The musical entity Tune-Yards is not so much a band as a music project with New England native Merrill Garbus as the central locus. Over a period spanning from Tune Yard’s debut “BiRdBrAiNs” to their last album “WHOKILL,” Garbus and her numerous collaborators have displayed a quirky yet impactful sonic approach. On January 19th Tune-Yards released their fourth album, “I Can Feel You Creep into My Private Life”. This release has the longest title in their discography and also displays Tune-Yards morphing into a duo, with longtime bassist and contributor Nate Brenner becoming a full belted partner. The latest release is both universal in its concerns yet also extremely personal while utilizing an amazing mosaic of musical stylings.
Merrill Garbus has been very busy in the period of time between Tune Yard’s 2014 release, Nikki Nack, and I Can Feel You Creep into My Private Life. She has collaborated on a number of projects with the likes of David Byrne, Laurie Anderson and Yoko Ono. She has also worked to advance females in the music industry and in society in general. I Can Feel You Creep into My Private Life was mostly recorded at Tiny Telephone Studios in Oakland, California. As per Tune Yard’s usual MO, there was a lot of effort put into weaving a genre gyring fabric of sonics. The throwback 80’s production on the new release attempts to capture at times a quasi-robotic vocal to counterbalance the sincere earnestness of the lyrics.
Speaking of lyrics, “I Can Feel…” tackles an amalgam of topics; race, politics, feminism and environmental issues. The feeling conveyed in the songs is upbeat immediate urgency and carried throughout is the desire for the songs to be danced to as much as pondered. Garbus describes the inspirations for the lyrics as such, “Yes the world is a mess, but I’ve attempted to look more and more inward: how do these “isms” that we live in manifest in me, in my daily activities and interactions?” The entire album is heavily enmeshed in political thought and related topics yet never get preachy. That nuance is a tough destination to arrive at but Tune-Yards seems to travel there effortlessly. Each controversial topic discussion asks important questions but the overall guideline is to never forget that for every finger pointing blame there are four pointing the opposite way. The takeaway is that for change to happen it has to occur in one’s own life first.
On I Can Feel You Creep into My Private Life The opening track Heart Attack drives home the essence of what Garbus and Brenner are intending. The song expresses all the angst and anxiety of our time with a soulful, gospel-influenced sound and wonky pulled around a piano. Counterintuitively its beat is catchy making it a great dance track. That description is also applicable to many of the other songs on the release. Coast to Coast is about fears that NY City will be swallowed up by the rising sea and once again has an accompaniment that is amazingly danceable. ABC 123 is an examination of our possible dystopic future laden with clever dubstep beats making it another winner. This track points out that real life solutions are never as simple as ABC 123. Additional stellar tunes are Look at Your Hands a very alluring dance track with a great retro 80’s approach and Home which gets quite Goth and is my favourite track of the album.
The release finishes strong with the last two tracks; the first Private Life provides the title for the release. The theme of the track is social media and the seemingly inescapable demands of people wanting to be in your life versus your own privacy. The second, Free is a techno fest with splendid afro funk infusions. This final track left me dreaming of Garbus and Brenner collaborating with Gaslamp Killer in what I am sure would be an inspired combination that would spawn something simply mind-blowing.
With I Can Feel You Creep into My Private Life Tune-Yards once again displays all their alchemic tendencies. They have a singular ability to blend many diverse sonic stylings into an alluring potion. For first time listeners, it can be an overwhelming experience to encounter such heady richness but the excellence of their efforts shines forth making the release more and more addictive with each passing. As both Garbus and Brenner gain experience outside of the Tune-Yards entity, they get better and better at what they do within the entity. For the Tune-Yards, everything that has come before and everything evinced by the latest release makes it is a safe bet that the more goodness awaits in the future.