When Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson sang about how the best things in life are free they probably didn’t mean first-class rail travel, but I am a shameless freeloader and that song speaks to me.
At the moment, Eurostar is running a campaign called Little Break, Big Difference. The people who work there are clearly all handsome and wise because they gave me a pair of tickets to go wherever I wanted. I decided to head to Paris to catch Tune-Yards support the awesome Dirty Projectors.
[Tune-Yards with feathers]
Tune-Yards album, BiRd-BrAiNs is a beguiling clash of low-fidelity and high ambitions. Made on a digital voice recorder it blends field recordings, the lovelorn lilt of a ukulele and Merrill Garbus’ remarkable voice. Tune-Yards is Garbus' solo project, but it sounds like the work of many. It sounds like campfire folk music and African hip-hop and deep south spirituals and sultry R&B, often all at the same time.
On stage at La Maroquinerie, Garbus gamely tries out her French on the audience. She seems the fearless sort, a one-woman-band, like Juana Molina, but her songs are less woozy, more awake.
She makes beats and backing tracks by looping what she plays into a microphone, often discarding what she's built to play acapella before the loops come crashing back. But it's her voice, her extraordinary range and the powerful way she throws it around that has the Parisian crowd in raptures, demanding an encore. Singing like that is not easy, she says.
[this photo was not taken in Paris, but you get the idea]
"Sunlight was recorded in my bedroom," she explained to me before the show. "But my voice was in horrible shape. It really hurt to sing. I had this idea for a song, and I had looped this drum thing that I had recorded.
"I was so excited about recording after a long time of not doing it, and I decided to sing as much as I could, just to continue my work on the song. I think I did the quiet verses first, then let my voice rest a couple of days, then did the others and didn’t sing for days after that. Stupid musician machismo.
“In any case, I am very lucky to still have vocal chords that are intact. It’s funny because I just never got a chance to redo those vocals, and now in criticisms of the song, reviewers will be like, ‘the first couple of minutes don’t exactly highlight her voice’ and I have to agree with them, but man, try singing on tour for months and then recording an album. You try it!”
Download Tune-Yards’s Sunlight here.
Read more from Tune-Yards at Pinglewood.
Elsewhere on Pinglewood:
999 : Paul White breaks Bombay Bicycle Club