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Tune-Yards

Nicki Nack (4AD)

Reviewed by Abby Johnston, Fri., June 20, 2014

Phases & Stages

Tune-Yards

Nikki Nack (4AD)

Much like my favorite childhood texts, dark narratives constructed around general silliness, Merrill Garbus' third album as Tune-Yards ushers us onto a playground teeming with Haitian drums, recess rhymes, and Eighties R&B. Sociopolitical themes pulse under the carnival melee, every sonic silver lining inlaid with stark thematics. Lead single "Water Fountain" builds to handclaps and whoops, bassist Nate Brenner thumping the track to cohesion, but for all the musical romp, Garbus decries capitalism and works in a Macbeth reference: "He gave me a dollar/ A blood-soaked dollar/ I cannot get the spot out/ But that's OK/ It still works in the store." Continuing Whokill's aural kitchen sink approach ("Find a New Way," "Stop That Man"), Nikki Nack simplifies in places without going bare bones. A driving beat largely freed of frills, "Wait for a Minute" reiterates that, despite the glossy production work, Garbus' greatest asset remains her voice. That wail she employs as a macabre bedtime croon carries in it more than child's play.

***

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