Published May 06, 2014It's noted in her press release that Merrill Garbus started anew with Nikki Nack, unlearning already-refined skills in singing and drumming to form a new batch of songs, but in the process, she has also introduced a new arsenal of tools to the mix. That's immediately apparent on aptly titled opener "Find A New Way," with its eloquent organs and heavy-hitting drum machines. This is Garbus' new way, and it's one that proves successful.
Rhythms derived from Haitian music and Afro-pop still remain the driving force behind most tracks, but it's now holding much more weight, bolstering a technicolour array of sounds less reliant on the ukulele, Garbus' old centrepiece. "Water Fountain" And "Sink-O" flourish with the album's most forward-moving beats, not unlike some of her best moments on previous albums W H O K I L L and BiRd-BrAiNs, but Nikki Nack shows the most growth in its slower moments. "Wait For A Minute" is a Solange-worthy R&B number that highlights Garbus' voice in a way her throaty roars have never done. Bandmate Nate Brenner, meanwhile, continues to serve as muscle to the songs, adding dimension in the form of synths and bass.
tUnE-yArDs' bright and playful exterior might deter some, but Garbus and Brenner bask in quirk without it ever clouding the tracks' overall purposes. Nikki Nack contains some of Garbus' strongest work yet — if that makes Garbus the queen of quirk, then so be it.
Read our recent interview with Garbus here. (4AD)