Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

tUnE-yArDs: BiRd-BrAiNs [4AD, 2009]
In a lo-fi universe overloaded with youneek sonic experiments of no consequence to anyone but a small circle of "friends," ex-puppeteer, ex-nanny Merrill Garbus ventures into the great big world and creates a private one built for sharing. Deploying a dictaphone and some sampling shareware, she extracts beats and/or effects from found sounds I know to include kitchen implements, children's voices, and the Martha's Vineyard ferry. She also learns to use a beatbox, plays mucho ukulele, and sings like a folk musicians' daughter who digs show tunes and madrigal, which is what she is. My breakthrough track was a Mbuti pygmy rip that respected the depth of its sources rather than cuting them up, but soon enough very different tracks slipped in alongside. There was a bonus, too. DIY though she may be, Garbus writes a fair number of love or relationship songs. And she's too kind, proud, and down-to-earth to pretend they're anything else. A