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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
tUnE-yArDs
BiRd-BrAiNs
4AD

Rating: 9.3/10 ?


February 8, 2010
It takes only 73 seconds for tUnE-yArDs' first album to dissolve into a snippet of an obnoxious child giving a critical exegesis on the coolness of blueberries over seemingly pointless distortion. What follows for the next 45 minutes is a clattering of off-kilter drums, lyrical repetition fluttering in and out of key and fits of howling from Merrill Garbus, the sole perpetrator on debut album BiRd-BrAiNs. This could all be so irritating.

Garbus' whirlwind of unsettling, Audacity-recorded layers (starting from the band name) is all there to disorient on first listen, and what else can we expect from a Dirty Projectors-approved ukelele player set to open for Xiu Xiu this spring? But rather than use this jarring approach to morbidly accentuate songs centered on depressing and angsty self-realizations, Garbus playfully invites listeners into a world where dissonance and cacophony give way to a deeper childlike beauty and sense of wonder. We feel like we were just let in on a secret, and an inexplicably calming sense of optimism that few albums can match takes the place of the increased blood pressure we normally expect from such abrasive music.

An infectious rhythm on "Jamaican" and a couple of ultimately beautiful vocal triumphs--especially the heartbreaking, body-rejecting "Fiya" ("What if my own skin makes my skin crawl?")--almost stand out on their own at first, but more serve as a hint that something monumental is lying beneath the surface. As an acoustic guitar cuts through lo-fi fuzz on "When You Tell The Lions," Garbus sweetly croons her way to a vocal crescendo as touching as it is fierce, and as soon as the listener digests what happened, she's at it again, building song after song with the utmost precision.

More upbeat tracks are variations on melodies that the annoying blueberry boy from opener "For You" would probably also determine cool, and Garbus certainly plays to the listener's inner child, the part of you that wants to dance to "Hatari" and not scoff at the sections of primal a cappella yelps.

In far fewer listens than you'd expect, BiRd-BrAiNs sheds its outer shell of defensive harshness and becomes an easy, enjoyable and addictive listen. Rather than judge the all-too-obvious, tUnE-yArDs implores us to find joy and beauty where we least expect it. And there's plenty of it, kids. Even Xiu Xiu, whose upcoming album is called Dear God, I Hate Myself, could learn something here about channeling the ugliness he perceives into something the masses could call empathy. He could learn something about melodies too.

Reviewed by JJ Lang


See other reviews by JJ Lang

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