Album Review: tUnE-yArDs – I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life
Consistently playing with their radical, yet oddball image, tUnE-yArDs have released their cumbersomely-titled fourth album ‘I can feel you creep into my private life’. The album is more inward-looking but conveys its message more urgently and eagerly than the band’s previous output. The skittery, thudding beats that typify their sound are all present, remaining as imminently danceable, though with more obvious variation.
‘Coast to Coast’ adds shades of a sweeping rock with a rumbling, march-like rhythm whilst ‘Who Are You’ leaves frontwoman Merrill Garbus duetting with an epic, far-reaching saxophone solo. Aural experimentation is rife, as per the fondness for a smattering of esoteric lo-fi field recordings and samples. Likewise, the record lurches from energetic 80s throwback ‘Look at Your Hands’ to the stalking, ghostly dub of ‘Home’, and the squelchy, wobbly rhythms of ‘Private Life’, with not-at-all misplaced confidence.
Nate Brenner’s intricate basslines add pure driving power and harmonious melody as required, switching with skilful ease. The track ‘Who Are You’ also showcases Garbus’ powerful vocal talents. It wields an uncanny code-switching ability between a frenetic squawk and warm, honeyed pop, both densely layered into lush-sounding melodies. Garbus ably handles off-beat, staggered phrasing alongside echoey plainsong chants, with gloriously simple repeating proclamations hammering her message home. This prominently features in the record’s harsh, discordant woke-pop of ‘Colonizer’. It swells into whirring noise after an assertion of Garbus’ precarious position of responsibility, referencing her ‘white woman’s voice’ and the ‘smell of blood in her home’.
Elsewhere, stream-of-consciousness lyrics detail confessions, urges and innermost thoughts. Proclamations of self-love and more personal allusions are clear in tracks such as ‘Hammer’’s – proudly asserting one’s identity as their own person. Yet nowhere is this more evident than in album opener ‘Heart Attack’, which eventually breaks into an intimate repeated choral refrain of “I’m only human”.
Having previously portrayed herself as an otherworldly, curious figure, private life is far more revealing of Garbus’ human side. Yet, it also illuminates the intimately personal sides of her songs’ subjects, as well as those around her. The striking cover art is ambiguous in this regard, which alongside the cryptic title conveys both a hesitant push and a warm embrace at the same time. This is only further reinforced by the repeated self-titled mantra of the song ‘Honesty’, and is brought round to a head with album closer ‘Free’. This track is a glorious reassertion of freedom and autonomy, melting into a distorted soundscape and brought to a halt with Garbus’ voice – ending entirely on her own terms.