Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

tUnE-yArDs: Sketchy [4AD, 2021]
More forceful yet more lyrical than ever, Merrill Garbus's fifth album since she broke in at 30 is her and fully vetted bassist Nate Brenner's most aesthetically willful yet listener-friendly so far--to put it plainly, their very best. Never shy, never overbearing, its soundscape is less irregular without smoothing the jaggedy rhythms over and its lyrics skirt specificity nicely as they honor a dying planet. While it's true that "Homewrecker" could well be an actual real estate guy, "My Neighbor" is simply an "enemy" and both old and female at that--one who ultimately inspires the cooed refrain "Let me love, let me love, let me love, let me love." The keystone is "Hold Myself," where the parents who "betrayed us even when they tried" are all the reason a 42-year-old needs to remain childless. Or are they? A