‘Bird-Brains’ is the work of lone songstress Merrill Garbus, recording her extraordinarily rich and untamed voice onto a digital Dictaphone while piecing the rest of her beats’n’ukelele music together with free-to-download software. It’s scratchy, clipped and cut and, at one stage or another, showcases ever positive and negative aspects of uber-lo-fi pop. Thankfully however, the good far outweighs the bad, and for the most part this album is an intense and beguiling, dizzyingly exciting listen. The record revolves around Garbus’ voice, which recalls a feral Regina Spektor fighting with early Nina Simone, and, at its best, is some of the warmest and most sensual singing you’ll hear all year. The vocal performances on ‘Hatari’ and ‘Fiya’, in particular, command instant attention – the former for its guttural nonsense syllables and looped, chain-gang sounding chant, the latter for its soulful, heartfelt tenderness. Elsewhere, ‘Sunlight’ feels like a great lost Beck record, all cut-up hip-hop beats and swaying grooves, and ‘News”s melody is full of head-fuck chromatics that are stomach-churningly deviant and satisfying all at once. Endlessly original and addictive, ‘Bird-Brains’ is a gorgeously alien, furiously independent sound.

By Sam Walton

More from
« Previous Album