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Bird-Brains


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Biography

Merrill Garbus has performed as tUnE-yArDs since 2009, and that band name has always been synonymous with forward movement—whether because of her explosive performance style or the always-surprising way in which her songs unfold. First gaining notice with the debut BiRd-BrAiNs, which The New York Times called “a confident do-it-yourselfer's opening salvo: a staticky, low-fi, ... Read more in Amazon's tUnE-yArDs Store

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Product details

  • Audio CD (17 Aug. 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: 4AD
  • ASIN: B002HMCER6
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,647,623 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Just William on 11 Mar. 2010
Format: Audio CD
I was once told off by a commenter on Amazon for using the term lo-fi to describe the early work of Snow Patrol. The production of their first albums had been first-rate I was corrected. Well, these distinctions are important, apparently. I trust there will be no disagreement when I use lo-fi to describe the début release from New England musician Merrill Garbus. Using a digital recorder and shareware mixing software on her laptop to mix the results, the album has a DIY aesthetic, with voice clips of children talking, playing and even coughing to provide accompaniment,and a creative streak as wide as the Atlantic Ocean over which it has travelled. When the album was finally mastered at Abbey Road Studios the engineer is reputed to have said `You can't do this'.

Well thank god she did. Don't be fooled into thinking that lo-fi means low content or low yield. Let's begin with Garbus' voice. From soft lullaby to frantic yodel, nobody could accuse her of lacking range. There are cracks and moments where another producer might have ironed out the creases but the album is all the more interesting for going with them. Singing isn't about hitting the right notes perfectly all the time, it's about communicating, and Garbus' voice is loaded with feeling. Often this is done by starting soft and sweet and becoming louder and more insistent as the track develops, as shown on two of the album's early tracks. The insistent chorus of Sunlight does this to great effect as the repetition of 'I could be the sunlight in your eyes/Couldn't I?/Couldn't I?' grows and the hurt behind the song becomes clear. Lions begins sweet enough with her trademark ukelele but the power of her voice makes the childish sounding chorus fill with menace as the track develops.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Wolf TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Feb. 2010
Format: Audio CD
tUnE-yArDs is Merrill Garbus and she hails from California.
That she has settled in 4AD's estimable stable seems entirely right.
Their reputation for supporting edgy maverick talent is second to none.

Her self-constructed debut album 'Bird-Brains' is a delightful confection.
Intelligent, quirky and at times strangely affecting.

The hAnd-MaDe approach is deceptively simple in execution
but big on rich and rewarding musical chutzpah.

Ms Garbus' voice is an interesting instrument, whether soulful
and unadorned on the beguilingly folksy 'Lions', or child-like
and vulnerable on a number like 'Little Tiger' she never fails
to keep our attention and curiosity moving along with her.

The nursery-rhyme quality of many of these songs is quite enchanting;
the culturally diverse mix of rhythmic and melodic ideas equally so so.

The brief overlapped vocal introduction of 'Hatari' paves the way for a
delightful composition bursting with sunlight and angular African rhythms.
This one-woman celebration sounds like a whole neighbourhood having a party!

'Jumping Jack' transforms a playground chant into a song full of fire and fury .
The raw energy of the arrangement and her unbridled vocal performance
delivers one of the album's many highlights.

I particularly enjoyed the stripped-downs simplicity of the opening of 'Fiya'.
It sounds as though Ms Garbus might have stepped out onto her porch in the sunshine,
turned on the tape machine and sang to the birds and the sky but this richly
evocative song with its stark lyrical imagery and powerful melody and builds slowly
to become a densely-layered incantation of extraordinary emotional clout.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gannon on 24 Dec. 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
There is a fine line between oddball eccentrics and the plain annoying. Those that get it wrong are either lampooned for years or forgotten about instantly. Those that get it right earn a special place in cult record collections and favourable mentions in trendier-than-thou locations and become cyclical, periodically getting rediscovered and pawed over afresh. This is true of the mythical Daniel Johnston and true of Iceland's Mugison and his 2004 album Mugimama, Is This Monkey Music? And it probably ought to be true of one of 2009's most original albums Jewellery by Micachu & The Shapes.

When Micachu (née Mica Levi) wasn't writing for the London Philharmonic and performing at the Royal Festival Hall she was producing Jewellery, a real kitchen sink of an album that employs the vacuum cleaner, clapping beats and general squeaks `n' pops. Her madcap lo-fi caused a small ripple that may yet reach shore, the same shore that tUnE-yArDs' Merrill Garbus now inhabits. BiRd-BrAiNs equally treads the line and happily, for the most part, falls on the right side of it.

Her approach is similarly lo-fi, unsurprising for an entirely self-produced record. What is surprising is the real presence of melody that Garbus has woven into an album on which haphazard indulgence would perhaps have been more expected. The stark drum machine patterns jitter and her digitally affected vocal warms. BiRd-BrAiNs approaches the amiable peculiarities and harmonies of Dirty Projectors, particularly on the discordant yet rhythmic "Hatari", but concedes as ever on production values.
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