Okay, so I know I made a big production on New Year’s Day about how we were gonna start having Weird Wednesdays as the day to unveil our Weird Band of the Week—and by the time 99% of you see this, it won’t be Wednesday anymore. Bear with us, okay? We’re still getting used to this whole operating on a regular schedule thing.
So anyway, our first weird band of 2012 is actually more of a solo project. Her name is Merrill Garbus and she operates under the name Tune-Yards…or, as she prefers to type it out, like a 14-year-old in an AOL chat room, tUnE-yArDs. Which right away should tell you that we’re dealing someone a little off-center here.
Fortunately, Merrill’s music is much less annoying than her use of capital letters. She recorded her first album, Bird-Brains (okay, fine, BiRd-BrAiNs) at home on a voice recorder, multi-tracking her vocals along with some very lo-fi percussion and the occasional guitar, bass, ukulele and hard-to-identify racket. Her music is at once abstract and somehow very pop, with lots of pretty layered vocals and the occasional soul shout—seriously, this woman can belt like Nina Simone, with a force that kind of catches you off-guard when it’s rising up out of all this primitive, home-tape murk. It doesn’t seem like that voice can possibly be coming out of this funny-looking, slightly androgynous hippie chick—but there it is, and she totally owns it. Merrill Garbus is fierce.
What’s even more amazing is that, thanks to getting signed to this uber-hip indie label 4AD Records and getting written up all the blogs that are way cooler than, say, us (i.e. Pitchfork, Drowned in Sound, Coke Machine Glow), Merrill Garbus and tUnE-yArDs have become sort of indie famous. The video for her song “Bizness,” off her second and far more polished album, Whokill (okay, fine, w h o k i l l), has racked up over
1.8 2.3 million views on YouTube. For something as peculiar as tUnE-yArDs to be seen and heard by that many people…well, it kind of renews our faith in the power of weirdness.
I was really hoping we could embed the video for “Real Live Flesh” off tUnE-yArDs’ first album, because it’s by far the weirdest thing Merrill Garbus has ever done—a sort of dykey, art-school send-up of video vixen come-hitherness with lots of face paint and awkward editing and even more awkward dancing all set to a song that’s like an R&B slow jam getting shaken around inside an empty coffee can. But embedding seems to have been disabled on that video, so we’ll have to settle for the video for “Bizness,” which is actually okay because if we can help get it to 2 million views, we’ll have done our part. [Update: Mission accomplished!] Also, if you haven’t already, you should go check out our first-ever Weirdify playlist, because the tUnE-yArDs track “You Yes You” is the first song in the mix and it will make you feel grateful to have been blessed with the power of hearing. No seriously, it’s that good.