April 22, 2011 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Remember interesting music videos? [SLYT] The musical group tUnE-yArDs, fronted by Merrill Garbus, has been linked before, but I just stumbled across this video. For her song 'Bizness' from her recently released [on 4AD] album. Think Peter Gabriel in his ethnomusical-borrowing days, with a splash of Deep Forest -- and the video's worth watching, too. Not your usual girl with a ukelele.
posted by benito.strauss (29 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I liked it.
posted by everichon at 2:40 PM on April 22, 2011

almost a Fela Kuti feel to that thanks.
posted by djseafood at 2:40 PM on April 22, 2011

Glad I clicked it, despite the harrowing comparison to Deep Forest. I'd say a more contemporary peer would be Yeasayer.
posted by SomaSoda at 3:14 PM on April 22, 2011

This is NOT a Single-Link YouTube post.
posted by hippybear at 3:27 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Someone recommended tuneyards to me exactly one week ago. I forgot until Tuesday when she texted me asking about a couple of the bands I had recommended to her.
Then, last night on my walk home I saw a poster advertising their show here in Vancouver next weekend. And today, this post appears.

It may be a sign for me to go to the show .....
posted by mannequito at 3:33 PM on April 22, 2011

I love Tune Yards' music but I hate everything else about them/her. The packaging of the releases, the make-up, and especially the ridiculous use of mixed-case letters in the band name... they just make me think someone's crying out to be noticed in a "Why aren't they paying attention--don't they know I'm special?!" kind of way.

Everything about her music seems so effortlessly confident and selfless; everything else about her seems so infantile, afraid, uncertain, and selfish. It's such a bizarre dichotomy. Unfortunately, for me, the latter is far more powerful than the former and it keeps me from playing her music. My loss, I'm sure, but I'm hard-pressed to think of other artists who've had this effect on me.
posted by dobbs at 3:42 PM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

It may be a sign for me to go to the show .....

I don't know much about the Tuneyards, but yeah. You should go to the show. If it sucks, it's one night out of your life and a few dollars gone. If they're awesome, then you'll come out ahead and will be forever thankful for it.

But I'm always in favor of live music. YMMV.
posted by hippybear at 4:01 PM on April 22, 2011


posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:33 PM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Tune-Yards is amazing live. I went to their show to see the other band on the bill; I was blown away by Tune-Yards. Do go to the show.

Otherwise, I do sorta agree with what dobbs is saying, but seeing her live will make you a believer. But then again, when I saw her, there was no crazy makeup -- just one person with a loopstation, a floor tom, a drumstick, some small instruments, and her big voice.
posted by statolith at 5:21 PM on April 22, 2011

Yeah, I like the song but the pseudo-Native American thing bothers me, both here and within the larger hipster feather-headdress wearing universe.
posted by anotherkate at 5:24 PM on April 22, 2011

I almost didn't click because of the capitalization business, but I'm glad I did.

I almost got mad about the pseudo-Indian face paint, but then I asked myself, "What's actually Indian about it?" It references all of these things like an Afro-Cuban sound and the Indian face paint that just disappear when you look at them more closely. I dunno, maybe it's just what she, as a being subjet to exposure to all kinds of interesting things, likes or maybe she's consciously good at these extremely glancing but evocative references.

I like it. Even as something to, like, listen to.
posted by cmoj at 6:03 PM on April 22, 2011

I played a show with her a few years ago and she was amazing live. I haven't really listened to the new album, but I'm guessing it's a lot like the first one (I dug it).

This one isn't bad.
posted by sleepy pete at 7:03 PM on April 22, 2011

I thought the video was ok, the song was decent (I liked the music, the vocals kind of annoyed me for some reason). I thought they kind of sounded like Adrian Orange and Her Band (the link might not be the most similar sounding song, but the only one I saw on YT from the record). I liked that record alot (I also like a lot of afrobeat stuff)
posted by stifford at 7:20 PM on April 22, 2011

Hey, I knew her years ago -- it's cool to see her making good music and performing! Thanks for posting this.

I agree the capitalization thing is silly. But when I knew her she was very down-to-earth, so I'm choosing to interpret everything else in that light. Looking around on Youtube I found this interview with Merrill Garbus from a year and a half ago. She talks about the African influences around the 5:00 mark.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:50 PM on April 22, 2011

I read some interviews with Merrill Garbus last night and I think they give some more context to her shtick. First off, she was a theater major at Smith. Second she worked as a professional puppeteer. Third she chose the mixed case spelling absolutely on purpose to help get noticed. I think that's actually pretty smart to know and admit that making it as a musician is fucking hard no matter one's talent, and so having a quirky name that makes you get noticed long enough for people to well, notice you, is pretty smart.

Also worth noting that though her getup is wacky and seemingly schticky, she doesn't engage with the widely accepted form of dress up play that most female musicians feel they must engage in. She's clearly about her music and performance rather than being Barbie.

She also mentioned having felt quite stung by some of the crueler comments she read online about her - a good reminder (for me) that people do read what we write about them and are human.

She seems to me a very sharp, thoughtful person making very exciting music. And I'm going to see her perform Tuesday!
posted by serazin at 9:27 PM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

she doesn't engage with the widely accepted form of dress up play that most female musicians feel they must engage in.

Yes, yes, yes, 1000x this. She's got facepaint on so she gets to sidestep having mascara and lipstick, which is a laudable way to go IMO. (And yet even so there are idiot youtube comments going on about whether she's good looking or whatever. Blarg)
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:21 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I found it kind of boring. I liked the cat video oneswellfoop linked too though, although I'd seen it before.
posted by delmoi at 10:32 PM on April 22, 2011

Yeah, Merrill Garbus is amazing. Thanks for this post benito.strauss.

As an honest and non-confrontational question, I ask this: Why do some people take offense to face-paint? And, for that matter, head-dresses?

Correct me if I am wrong, but I do believe the entire history of music and pop culture is based around cross-culture pollination of styles. Musical styles, performance styles, and yes, fashion styles. Why is it fine to appropriate Asian fashion, but "hipster" to appropriate Native American fashion?

And finally, for christ's sake, can we please stop using "hipster" as such a derogatory slur? When you call someone a "hipster" you sound about as intelligent as if you were to call them "gay".
posted by special agent conrad uno at 10:51 PM on April 22, 2011

Well, dobbs, that's one advantage that good-old college radio has over so many of the other ways we now have of learning about music -- you hear the song first, and later you learn all the other (possibly detracting) details.

That's how I came across this. Radio first, then found the video (and enjoyed it). The weird capitalization of the band name came too late to affect me. And hell, if I can cope with a website named "//slashdot.org", a band named "!!!', and a programming language that prefers variableNames that lookLikeThis, "tUnE-yArDs" isn't going to bother me overmuch.

But there are bands where side-issues reduce my pleasure too. I can only think of one right now -- and it's not to the point of making it un-listenable -- but I don't enjoy old Police songs as much as I used to, now that I know what a prat Sting is.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:28 PM on April 22, 2011

Remember interesting music videos?

Do you mean in the 90s, when Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze and Chris Cunningham were directing music videos? Wonder if any directors are still doing stuff like that.
posted by yoHighness at 1:54 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I kinda wish they'd stuck with the little kids the whole way through - the mini-Merrill is a star!

Also, given the style of music, isn't the face paint more likely to be African inspired rather than Native American?

Whatever, great voice, good song.
posted by jack_mo at 2:23 AM on April 23, 2011

Pearl Jam ruined me for classroom videos.
posted by superelastic at 4:45 AM on April 23, 2011

Yes, I really liked the kids too. I'd have loved to see a whole video of them.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:57 AM on April 23, 2011

Why do some people take offense to face-paint? And, for that matter, head-dresses?

Why is it fine to appropriate Asian fashion, but "hipster" to appropriate Native American fashion?

A quick search for "hipster headdress" will yield many results, however this Cherokee blogger addresses the main issues of the trend quite succinctly.

Young white folks have never made a secret of their interest in all things ethnic and/or "other" so this is certainly not a new phenomenon, just a new manifestation of the same old one.

Considering that community life in white North America can feel like the cultural equivalent of tapioca pudding, it's no surprise to me that the artistically/musically inclined often nab the colourful, expressive and tantalizing surface components (fashion, art, music) of other ethnic groups as a way of breaking through their own malaise.

I don't think it can be boiled down to an issue of being plainly wrong or right, but when I see these kinds of trends in action (it's no mistake that one of the hottest new bands of 2010 is called "Neon Indian") I usually get a twisted feeling in my gut.

When it comes to borrowing from another culture's musical traditions, however, I think the results can be fascinating and affect long-lasting, constructive change in our cultural fabric. The lens through which we can perceive musical possibilities continues to expand which I think is very positive and exciting.

There are probably similar shifts happening within the fashion world that I am less aware of as I'm kind of a card-carrying jeans and t-shirt wearer. Many of the obvious ones seem to be tied to musical movements and perhaps they're inextricably entwined (it certainly provides a powerful platform from which to sell clothes, not to mention perfumes).

Whatever the case and despite Merrill's fashion choices, I do like me some tUnE-yArDs.
posted by knilstad at 9:06 AM on April 23, 2011

I love this band - the music is really catchy, interesting, challenging and the singer's cute as a shiny new button. There is nothing not to like.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:42 PM on April 23, 2011

I was also disappointed by the apparent faux Indian references in the video which is why I was googling her and reading interviews in the first place. I wasn't able to learn anything about her ethnicity or the ideas behind this video so I'm reserving judgement but maintaining concerns about it at this point.
posted by serazin at 8:50 PM on April 23, 2011

Her music is great and her life show is too but this video is anything but exciting. Her last one is better.
posted by pynchonesque at 1:24 AM on April 24, 2011

I looooove Tune-yards. This one's currently my favourite from the new album (live version!). Some time last year I had a dream about going to see her play live... One of these days I'll make it to a show!
posted by kaibutsu at 1:59 AM on May 8, 2011

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