[sic] Magazine

tUnE-yArDs – I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life

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New year, new music courtesy of Merrill Garbus (and Nate Brenner, her long-time collaborator who’s now been promoted to full band-member status). Well, we say new, but Garbus often straddles the not-at-all-new sounds of Afro-inflected roots music at the same time as the very new ones of future-pop and I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, the follow-up to 2014’s ever-colourful Nikki Nack, continues in this vein whilst simultaneously also being the most “electrified” tUnE-yArDs (we don’t know if she’s still doing this stylistic thing TBH) album to date. Going electro means different things to different people though, and inevitably it means something different again to the mad-cap Garbus, which here it turns out translates to her both embracing the smooth beats and drops of piano-line house (seriously), as well as the precise whip-crack and retro compressions of keys and drum machine.

Coming to a head on the 80s-leaning “Look At Your Hands”, these snappy production tricks do not however dominate, despite claims to the contrary in the press release. Truer to form, and though it sometimes results in Garbus’s weighty messages getting overlooked, the signature tUnE-yArDs style – again here present – is so distractingly dizzying that it usually doesn’t matter what she’s singing about and, initially, this one does seem to be nought save garbled nonsense, but – should you choose to find them – there are levels of interpretation here that touch on globalisation, capitalism and its questionable legacy, the album also and, perhaps predictably, taking in feminism (Garbus’s radio show that focuses on female-identifying artists also continues to run), as well as environmental concerns (her Water Foundation fund now having donated $75k to water-related causes too since its inception).

Tuning in even more perceptively to bleeding-edge themes, “Colonizer” is in turn the natural conclusion of Garbus’s careful Afro-appropriation, a track that acknowledges the privilege of using her “white woman’s voice to tell stories of travels with African men”, its serious content broken down musically as a kitchen sink-sampling, big beat escapade. Lightening the mood elsewhere then come fuzzy pulses, dirty bass rhythms and jazzy flourishes, uniquely staggering laments tumbling from the running order just as often as meandering bouts of experimentalism. Oh and just try and pin down the vocal melody of the title-track’s chorus; just try – it’s one of the oddest choruses you’re ever likely to come across.

Pop really is the order of the day though, giddy sugar-rushes such as “ABC 123” lolloping over herky-jerk jump-rope lyrics and, thanks, no doubt, in part to being mixed by the guy who’s done Solange (amongst other) and then being mastered by another who’s also used to working with mega stars, there are then the stunning pop statements such as “Heart Attack”, warped – obviously – as only Garbus can do with world-beat handclaps and soaring vocals. Garbus really is in rarefied company making alt-pop of this nature and, as the air becomes thin as these altitudes, it’s hardly surprising there aren’t many keeping up with her.

Best track: “Heart Attack”

~I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life is released January 19th 2018 via 4AD.~

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