Cider Mag Winter 2015 Issue 52 - Page 52

tUnE-yArDs A Force At Higher Ground I Words and photos by Chris Biddle first heard about Merril Garbus, the artist known as tUnE-yArDs, back when my local community radio station gave me a show. I was a few years out of a small alternative college in Appalachia, still basking in the gritty sentimentality of American roots inspired music, neglecting to realize how bluegrass boy bands like Mumford and Avett had ruined it for me, and not yet fully recognizing the validity of electronic based indie pop that had swept the rest of the hipster nation. I turned to my trusted taste-makers in search of the next sad and beautiful Yankee-Hotel-Fox-Trotof-the-2010’s. I came out with artists like Garbus, who ignored referencing a mostly failed and otherwise failing American Dream, opting instead for a catalog of curated sounds that ranged from belting soul singers, African drum beats, and 80’s era analog noises. Her music was the ultimate hipster dance music, an amalgamation of countercultures presented unabashedly off-kilter, in full color, and overtop a universally infectious rhythm. To be honest, tUnE-yArDs kind of freaked me out, but I also kind of liked it. As we were finishing our drinks prior to the 52 • CIDER MAG • cidermag.com tUnE-yArDs at the Higher Ground in Burlington on August 6, my friend who wasn’t familiar with the music asked, “What kind of music do they play?” For a radio DJ and music journalist, this should have been an easy question, but they are complicated and I replied, “It’s just one woman, and she goes by Tune-Yards, but they use all these capital letters. And it’s – well it falls under the umbrella of indie music, which basically means nothing, but they’re really popular with critics, and it’s supposed to be a good show, and, I don’t know, you should be excited.” My friend looked perplexed, so I turned to Google for mediation. Under the tUnE-yArDs heading of genre, Google offered a befuddling range of categories like world-beat, lo-fi, and folk music. World-beat might be the best description, but her older stuff is more lo-fi, and folk music is just totally wrong. Garbus does play the ukulele though. The opener for the show was White Hinterland, a solo female singer with a keyboard, a looper, and an ethereal, yet punch-packed voice. Her pale-skinned, bare-footed, bun-topped, and retro-clad figure drew an almost instantaneous crush, which was fueled Winter • 2015