Art-pop at its peak.
Released: 19th January 2018
The mind of Merrill Garbus must be one of the most magical places imaginable; there’s not another head out there that could possibly be as, well, out there. Four years on from the excellent ‘Nikki Nack’, tUnE-yArDs still have that unmistakable sound straight from some misguided film about a future complete with flying cars and endless beauty. Sadly this bright future seems to have got hidden away from most yet there’s no doubting Garbus has her head firmly planted in this gorgeous fantasy.
She repeats ‘I’m only human’ on the album’s epic opener ‘Heart Attack’, though you’d be forgiven for mistakenly thinking otherwise, before launching into a complete set of tracks where jazz meets pop over afternoon tea with their old pals electronica and acid seated at the very next table. Lyrics range from potential skipping rope rhythms to instantly bleak images of sinking lands and ominous marching while a mixture of dystopian soundscapes and considerably more conventionally happy textures sit behind, sometimes waiting patiently while at other points opting to show off their flair for the dramatic.
There’s plenty here to dance to, with ‘ABC 123’ and ‘Honesty’ popping right out as hip-shakers, yet there’s no escaping themes of race, politics, feminism and more as Garbus finds her way to deal with the “mess” she sees the world is in. Ever-straddling the balances between light and dark, the album may just be tUnE-yArDs best yet, and it feels like there’s never been a more relevant time to want to escape into a more sonically pleasing world.
Art-pop at its peak, it’ll take something special to tussle with the brains of listeners in quite the way this does. With 80s throwback production mixing with an explicitly modern tone, this is exactly the kind of album 2018 needs. Ciarán Steward