tUne-YaRdS, St. Vincent

tUne-YaRdS

St. Vincent

Keep Shelly In Athens

Thu, April 19, 2012

7:00 pm

The Glass House

Pomona, CA

$22.50

tUne-YaRdS
tUne-YaRdS
“What should I do?” That’s the question Merrill Garbus asks herself halfway through “ABC 123,” the stunning centerpiece of the new Tune-Yards album, I can feel you creep into my private life.

In 2014, Tune-Yards released Nikki Nack, which NPR called “dazzingly imaginative,” while the NME hailed it as “easily Tune-Yards’ finest work,” and New York Magazine dubbed it “possibly the catchiest record of the year.” The album earned Tune-Yards performances on The Tonight Show and Conan in the U.S. and Later… With Jools Holland in the U.K., along with sold-out international headline shows, support slots with Arcade Fire, The National, and Death Cab For Cutie among others, and festival performances everywhere from Pitchfork to End Of The Road. The album followed her similarly acclaimed 2009 debut, BiRd-BrAiNs, called “ingenious and often irresistible” by the New York Times, and their 2011 sophomore release, w h o k i l l, which landed on nearly every major outlet’s Best Of list and topped the Village Voice’s prestigious Pazz & Jop poll as critics’ favorite of the year.

The new album is an unflinching examination of modern identity, intricately rendered in the manically infectious way that only Tune-Yards can. Drawing on a recent foray into DJing and inspired in part by C.L.A.W. (Collaborative Legions of Artful Womxn), her radio show highlighting female-identifying producers, I can feel you creep into my private life finds the band flirting with the dancefloor more than ever before, as four on the floor kickdrum underpins wild polyrhythms and slinky bass grooves. The atypical arrangements seem to defy gravity, bursting like fireworks one moment and retreating inwards the next as the band blends pop, hip-hop, soul, folk, rock, 80’s house, African, and Caribbean music.

While the album was written prior to the 2016 presidential election, it’s not difficult to hear hints of political anxiety throughout the record. On album opener “Heart Attack,” elements of vintage soul crash into frenetic drum machines as Garbus frets over the unraveling of progress, and the swirling “Coast To Coast” imagines a New York swallowed by rising seas.

In addition to being the band’s most pointed work to date, I can feel you creep into my private life is also the most fundamentally collaborative, with Garbus' long-time partner Nate Brenner co-producing, heavily influencing not just his basslines but also the shape of the songs themselves.

“This album is the most writing that Nate and I have ever done together,” says Garbus. “The first iterations of Tune-Yards were just me by myself, but this really feels like a true collaboration between us, and it’s the first record where Nate is listed as a producer. These songs are the result of what we’re each bringing to the table.”

If there’s an underlying thesis to I can feel you creep into my private life, it’s that uncomfortable questions often come with uncomfortable answers. Garbus has always been known for pushing the limits of pop musically, but here she tests just how much weight the genre can bear lyrically, too, challenging herself to look inwards rather than simply point fingers and assign blame. It’s a radical act of accountability, a candid self-examination delivered with ecstatic energy that calls on the audience to take their own long hard looks in the mirror. In the piercing silence after the record stops spinning, only one question remains: What should I do?
St. Vincent
St. Vincent
Strange Mercy, the beguiling new album from St. Vincent, is an unsparing examination of personal catharsis cloaked in some of the most sublime music of Annie Clark's career.

"Many of the songs are about wanting relief from pain, and searching high and low for release," attests Clark. Such powerful emotions prompted — demanded, really — not just a bracingly candid lyrical style but a new musical approach. St. Vincent's acclaimed 2007 debut album Marry Me was created almost entirely on a laptop; the exquisite follow-up, 2009's Actor, was a collection of arrangements fashioned into ornately structured songs. Strange Mercy, she says, is different. "I just wrote the songs first and didn't worry about the embellishments. On the last album, I could play about three songs by myself on guitar. On this album, I can play every song that way."

 Strange Mercy features very little of the baroque strings, woodwinds, and reeds that marked Actor, and the grooves are sturdy, deep and beguiling. "I wanted to make things direct and immediate," Clark says. "I didn't tinker. I tried to keep the arrangements pretty simple and use just enough instrumentation to get the point across. I didn't want anything to get in the way." Consequently, it's a much more guitar-oriented album than Clark has ever made. Clark is one of the most gifted guitarists to come along in the new millennium, and Strange Mercy is filigreed with indelible hooklines and ingenious rhythm parts, not to mention a concise and debonair solo on "Neutered Fruit" and a couple of Frippy freakouts on the glorious "Northern Lights."

 And with all that musical real estate opened up, Clark literally sings more on Strange Mercy than on the previous two — there was just much more to say. So the voice is paramount, shape-shifting to the demands of each song: on "Chloe in the Afternoon," Clark goes breathless and high; on "Cruel," she's practically wailing; she's languorous on "Surgeon" and r&b-inflected on the title track and "Dilettante."

 Clark again conjured her impeccably vivid soundscapes with brilliant producer/engineer John Congleton (Okkervil River, Wye Oak, Explosions in the Sky). Ace modern gospel organist Bobby Sparks "did all the really sexy keyboard parts," Clark says, helping to take St. Vincent's music where it hadn't gone before. Midlake's McKenzie Smith reprised his Actor role and once again played drums. Also contributing were Daniel Hart, Evan Smith and Beck's musical director Brian LeBarton.

 "Chloe in the Afternoon" is a stunning opener, vaguely sinister and frankly kinky, serving notice of the album's intense candor and darkling tone. "Cruel" is St. Vincent you can dance to, like some phantasmagorical Abba track. The aqueous confessional "Cheerleader" is the thematic touchstone; Clark is just not going to politely mince words (or sounds) anymore. "Surgeon" blurs the line between summer daze and barbiturate haze, its suave '60s Euro-pop miraculously morphing into a slinky disco inferno, keyboards dissolving into a blaze of hysteria. The heartbreaking "Strange Mercy" is an almost Hendrixy ballad, the album's soulful core, strong at a broken place.

 Strange Mercy is what happens when the very picture of elegance and poise confronts turmoil and grief: You can either gaze in mute despair at those pieces lying on the floor, or you can make something beautiful, even transcendent out of them, but only by confronting yourself. "Marry Me is very cute — it's funny and sarcastic, and that's fine, I was 22 and that's who I was," Clark says. "And Actor was cerebral — not that I would have known how to do it any differently — but I've grown beyond that now. I want to make a record that's more human every time."
Keep Shelly In Athens
Keep Shelly In Athens
The swirling ambient sound of Keep Shelley in Athens (KSiA) captures that serene feeling you get on a gloomy, rainy day as your car glides over the slick city streets. With airy beats that are repetitive, but never trance-like, KSiA is an accessible and lighthearted entry into the world of down-tempo electronica. As enigmatic as they are talented, Keep Shelley in Athens is a Greek based duo signed to Forest Family Records. Fearing the trend of bands coasting more on their own hype than their actual talent, KSiA keep their cards close to their chest, focusing on their music, not their image. If their sold-out 2010 EP is any indication, it's a more than fair trade-off.

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Venue Information:
The Glass House
200 W. Second St
Pomona, CA, 91766
http://www.theglasshouse.us/