Merrill Garbus' project explores darker territory on its latest album. Info/tix
Nearly a decade has passed since Merrill Garbus dropped her debut as Tune-Yards (officially, ahem, tUnE-yArDs), and much has stayed the same across the four albums she's released (three with bassist Nate Brenner)—layered vocals slathered with effects and sparse yet sporadic backing productions. On the project's latest record, 2018's I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, Garbus uses these same songwriting elements but deploys them in different directions. Far removed from the joyous explosiveness of her 2009 debut BiRd-BrAins, the chaos on ICFYCIMPL songs like "Colonizer" capture the darkness in Garbus' own life and perhaps in the general human psyche. "Colonizer" begins with an insidious drum beat before Garbus' voice comes in with the line "I use my white woman's voice to tell stories of travels with African Men." This these words ride the line between self-reflection and self-flagellation, as Garbus' white guilt seeps into the distorted instrumentation around her vocals.
The album's semi-titular track "Private Life" continues this thread of chaotic thought. As the song's beat drones and expands, Garbus sings, "I can feel you creep into my private life" and "I don't wanna / I don't wanna / hear my voice, hear my voice." This songs captures, abstractly, the terror of revealing oneself to another person. But as it progresses, the beat lightens and Garbus seems to accept herself and the second person in the song. A flute loop enters near the song's end, and Garbus changes her lyrics to "I just wanna, I just wanna / hear your voice / hear your voice." These songs and the album as a whole show that the horror in looking at oneself without filter can be terrifying and arresting, but that the ensuing revelations can also set you free. —Henry Solo