Nikki Nack

Nikki Nack

by tUnE-yArDs


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tUnE-yArDs' music thrives on contradictions, not the least of which is how an album as singular as W H O K I L L earned the critical consensus to top The Village Voice's 2011 Pazz and Jop poll. The fascinating dualities continue on Nikki Nack: Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner's third album is also their most musically sophisticated, yet its primal emotions come through even more clearly. It's not that Nikki Nack is more focused than the band's previous work, since it's overflowing with sounds and ideas (and Garbus has always had a firm grasp on her aesthetic). "More concentrated" might be a better way of expressing the album's vibrancy and vitality -- and how these songs are even more distinctive and accessible than tUnE-yArDs' previous music. "Find a New Way" suggests that this evolution wasn't exactly easy, but Garbus and Brenner turn the struggle against writer's block into something joyous, with sparkling harpsichords and beaming choruses channeling liberation and determination in equal measure. The duo did find a new way for Nikki Nack, eschewing the loops that dominated Bird-Brains and W H O K I L L for intricate polyrhythms (Garbus even went to Haiti to study drumming) and collaborating with producers Malay and John Hill, who have worked with Big Boi and M.I.A., respectively. Somehow, sacrificing some of tUnE-yArDs' D.I.Y. ethic brings out more of their music's essence. The R&B elements lurking in their music come to the fore, especially on the dreamily impatient "Wait for a Minute," one of Garbus' poppiest and most emotionally complex songs yet. The duo's ambition is also more apparent on the excellent "Time of Dark," which moves from moody introspection to towering empowerment, while "Look Around" sings the praises of love and self-reliance in a threatening world. Though their new way is on display throughout Nikki Nack, there's a lilt to Garbus' melodies and rhythms that is quintessentially tUnE-yArDs. She understands and modernizes the power of rhythm-based storytelling, passed down from nursery rhymes, jump-rope chants, and work songs, and gives it a subversive twist. Ominous images like bloody dollars, cracking whips, and drought cloud "Water Fountain"'s musical sunshine, while the child-eating grandparents of "Why Must We Dine on the Tots?" provide a neat, if horrifying, allegory for how the old guard cannibalizes opportunities for young people. Elsewhere, the duo touches on so many issues -- "Real Thing" alone tackles fame, consumerism, and body shaming -- that it could feel superficial if it weren't for the passion coursing through each track. Nikki Nack's awareness is perhaps most refreshing when it involves self-awareness: "Hey Life"'s reflection is profound in its simplicity and offers some much-needed breathing room on an album that borders on sensory overload. Nikki Nack demands, and rewards, repeated listening to appreciate everything Garbus and Brenner are doing. It's an oddly nourishing album that's as big a step forward for tUnE-yArDs as W H O K I L L was from Bird-Brains.

Product Details

Release Date: 05/06/2014
Label: 4ad / Ada
UPC: 0652637341423
catalogNumber: 73414
Rank: 159049

Album Credits

Performance Credits

tUnE-yArDs   Primary Artist
Sam Amidon   Fiddle
Brad Wells   Vocals
Malay   Sampling,Loops
Caroline Shaw   Vocals
Thao Nguyen   Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals
Cameron Beauchamp   Vocals
Dashon Burton   Vocals
Eric Dudley   Vocals
John Hill   Sampling
Michelle Alexander   Vocals,Background Vocals
Merrill Garbus   Synthesizer,Percussion,Drums,Keyboards,Vocals,Background Vocals,Casio,Ukeke
Sarah Brailey   Vocals
Taylor Ward   Vocals
Nate Brenner   Synthesizer,Bass,Percussion,Piano,Electric Bass,Drums,Upright Bass,Synthesizer Bass,Hi Hat,Tin Cans
Michael Coleman   Synthesizer,Harpsichord,Keyboards,Noise
Virginia Warnken   Vocals
Estelí Gomez   Vocals
Toni Hartley   Vocals
Lalin St. Juste   Vocals,Background Vocals
Daniel Brevil   Percussion,Drums

Technical Credits

Sam Amidon   Fiddle Arrangement
Brad Wells   Director
Malay   Producer,Engineer
Eli Crews   Engineer
Phil Laslett   Layout
John Hill   Producer,Engineer,Additional Production
Alex Chitty   Artwork
Merrill Garbus   Composer,Programming,Producer,Engineer,drum programming,Vocal Engineer,Field Recording
Paul Evans   Engineer
Nate Brenner   Composer,Engineer
Mark Allen-Piccolo   Vocal Engineer

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