“Merrill Garbus, who performs under the moniker tUnE-YArDs, recorded her first album using a handheld voice recorder and distributed it on recycled cassette tape. Listening to BiRd-BrAiNs—a collage of experimental rhythms, odd instrumentations, and found sounds—you never forget that this is something made. The songs are sturdy and bold, but also transparent—they contain unlikely pauses, trips and turnarounds on their way to surprising and beautiful crescendos. In a recent interview, Tom Waits compared the pop song to a bagel; these bagels are oddly shaped, multicolored, and glazed with mud or candy or spare buttons.
“At the forefront of these songs is Garbus’s voice, which she often pushes—yodeling, shouting, screaming. She frequently sings on multiple tracks, too, which creates a sort of dialogue—Garbus versus Garbus. As I hear the songs, one Garbus dares the other to go further, to find more joy, to have more fun. For me, BiRd-BrAiNs serves as a meditation on the creative process, and a reminder of the possibilities of art. I listen to this album in thirty-second or one-minute bursts, and then I carry that reminder, like food to a nest, back to my writing: have more fun, have more fun.”
—Christopher Boucher, author of How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive (Melville House Books, 2011)