Quick Review: Tune Yards – Who Kill (2011)

Tune Yards is the brand child project of Merill Garbus. I caught some of the Who Kill Tour band on youtube (Coachella feed), and ventured further. Who Kill is the second release. The album deals with the theme of violence in all forms, physical, mental and fascination. The album expands upon the first Tune Yards release but still retains some of the Lo-fi wonkyness of the first album. Also it was about time I posted this review considering how long I had written most of it considering on the 3rd of March a new album was announced.

Opening with My Country, the lyrics and title a pastiche of the ode anthem ‘My Country, tis thee’, it is a catchy stomp of toms stacked percussion, a trait carrier over from the first album. It retains the signature lo fi sound, however slowly brings in some more fine tuned production. Syncopated rhythms, dub bass, plonking synths and travelling panned vocals that are lie between tuned shouting, rapping and singing. A stinging synth line follows a breather and keeps in lively.

“Es-so” features a motor clunking rhythm with disorientating gripping staccato guitar, going from right to left in quick succession. A fun fair song, turned on its head. “Gangsta” begins with sirens and distorted drums. The chorus is catchy, but overall the song feels lacklustre, once again the saxophone plays a key part in the madness of the song. “Powa” is a wading song, do not undermine though the awesome vocal scale Merill performs at the end.

‘Bizness’ begins with Merills voice performing like a synthetic tribe arpeggiating from high notes to low. The chorus is a plea, ‘don’t take my life away’, possibly to a wannabe gangsta brandishing a knife asking ‘What’s your business here?’. As said before, the album deals with various elements of violences. ‘You Yes You’ is a pretty cool track, with a slightly Caribbean holiday feel to it. The brash guitar punctuates the tambourine and snare leads rhythm.

“Wolly Wolly Gong” is a lullabye in the midst of the bemusedly happy album. It features very minimal drum work over a recurring Uke pattern for the most part. A great choice for the penultimate song.  Closing with “Killa” though, not such a good choice. Sounds like a clumsy cheesy 80s pastiche at times. It failed to click personally, however I’m sure it has its fans.

The album is a cooky, at times audible scribble, yet it has vast amounts of charm. The Pixies had a loose ‘wonky’ sound on Surfer Rosa and other releases, and I can sort of hear some of that in this. W h o k i l l (as it is stylised), is a great second album and showcases Garbus’s captivating vocal and unique approach to music. At times the album is resistant to love, other times it is a trudge (Powa for example), yet it is at times butter to the ears. The blend of Afro Beat, Saxophones, bass grooves and vocal layering shows how far Merill has progressed and I can’t wait for future releases. Recommended listens in bold.

Track list

  1. My Country
  2. Es-So
  3. Gangsta
  4. Powa
  5. Riotriot
  6. Bizness
  7. Doorstep
  8. You Yes You
  9. Wooly Wolly Gong
  10. Killa

As mentioned, the third Tune Yards release was recently announced with a megamix of the tracks, listen below.