Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

tUnE-yArDs: Nikki Nack [4AD, 2014]
Where Merrill Garbus's contemporaries pro and con hear a boldly experimental self-expresser/cultural appropriator, I've always slotted her as a hyperconscious, hyperemotional misfit with a long-gone weight problem and a generous voice. From the start she's extracted her exhilaration from an insecurity that sounded hard for her to bear. I've encountered many such people in my life, most of them not too deeply--they're hard to take. But because they're so hyper they make excellent early warning systems and political consciences. Some may wonder why two different songs fret about the water supply. I believe it's because she lives in California, end of story. Some may wonder why she devotes an entire track to four lines about a rocking chair. I imagine it's because she became self-conscious about breaking it and composed the song in the ensuing insomnia. Somewhat more overwrought than its predecessors, this album is harder to take as a result. But it's also hookier and more clearly recorded. And as a musical sensor she has few peers. A-