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Our Favorite Things: Tune-Yards Nikki Nack

Merrill Garbus’s singular identity and powerful lungs are the driving force behind Tune-Yards: a fantastically fun and engaging band whose third album, Nikki Nack, was recently released to critical acclaim. Raised between New York and Connecticut and a graduate of Smith College, Garbus and her band mates have carved out a unique space in the crowded landscape of indie folk-pop.

The band’s identity is based around impeccably crafted songs that utilize layered and complex instrumentation and vocals that address such weighty topics as gentrification, consumerism, environmental issues, violence against women, and racial inequality. While this unexpected subject matter may not seem to be the makings of easy summer listening, Garbus’s deft song writing never wags a finger at the listener for not doing more about these social issues and instead makes music that is highly listenable and downright fun.

The band talks about issues that are simply not discussed in pop music of today. Tune-Yards’s thoughtful commentary will certainly endear them to the NPR set, but alas will likely prevent any Top 40 mainstream radio success among a market currently overflowing with airheads and pop-tarts. In the album’s first single, “Water Fountain,” Garbus points to the perils of capitalism and the dangers of fracking in a single breath: “He gave me a dollar / A blood-soaked dollar
 / I cannot get the spot out but /
It's okay it still works in the store 
 Greasy man come and dig my well
 / Life without your water is a burning hell”.

Tune-Yards pokes artfully crafted holes in the concept of American Exceptionalism with thrilling and joyous results. Garbus is famed for her energetic and polarizing live shows and kaleidoscopic music videos. Pick up a copy of Nikki Nack, check the internet for tour dates, and enjoy this smart, engaging record that’s perfect for summer fun but certainly not without substance.