Tune-Yards: A Little Friction

Merrill Garbus finds her audience: Aidin Vaziri | Merrill Garbus, the one-woman dervish of homemade folk and R&B who records music under the alias Tune-Yards, moved to Oakland just over a year ago. The New England native says she came mainly for love – her boyfriend lives here – but admits she was also looking for a little friction. “Despite my efforts otherwise, I’ve always lived in places that are sheltered,” says Garbus, who kicks off a two-month North American tour Tuesday at the Great American Music Hall. “Oakland is not a sheltered environment. You are confronted with poverty and violence and social tension on a daily basis. There is plenty of energy. There’s also action and activism and people building things out of a crumbling infrastructure.” The city played a big if slightly oblique role in shaping the songs on Tune-Yards’ second album, “Whokill.” The songs deal with street-level anger and injustice. Despite the fundamental folk bent of tracks like “Bizness” and “Doorstep,” the songs are a patchwork of reggae production techniques and avant-jazz horns and Afro-Beat rhythms – all with the singer wailing on top like a laptop Nina Simone. Read more.

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