Merrill Garbus’s experimental pop project tune-yards has always radiated as a genre-bending, unexpected collaboration of sounds. Heavily infusing Haitian and Afrobeat elements into her nuanced music, Garbus has not shied away from conversations of cultural appropriation and her part in the matter. But after the racially-charged 2016 election and the ensuing divide of 2017, Garbus felt she needed to address her personal role head on and in full force. In a piece with NPR Music, it’s stated that Garbus attended a six-month anti-racist workshop at the East Bay Meditation Center and studied up on the works of anti-racist educator, Tim Wise, and the progressive activism of Standing Up for Racial Justice. What followed was the process of tune-yards’ recently released album, i can feel you creep into my private life.
Sonically, the record goes many a place, as it’s a mix of tune-yards’ characteristically high energy, eclectic hurrahs (“ABC 123,” “Hammer,” ) along with newer forays, such as slowed down, futuristic chill jams (“Coast to Coast,” “Home,”) 90s, glossy runway themes (“Heart Attack,” “Look at Your Hands,” “Honesty,”) and minimalist experimental 80s-type ballads (“Now As Then,” “Who Are You.”) But no matter where or how these wide-ranging sounds travel, the lyrical content of the album remains cemented in Garbus’s self-reflection of white privilege.
This heavy introspection is most blatantly called out in album’s mid-way track, “Colonizer,” which takes the most personally eviscerating look into Garbus’s involvement in racial discourse. Both disorienting and crystal clear, Garbus sings “I use my white woman’s voice to tell stories of travels with African men,” as she eyes the privileges she’s awarded — in her music and everyday life — with burning precision.
Closing tracks, “Private Life” and “Free” serve as the conclusive amalgamations of the record in both production and lyrics, with the former exploring the album’s namesake as lively call and response lines morph into a synth-y, disco dissonance; and the latter gasping out as a completely transparent means of closure. Belting “don’t tell me I’m free,” Garbus wrestles with how white supremacy touches her as well. In no way a herald to reverse racism, and noting that obviously she’s not suffered more than others, Garbus tells NPR Music that the song acknowledges that she too is tangled in this mess of systemic injustices. Privileged or not, “Free” cries out that everyone’s a part of this twisted web — and i can feel you creep into my private life is testament to the necessity of recognizing your part and working to unravel its ugly grasp.
Stream i can feel you creep into my private life below. Then, don’t miss tune-yards perform it live at Union Transfer on May 10th. Find tickets and more info over at the XPN Concert Calendar.
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