In an indie scene clogged with lo-fi solo operators, Merrill Garbus has started to establish herself as the type of musician who considers fuzzy audio as an optional means rather than a goal in itself. Not content to just hang around on the ground floor of four-track hiss-purveyors, Garbus’ tUnE-yArDs followed up 2009’s Dictaphone-recorded BiRd-BrAiNs with the deliriously hooky w h o k i l l, a somewhat cleaner-sounding studio effort. But don’t expect a tamer approach: the album’s new songs actually reinforce and expand the breadth of her idiosyncratic energy instead of sandblasting it smooth. Her song-building process arose from her live show, which expands her songs into process works, assembling loops to construct the songs in progress before letting them charge out full force. It shows in intricately woven cuts like the loping funk of “Es-So” and the pared-back Afropop-via-Joni guitars of “Riotriot”, which establish a post-genre eclecticism without letting the seams of influence show too prominently. And her unpretentiously defiant personality is evident throughout whether it’s joyous or frustrated, standing out on the chorus of breakout track “Bizness” (“don’t take my life away”) and trumping any scenester jockeying or hype-based reactionary panic that might surround her indie-pop ascent. With Buke & Gass. (Photo by Chrissy Piper)
Sun., May 8, 7 p.m., 2011

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