Tune-Yards: Sketchy review – Fully drawn and highly inventive

The fifth album returns us to early Tune-Yards

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Artist: Tune-Yards
Genre: Rock
Label: 4AD

Tune-Yards’ fifth album comes after a few years caught in a cycle that Merrill Garbus describes as stressful, “complicit” in systems that she doesn’t really agree with. Sketchy is a type of treatise on this ambivalence – critiquing systems while participating in those systems.

Tune-Yards have always been synonymous with interesting, colourful experimentation. Nowhere, Man is a bric-a-brac shop of sounds, a swampy, joyous concoction, as Garbus rails that “seems like Jesus and Dylan got the whole thing wrong, if you cannot hear a woman, then how can you write her song?” Hypnotized is another album highlight, all wonky and uplifting, and Hold Yourself contains raw lyrics that reveal an anger with an older generation’s perceived negligence, while Garbus also investigates her own.

Sketchy was inspired in part by The Beastie Boys book and Questlove’s Creative Quest (both released in 2018), which explore the process of creativity and collaboration. The album borrows some of that verve and returns us back to early Tune-Yards. The song Sometime, for example, emerges as a funkier older sibling to 2009’s Bird-Brains.

This vibrant universe is expanded by the wobbly vocal stylings on Homewrecker and the lovely piano melody on Silence Pt 1 (When We Say “We”), which is as rich as it is singular.

Siobhán Kane

Siobhán Kane is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture