Tune-Yards’ Merrill Garbus examines personal values on ‘I Can Feel You Creep…’

The eclectic music of Tune-Yards evokes an image of a packed ’80s dance club filled with curiously dressed attendees freely expressing themselves left and right. In looking around this Tune-Yards-themed club, one would be hard-pressed to find two people who appear or act alike, for each individual is basking in their diverse tastes and backgrounds. With a musical style of unconventional but intriguing presentation, this atmosphere seems to be where the New England group bases their anomalous sound, which stands out triumphantly against a sea of formulaic pop musicians.

The duo’s fourth project, “I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life,” continues to push the boundaries of indie pop with song arrangements that are all at once bizarre and captivating. Most of the pop appeal throughout the album can be attributed to the group’s use of synthetic drum loops and grooving basslines. The album’s opening track, “Heart Attack,” incorporates these elements with entrancing style by pairing a fast-paced rhythm with Nate Brenner’s deep, throbbing bass. While these components serve as the backbone from track to track, it’s Merrill Garbus’ powerful female vocals — and the messages accompanying them — that often stand at the center of attention.

It’s not hard to be mesmerized by Garbus’ effortless melodies, as her multi-layered chants and cries present themselves as larger than life. However, the lyrical content that comes along with her boisterous vocals depicts Garbus as distinctly human and, in her mind, to a level of fault. In a number of instances within “I Can Feel You Creep…” the singer reverts into a state of self-examination, challenging how she perceives herself and others in an unapologetic fashion. In the song “Now As Then,” Garbus examines the contradiction that occurs when white Americans view themselves as an exception to a history of racism when, in fact, they still allow systematic inequality to benefit them. In an interview with NPR’s All Songs Considered, Garbus explained that these themes aren’t so much a criticism of society as they are a rebuke of her own inner prejudices:

“A lot of the lyrics on this album came from working on myself, writing down all the gross things that I don’t want to admit are in me somewhere.”

And while a number of the songs on the album deal with these socio-political themes, the electrifying single “Look At Your Hands” instead explores concepts as simple as examining the intricacies of one’s own body and being mindful of the devices that we hold in our hands on a daily basis. Though we often take these things for granted, the practice of deeply inspecting things to which we’ve become accustomed can offer an abundance of insights and can increase our sense of scrutiny for values and beliefs that would otherwise go unquestioned.

“I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life” is an enigmatic album. While it provides track after track of upbeat pop infectiousness, closer inspection of its themes will uncover Merrill Garbus’ individual struggle to break free from preconceived notions in a culture of growing intolerance.

Tune-Yards will be playing at Exit/In in Nashville on May 18th, 2018. More information on the event can be found here.

To contact Music Editor Hayden Goodridge, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.

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