2009 was an incredibly busy year for tUnE-yArDs aka the one-woman powerhouse that is Merrill Garbus! She signed to 4AD in the spring of 2009. November 17, 2009 marked the full deluxe-CD release of her “DIY masterpiece” (Performer Magazine), BiRd-BrAiNs, including two previously unreleased bonus tracks (which are available digitally as well). 4AD also made a digital EP available on November 3, 2009, titled Bird-Droppings.
In 2009, Merrill maintained an extensive touring schedule that would have left a weaker soul completely spent. Merrill, however, is nothing if not strong and up for a challenge! Her schedule for 2010 doesn’t look to be any lighter. She’s spent the recent touring in Europe and working her magic:
“By the end the crowd are overwhelmed - wondering what has just gone before them. It has been a beautiful and musically unparalled evening. tUnE-yArDs will be back in the summer to a larger venue no doubt.” — Artrocker
“It is one of the most impressive and uncategorisable performances that I have ever seen.” — The Call Of The Wyld Blog
“With artists like tUnE-yArDs in the world you know everything is going to be ok.” — Londonist
“tUnE-yArDs came, saw and conquered.” — Low Rise
“Best gig of the year achieved by mid-February? It’s just possible.” — Music OMH
“If this publication gave star ratings, this would rate at infinity.” Muso’s Guide
“It's not very often that, in attempting to leave the venue, I walk up a completely wrong set of steps because I’m so focused on the amazing show I just saw.”— Nu Rave Brain Wave
“This was one of the most powerful and inspiring performances I have ever seen, and I doubt anyone in the crowd would beg to differ.” — The Girls Are
“We’re only two months into the new year but it’s safe to say that Monday’s tUnE-yArDs show at Cargo will go down as one of the best live dates of 2010.” — Wears The Trousers
Needless to say, through her nonstop touring (now bolstered by bassist Nate Brenner) tUnE-yArDs made quite the impression on people with her compelling live show. Whether she’s playing solo or with a full band, her incredibly powerful voice and dextrous way of working with loops made on the spot is truly something to behold:
“…her debut album, BiRd-BrAiNs, is a self-made, no-fi, oddball gem, a collision of African, soul and cabaret vocal strategies over an admixture of reggae, hip-hop and folk.”
“...there’s plenty of hip-hop in her musical arsenal, and her drumming, while straightforward, is forceful and sophisticated. (Ms. Garbus’s feet, in socks, did most of the crucial work, triggering the pedals.) Once the beat was set she took to the tenor ukulele, which she abused virtuosically, sometimes shredding it like a guitar, sometimes beating it like a xylophone or a drum kit, and sometimes even playing it like a ukulele.
That those details mattered so much was impressive given that Ms. Garbus, hiding behind that scrapheap of sound, has a ferocious voice, somewhere between Aretha Franklin and Yoko Ono. At times it was a roar, and at times it was coy, but her ability to modulate it showed off a rhythmic and artistic intelligence that echoed Björk, and even to a degree, M.I.A.” — The New York Times