Best Genre-Bending Local Album

w h o k i l l by tUnE-yArDs

tUnE-yArDs is Merrill Garbus, a New England-bred, Oakland-residing white woman whose music combines Afropop, spoken-word, hip-hop, rock, reggae, doo-wop, and jazz; who employs instruments and samples including ukulele, horns, sirens, and pots and pans, in addition to her own powerful voice; and who sings about concepts as disparate as race and gender relations, sex, gentrification, and body image (all without ever seeming preachy, mind you). Basically, this woman’s entire existence is a testament to the creative velocity of heterogeneity. Hell, she doesn’t even use consistent capitalization. tUnE-yArDs’ debut album, 2009’s BiRd-BrAiNs, was a quiet critical hit, but April’s w h o k i l l hit with the wallop of something much bigger, earning accolades from all across the critical spectrum. It’s a mesmerizing jangle of influences and elements, deftly flitting between genres in a way that manages to feel completely organic — the kind of album you can listen to hundreds of times and still find something to be surprised by. It’s easily the best local release of the year thus far.

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