I suppose you can say I’m a traditional type of gal. Similar to my appreciation of chivalry, I also appreciate a more traditional sound, from time to time, when it comes to music. It’s rare that I derive the same amount of satisfaction from modern tracks featuring vocals that are buried beneath layers of synth as I do from the raw voice you hear in a traditional indie-genre song. Something about this manipulated form of music can leave me feeling detached from the artist singing to me. However, with every rule comes exceptions, and tUnE-yArDs is one of the big ones.
Merill Garbus certainly has never been shy about showing off her pipes in her experimental indie-pop crossover that is tUnE-yArDs. With her previous album Who-Kill, she established a sound of her own that is truly impossible to categorize in any one genre. She features crisp and raw vocals, but layered with exotic synth, ukulele, electric bass, and saxophone. For anyone who has never heard a tUnE-yArDs song, that combination likely has your head spinning. But somehow, she incorporates these unique elements into strongly emotional and powerful tracks that have been gaining their fair share of notice over the years.
With her next album, Nikki Nack due out in May, anticipation has been building, speculating what direction Garbus will take tUnE-yArDs. The first single off the upcoming album, “Water Fountain” certainly did not disappoint. The slightly tribal spin on Garbus’s pop-indie sound gives tUnE-yArDs’s sound a new breadth while still staying true to herself. The follow-up single, “Wait For A Minute” released April 8th, 2014 has me happily anticipating the release of Nikki Nack, with little doubt that I won’t love it.
What I find most impressive about both of her newly released singles is the masterful balance of traditional vocals and synth electronica experimentation. No moment of the four-minute “Wait For A Minute” is boring, or repetitive. She backs up her clearly capable vocals with emotional lyrics that become so rawly apparent in the timbre of her uniquely powerhouse voice. This is particularly evident in “Wait For A Minute” in which she expresses self-doubt in the making of Nikki Nack, “The pain is in the empty time, just twaddling my thumbs waiting for the words to rise.” Even without analyzing the lyrics word-for-word, this sentiment is painfully clear in her voice, even amidst the deceiving upbeat synth layers.
Garbus somehow evokes a smooth gracefulness in “Wait For A Minute” that I find so unusual yet completely refreshing. It’s easy to identify tUnE-yArDs from the first few bars of any of their songs. However, their sneak peeks of Nikki Nack leave me to believe their not done growing. Garbus and her partner are morphing their sound and thriving from the product.
Written By: Hanna Sutton