tUnE-yArDs: Nikki Nack

Nikki Nack
(4AD Records)

Buy it at Amazon!

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Merrill Garbus is really goddamn weird, as though the random capitalization of tUnE-yArDs didn’t give that away. Thankfully, her oddball perspective has given way to Nikki Nack, a collection of songs even more delightful than 2011’s w h o k i l l.

Rhythm remains the driving focus of most tracks. Garbus excels at using unconventional beats and African-inspired percussion. “Time of Dark” could be a mainstream pop song with its churning synth, but layered vocals and the emphasis on the beat set this track apart from anything on the radio. “Rocking Chair” is incredibly simple lyrically, but the repeated vocals building up in Garbus’ deep wail mimic the tormented thoughts of insomnia.

Indeed, tension lives at the heart of this album. Opener “Find a New Way” addresses Garbus’ fear of success (“I tried to tell him all the reasons that I had to never sing again”), while “Wait for a Minute” describes the difficulty of working through depression (“I wait for relief, but the illness is my mind”). Jarringly, the eighth track, “Why Do We Dine on the Tots?,” is a spooky spoken word interlude, and the tots are of the human and not potato variety.

If you like your pop a bit funky and freaky with a worldly beat, then Nikki Nack will hit the spot. As ever, tUnE-yArDs is a little confusing and a lot catchy.

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About Casey Hicks

Casey Hicks toils her daylight hours away in an office high above Manhattan in order to afford nights of passionately scribbling. The first song she remembers ever hearing is "Lola" by the Kinks. She thinks this explains a lot.
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