CD review: Tune-Yards' 'Bird-Brains'

(Courtesy Of Tune-yards - Marriage Records)
  Enlarge Photo    
Friday, April 9, 2010



Kindred spirits: Micachu & the Shapes, M.I.A., Bjork

Show: With Xiu Xiu on Wednesday at DC9. Show starts at 9 p.m. 202-483-5000.

"Bird-Brains" is the singular work of Merrill Garbus, a debut album crafted entirely on her own using just a digital voice recorder and shareware mixing software. The finished product is a vibrant, genre-jumping exercise in do-it-yourself ingenuity. Lo-fi intimacy is certainly one of the album's most appealing features, but it would discredit Garbus to focus solely on the how and not the what. It's her elastic voice and curiously catchy songs that don't discriminate when it comes to influences that make "Bird-Brains" a success.

Garbus howls over stilted beats on "Hatari" as the song lurches forward, equally informed by African rhythms and trip-hop. "News" follows with a more straightforward take on indie-pop, driven by ukulele (her preferred instrument) and showcasing the double-take lyrics that pop up more often than not ("I get pregnant with birds who sing prettier than you do"). "Jumping Jack" combines a sweet sing-songy melody with a thudding, gurgling synthesized bass.

For an album so overflowing with ideas, it's rarely cluttered. Sometimes those ideas don't quite congeal into full-fledged songs, but even that seems to be part of the plan. After all, it would have been easy enough to book a day in the studio if that's what Garbus had wanted. Her enthusiastic, eclectic cutting and pasting is more interesting.

-- David Malitz

© 2010 The Washington Post Company