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Musical Pairings: tUnE-yArDs – whokill

If I were questioned on the spot, I’d probably tell you I’m not really into “weird” music. Of course, what constitutes “weird” is a matter of subjective opinion. For some, Radiohead is probably “weird” whereas I think Radiohead aren’t weird at all. Sure, their music can be dense, surprising and experimental, but for me that doesn’t translate to “weird.” The same things are true for Animal Collective – not weird – just untraditional in their song structures. I think, for me, “weird” requires a little quirkiness in addition to being unique. For example, Deerhoof are weird (good-weird mind you). Talking Heads are weird too, but again – good-weird (really good-weird in fact). So I realized as I wrote this that I don’t in fact dislike weird music at all. What I dislike is “bad weird” music. This is often music that is weird for the sake of being weird. Where that quirkiness becomes distracting. But”good weird” music! It scratches an itch in my music loving brain that no amount of Kinks or Rolling Stones records can quite reach. It brings that “something different” that most of us crave from time to time. I love it! And in that regard, tUnE-yArDs (a.k.a. Oakland-based songwriter Merrill Garbus) latest record, w h o k i l l, is the “hunger killer” for that good-weird craving. It is experimental, occasionally dense, frequently surprising, very unusual and, yes, good-weird. It just satisfies.

And it is that meaty, satisfying, hunger killing quality to the album that makes it a great pairing for the matambre recipe Kasey is featuring in the kitchen. If you aren’t familiar with the dish: matambre is an extremely popular recipe in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay (almost “national dish” type popular), and the basic premise is that you take flank steak and fill it with eggs, herbs and veggies and roll it up. Bake and serve with a little chimichurri. And the result is just as filling and delicious as it sounds. In fact, the name is a mash of the words “mata” and “hambre” which translates to “hunger killer” – a truly well-deserved name.

If you are a regular reader of this space you’ve already heard the w h o k i l l‘s first single – the poly-rhythmic, clattering, quirky, horn-laced jam “Bizness” – which I posted not once, but twice – so I won’t say any more about it (if you haven’t checked it out before: it is great – go download it below). But thankfully the rest of the album is just as fresh, crisp and illustrative of that sense of loose improvisation that made her last album so fun. But with the cleaner production and expansion of her sonic palette – w h o k i l l calls to mind the qualities I loved on albums like Soul Coughing’s Irresistible Bliss or TV on the Radio’s Dear Science (two personal favorites): albums that feature playful song-writing, adventurous instrumentation, thoughtful production and a boisterous, quirky mindset. The track “Gangsta” rolls-open with the sound of distant sirens and heavy tape-hiss before breaking loose with brightly booming tones, intermittent percussion, patchwork sonics and Garbus’ layered, dubbed vocals (in a melody imitating the sound of those distant sirens) as she sings “never move to my hood because danger is crawling out the wood.” The beautifully soulful track “Powa” follows with a relatively straight-forward melody and hushed rhythm. The shuffling and jazzy “Riotriot” is another down-tempo cut that begins with a clean melody that breaks into a tumultuous, crackling breakdown before Garbus’ croons “there is a freedom in violence that I don’t understand and like I’ve never felt before.” And these are just a few highlights on an altogether successful sophomore LP. Definitely one to add to your library. You can pre-order w h o k i l l from Insound.

tUnE-yArDs – Bizness
tUnE-yArDs – Gangsta

Head to the Kitchen to read Kasey’s matambre recipe. Don’t forget to “heart” our songs on hypem if you like what you hear!

Posted by Matthew Hickey


Matthew is the music editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. He’s addicted to vinyl records, pour over coffee, craft beer, small batch bourbon, and pan roasting pork chops.

  • Brian

    Gangsta is off the fucking hook!

  • Brian

    Does she treat her voice in order to get that unique timbre? Ha, I thought she was a dude.

    She reminds me of Nina Simone.

  • Matthew

    That is a good question about her voice. I think she might just have a lot of range and a unique voice – but nowdays it is certainly possible that the production plays into it. The Nina Simone comparison is interesting, but I can see it – especially if you are referring to some of Nina’s quirkier tracks.

  • Brian

    I was blown away by the music already, but after learning that the singer is female I find the artist behind the music even more compelling.

    I’m not familiar enough with the work of Nina to draw more specific parallels, but in addition to some slight vocal similarities I think Merill like Nina before her is exploring a range of expression that is stunning when compared to her female peers (same goes for Victoria Legrand).

    The fact that it doesn’t sound forced or gimmicky is what makes it even more exciting and refreshing.

    Thanks for sharing!

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