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Preview: Tune-Yards 

Noah Bonaparte Pais on Merrill Garbus, who’s coming to Republic May 31

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Photo by Holly Andres

Like re-watching a cult classic, it's a blast to go back and listen to Tune-Yards' 2009 debut Bird-Brains with the added benefit of knowing how it all turns out. The signposts to the next-level musical genius of Merrill Garbus — a near-certainty when she topped The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics' poll with 2011's head-exploding Whokill, and a foregone conclusion now that she's topped that summit with third release and best-of-2014 front-runner Nikki Nack (4AD) — are scattered like fluorescent Easter eggs throughout that first album: in the hypnotizing kitchen-knitting of gooseflesh ukulele plucks, icky bass thumps and field-recording eavesdrops; in the sidewalk-chalk lyrics ("There is a natural sound that wild things make when they're bound/ It rumbles in the ground, grr-ahh, grr-ahh, we all fall down"); and, most of all, in the sub-Saharan singing of this white New Englander, a feral series of whispers/chants/raps/belts, inevitably unhinging her jaw at some point during every track for a dizzying vocal victory lap. As focused as it is untamed, Nikki Nack is so good that it's a little embarrassing. Opener "Find a New Way" has the tumbling cadence of recent Dirty Projectors, its titular sunbeams bursting through darkened rests. First single "Water Fountain" is the most infectious song of the year, a schoolgirl handclap cheer shot through with hands-in-the-air "woo-ahh"s borrowed from Busta Rhymes. On close-second "Real Thing," Garbus shouts the stinging line that lives longest after she's gone: "I come from a land of slaves/ Let's go Redskins, let's go Braves." It makes her insistent mantra on no-means-no closer "Manchild" — "I've got something to say" — Nikki Nack's only afterthought. Sylvan Esso, a comely new electropop duo featuring Amelia Meath (Mountain Man) and Nick Sanborn (Megafaun), opens. Tickets $17 in advance, $20 day of show. — Noah Bonaparte Pais


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