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CD of The Week

Week of 1/22/18

    tUnE-yArDs - I can feel you creep into my private life (4AD)

    Merrill Garbus is done tip-toeing around touchy subjects. To be fair, the Tune-Yards frontwoman has never exactly shied away from subjects like intersectionality and cultural appropriation in her previous work. But if the past year has proven anything, it's that we're out of time for subtle acknowledgements and partial credit. Where so many other artists have released albums and statements looking outward to make sense of the contention and calamity that have consumed our country, Garbus is one of the first to dare pointing a finger back at herself.

    I can feel you creep into my private life finds Garbus confronting her own privilege, as well as the benefits she has reaped from it, both in her art and her private life. If that wasn't bold enough, it finds her doing it over her slickest musical compositions to date, now complimented by slamming dance beats worthy of DFA. The result is at once her most introspective, incisive, and immediate album to date.

    Anyone fortunate enough to catch Tune-Yards on their short string of shows last fall (including an uproarious set at Philly's own Boot & Saddle) knew we were getting something different for this album. That said, even those teasers weren't adequate preparation for the house pianos and Purity Ring synth squiggles that open the album on "Heart Attack," the portable MTV "Party to Go" that is "Look at Your Hands," or the churning techno in instant song of the year contender "Colonizer." Those live workouts also didn't fully brace the listener for how unflinchingly, almost uncomfortably honest Garbus is in owning and dissecting her embedded prejudices and previously willful blind spots. "Now as Then" sums up privilege as succinctly and sincerely as I've heard any recent song do with the crushing couplet "Oh, the relaxation I feel almost everywhere, except the places I don't go." Meanwhile, the aforementioned "Colonizer" examines all of the different ways Garbus has used her "white woman voice" in detrimental fashion.

    That "white woman voice" and others like it are needed more than ever as opportunities to resist our current climate of anger and racial resentment continues to wax and wane. Tune-Yards knows this, and use their latest, greatest album to date to emphasize that there is power in all of our voices, so long as we can recognize the responsibility that comes with that power, and the consequences that can come from wielding it without awareness. That it can move your ass while challenging your mind with that awareness is just a bonus.

    Tune-Yards creep into Philadelphia once more at Union Transfer on May 10th.

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    Review by Rob Huff

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