tUnE-yArDs - Nikki Nack
Since the crazy-kooky-cool w h o k i l l was released in 2011, and her subsequent 18 months of relentless touring, Merrill Garbus has taken some time away from music to catch a breath. A trip to Haiti and time spent watching 80s American kids show Pee Wee’s Playhouse both apparently influenced the sound of Nikki Nack, Garbus’ third album as tUnE-yArDs. She moves further away from the demo tape sounds of debut Bird-Brains and its self-produced follow-up by bringing in hip-hop/r’n’b producers Malay and John Hill, responsible for sounds from the likes of Frank Ocean, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna.
Part of Garbus’ charm is the freedom she's had to do what she likes, and thankfully the new production doesn’t dilute that too much. Some of the kookiness has been smoothed down and rounded off but it’s still there in droves on the bouncy, life affirming ‘Hey Life’, or the USA-baiting ‘Real Thing’ (“I come from the land of slaves / Let’s go Redskins / Let’s go Braves”). There’s the off-beat, out of time ‘Sink-O’, and the craziest interlude ever: the mini play ‘Why Do We Dine On The Tots?’ (“What good were those kids before they were our food? / Outrageously smelly, impulsive and rude / Thus you know very well that the fresh produce rots / So clearly, we'll dine on the tots.”). Take all the eccentricities away though, as on ‘Wait For A Minute’, and you can hear the genuinely good voice Garbus seems determined to keep hidden. As lead single 'Water Fountains' proves, there are few other working artists able to meld together such challenging music and pleasing melodies so successfully. Bravo Merrill, bravo.