Tuesday, October 27, 2009

tUne-yArDs - Bird Brains (Album Review)

is Merrill Garbus , a one-woman musical wrecking crew. Bird Brains is a beautifully balanced musical kaleidoscope that uses everything from ukulele to hand-held digital field recordings. It is a D-I-Y album that has imperfections like restarts and red-lighted eq's that add to the overall loose feel. It sounds chaotic at times, but it is an ordered chaos.

The first track, "For You", mixes Merrill's beautiful beautiful vocals and a simple but effective ukulele to create a short, restrained pop song.

The percussion on "Sunlight" is a loose simple jazz beat that augments the catchy pop ukulele hook. Merrill's vocals raise higher and higher as she sings 'I could be the sunlight in your eyes, couldn't I , couldn't I?' The last chorus is a busy sonic landscape with many parts that work well in concert.

"Lions" is a sound collage of found sounds including birds tweeting and car engine sounds accompanying a ukulele. 'I'm so angry at you goody two shoes punch you in the nose. We could pretend it's Christmas while we're out here in this box, while my brother and all his friends without their tiny teeny trucks. If I scream they'll hear us...' Merrill wails as the fervor of her singing matches the frustration in the lyrics.

The vocal collage opening on "Hatari" gives way to funky ukulele riff. The vocals here are reminiscent of a tribal chant. These elements make for an infectious groove. The bottom of the percussion drives this song with insistence.

brings a Hawaiian flavor on "News". The eclectic percussion here and production make this song sound like it's coming from an old phonograph. The harmonies on this song are beautiful.

The overall experimental nature of Bird Brains is impressively balanced with traditional pop hooks. This album is a hybrid of a hybrid. Each one of these unique ukulele based songs have a different shading and the end result is a full color palette of sound. I wish I could be in Merrill's head when the genesis of these songs started running around.

You can purchase this album at 4ad.

Merrill's on tour now, so go check her out. My wife and I loved her show. I'm sure you'll be captivated by her stage presence.


kathy rusniak said...

The music is fantastic live too, but her charisma and ease on stage are really what make the live show worth seeing.

Sr. Bungle said...

you english people, could type lions lyrics please?

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