[sic] Magazine

tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack

Though it’s fashionable to blame incestuous parts of the reviewing community for showering praise here when the music-buying public think it’s better deserved there, there often exists good reasons to explain the gulf between the critically lauded and the commercially successful. Foremost of these is that the critic, in most cases, is in his position because he is a music fan – one that wants to love new music as much, if not more so, than the next man. And, in this dual role, he will have heard a lot of music – more so, on average, than that next man. This is not carte blanche to trust his taste implicitly of course. The unbiased critic however is, at the very least, unlikely to put his weight behind the ordinary. He’s already heard that a 1000 times before. He’s looking for stand-outs and, boy, has colourful weirdo Merrill Garbus done so consistently since her arrival in 2009.

Nikki Nack is Garbus’s third LP and, again, it’s a rather wonderful pop album, but, as her career to date has shown, the newcomer won’t be given an easy ride for hers is a very particular brand of melting-pot future-pop. Where the similarly enlightened Claire Boucher of Grimes drew heavily from K-pop on her spectacular Visions LP, here Garbus digs deeply into African-American history, decorating her multi-tracked, kitchen-sink madness with celebratory vocal snippets that originated on the open savannah before being dragged to the cotton fields and then into the gospel harmonies.

Strong, hand-clapped rhythms such as those that feature alongside clipped R&B in the killer “Real Thing” only strengthen this position, while the rootsy “Rocking Chair” and its fiddle are as traditional as you’re ever gonna get on a tUnE-yArDs record. Nikki Nack is not simple genre tourism however – it’s personal. The angry closer repeatedly states that Garbus has “something to say” and talks about meaning it too, so it’s no surprise to find hidden in her hedonistic confetti of effects and time signatures subjects as heavy as racism and societal greed.

Fear not though quirky pop fans for Nikki Nack remains very much the product of Garbus’s unique mind and wide-ranging register. Who else could even hope to get away with a macabre, Swiftian pun/skit, so too breaking from a lovely passage of her true singing voice to turn in a credible Michael Jackson impression? Her humour is intact too as heard over the jump-rope rhythms of lead single “Water Fountain”. She’s been given a “blood-soaked dollar … but it’s ok / It still work in the store”.

When art is as rich as this the critic’s job is an easy one. His job is simply to deflect the energy of the medium onto the public. Artistically speaking, indifference is of course feared above hatred and, though it’s all relative, Nikki Nack does settle down into a more straightforward set after a luxurious opening four. Garbus needn’t worry though because her joyous LP still deserves both critical and public acclaim. Whether it’ll get it is another thing altogether.

[sic] Review – BiRd-BrAiNs

[sic] Review – W H O K I L L

Best tracks: “Time Of Dark” and “Real Thing”

~Nikki Nack is released May 5th 2014 on 4AD.~