for this season.  Let’s see what shakes out.

After Listening: Merrill Garbus may spend most of this record oscillating between some sort of 70’s soul/reggae hybrid and indy rock angst chick…but somehow it’s entirely believable to me.  Most of the “experiential” side of this record is dependant upon its vocal deliveries, and she really does work every song – and even when the lyrics bring repetition there aren’t any lazy moments.  Each track has energy along with a few moments of incongruity which feel genuine and are welcome.  Musically, while the record has plenty of hit moments – the songs are better when harmony and rhythm are not in complete lockstep.  Frankly a lot of the rhythms on the record are stale, and are only given life (and in come cases more accurately “concealed”) by the vocal deliveries on the top of them.  The bass on the record pops a good deal, when allowed to shine through, and the ukulele has it moments as well – but there are no instruments that at any point really steal the show.

Favorite Tracks:  “Riotriot” – the looping ukulele rhythm puts us all in a slightly “off” mood right away – as if we’re entering the psychosis of another.  And this is all before the lyrics where the speaker wants to F*ck a cop who arrested her brother.  There are plenty of dynamic shifts in the instruments as well – as at certain points the bass moves toward the front then recedes – we even get some industrial sampled drums during a cacophony middle section.  Structurally this thing is a doozy we get the unnerving mellow ukulele opening, a strange middle breakdown (including the aforementioned drums-but also solo vocals) –then culminating in an almost euphoric section with horns – all before dwindling in a reprieve of the meditative and disturbing intro.
“Wooly Wolly Gong” – I guess I’m a sucker for creepy lullabies – but really this is just about a vocalist and a really terrifically arranged stringed arrangement.  Some of the appregiated chord changes are sublime and you realize they chiefly work out so well only because the lyrics are locked in such a formulated concept box.  The industrial sounding drums make appearances here again briefly and well executed – sometimes against a solo voice.  It’s just impressive b/c many many artists have tried similar things – but yet this track is completely devoid of contrivance – a uniquely simple piece.

Least Favorite Track:  Bizness – The track opens strongly enough – and as with other parts of the album, the produced vocal tones that trade off in a simulated electronic instrument environment, which is engaging-in a poppy sense.  But the song just never lives up to the intro, and actually degenerates into an odd almost pop/reggaish device – with sharp guitar accents and plenty of vocal repetition. It does attempt to add some horns as color – but in general it’s one of the more static deliveries on the album – and was slightly disappointing in that regard.

Overall 4.13  I’m impressed – this isn’t necessarily an everyday album for me, and I really don’t relate to, or even notice much the diverse lyrical subjects on this record – but there are redeeming qualities here.  Love them or loathe them there isn’t a single track on here that feels like it doesn’t belong –or that it has no energy – from start to end you can feel an artist being engaged in her work.  There are some exceptionally strong arrangements on this record that lead to brilliance. With only basic components: guitar, sampled drums, ukulele, horns bits – we get them all melded together with a unifying vocal delivery catalyst. Rhythmically sometimes the record lapses – and harmonically there are some down moments to offset the highs here a little…but the record is a solid work that has me looking forward to their continued maturation.



preconceptions: none. Never heard of this. The name suggests its what the cool kids are into

After listening: Very interesting. Not really my thing, but it sounds good. I like it. I looked her up and she seems cool. I can dig it.

Favorite: Gangsta

Least: hmmm, not sure

Overall: 3.8 stars


tUnE-yArDs – Whokill

Preconceptions: None, although I am not a fan of the precious spelling.

Favorite Track: Doorstep, Killa, My Country
Least Fav: The uber-sleepy Wooly Wolly Gong has nothing for me.

Overall: Well, that’s exactly what this whole exercise is about. I would never have listened to this album had it not slithered into the Record club. While not something I would give regular time to, the genre-shmushing, world music vibe, and the gender & raceless vocals are fascinating and more than a bit groovy. I particularly enjoy the hard political lyrics in the sweet quiet voice of Doorstep.

Rating: 4.1
Prelisten Guess: 3.0
S3 to date: +1.3

Extra Credit: Reggie Watts – Simplified http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Simplified/6945288


admin (196 Posts)

Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.

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