Showing posts with label tune-yards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tune-yards. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

video review: 'i can feel you creep into my private life' by tune-yards

I'm not going to lie, I didn't really expect to like this... but I do think the conversation got interesting, and if anyone is going to claim I'm a blind SJW... well, yeah, that was never the case, and this is a hefty stack of evidence. 

Next up... whoo boy, this'll be a tough one, so stay tuned!

album review: 'i can feel you creep into my private life' by tune-yards

So I have a... let's call it complicated relationship with Tune-Yards, and I'm genuinely surprised the group is not more controversial among some circles. For one, if you're looking for a band that embraces a very pronounced social justice angle in their themes tune-yards will deliver, but dig a little deeper and you find a scattershot approach to songwriting that doesn't always do those ideas justice. And that's before you get the cultural appropriation conversation that has hovered around their aesthetic and production despite how you'd think graduates from New England art schools would know better. Or to put it another way, I don't think WHOKILL or Nikki Nack would have gotten nearly the same critical acclaim if they were released today in comparison to 2011 and 2014, and while I find the backlash against SJWs incredibly tedious and overdone, I'm self-aware enough to enjoy shots at Lena Dunham when she rightly deserves it, and Tune-Yards aren't far behind.

Now while I brought up all of that in my review four years ago, the larger truth is that I haven't given Tune-Yards much thought at all, mostly because they never brought any significant edge or potent melody to their sound that would draw me back. I got why a lot of critics liked them, but they were never really my thing and thus I was prepared to skip over this project altogether... until I heard two interesting revelations. One, frontwoman Merrill Garbus apparently rediscovered a love for house and disco music in the past four years, so there could be more of a defined melody to these tunes - and two, apparently those cultural appropriation comments got to Garbus and there were points where she overcorrects, and you can bet I wasn't going to miss a chance to riff on some of that! But I'll save that for the review - what did we get on the oh-so-awkwardly titled i can feel you creep into my private life?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

video review: 'nikki nack' by tUnE-yArDs

Well, this was an interesting experience. Can't say I'll be revisiting the album, but it was definitely worth exploring.

Next up, either Epica or Hunter Hayes, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

album review: 'nikki nack' by tUnE-yArDs

Let's talk about cultural appropriation.

Now before everyone jumps down my throat, I think defining this in terms of music would be helpful, so here it goes: cultural appropriation means the usage of specific musical elements that can be directly linked to another culture without proper knowledge of their execution or reasoned intent. In other words, if you're going to borrow from other cultures, know what the hell you're doing and do it well. Because believe it or not, I'm not inherently against the embrace of the material from other cultures, as to strictly confine oneself to their own narrowly defined culture can limit musical expression and shuts down the conversation about integrating and blending artistic ideals and expressions.

That said, what people tend not like with cultural appropriation is when the artist uses it to add connotations of exoticism or tribalism or in the worst cases denigrating or incorrect stereotypes associated in the collective western unconscious with that sound. It's one of the issues I've had with Vampire Weekend's usage of African elements: sure, it fits the modern multicultural atmosphere the band has always striven to create, but the underlying defensiveness regarding privilege in their work has always made their usage of these elements a little uncomfortable - which is really frustrating for me because otherwise, I really like their music! This also became an issue with Arcade Fire's most recent album Reflektor, an album that utilized Haitian elements to enhance their inspiration from Black Orpheus, but then overloaded their stage show and revealed in their songwriting a serious misunderstanding of those elements.

And yet when I took a look at tUnE-yArDs' 2011 album whokill, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my fears of cultural appropriation were mostly unfounded, as lead performer Merrill Garbus seemed to be aware of the roots of her material and was trying her best to recreate that brand of pop - and was, for the most part, thanks to her soulful and bold delivery, succeeding. She reminded me on a deeper listen a lot of M.I.A., especially in her patchy lo-fi production, colourful sound collage approach, and complete lack of subtlety. But say what you will about M.I.A., at least her first two albums approached the subject matter with a cohesive tone. By contrast, whokill was perhaps the most placid and buoyant album exploring violent subject matter I've ever heard, and despite some harsh-leaning lyrics and a rich organic sound, it lacked organic depth and deeper insight to me, and it wasn't nearly raw enough to connect on a visceral level either. In other words, as much as I liked the bass melodies and the textured percussion, I felt the album lacked the punch to bely its subject matter.

So honestly, I was curious what was in store for the next album, Nikki Nack, which looked to be heading in a different direction, at least instrumentally. How did it turn out?