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Tune-Yards: Whokill

B+

Tune-Yards

Album: Whokill
Label: 4AD

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Those who complain that the more experimental side of indie-rock lacks wit or a point of view will be challenged—and possibly confused—by Tune-Yards’ second album, Whokill. Merrill Garbus plays with a jolly violence rare in artists who crib from world and dance music, backing up her minimal chunks of reggae, African, and hip-hop beats with stinging lyrics. On “Doorstep,” she repeatedly coos that “policemen shot my baby,” and on “Gangsta,” she mockingly asks, “What’s a boy to do if he’ll never be a gangsta?” Whokill’s occasional synth and horn accents push beyond the constraints of 2009’s cheaply self-recorded Bird-Brains. But Garbus doesn’t need much instrumentation as long as she can loop and overdub her vocals. “Bizness” starts with her voice acting as a busy rhythm part, then flowing through graceful half-raps on the verse and punctuating the melody with slashing wails on the chorus. On “Gangsta,” her voice emulates both a siren—again, serving as a percussion instrument as well as the lead one—and the menacing bark of a hardcore rap hook. Whokill’s sonic imagination outlasts the novelty of Tune-Yards’ debut, and even better, its lyrical persona is as playfully warped as the rhythms punching away behind it.