While writing the new album, Garbus immersed herself in dance-music culture, deejaying weekly at the Hatch, a bar in Oakland.
By Mike Ayers
January 18, 2018

The Oakland, Calif.–based artist Merrill Garbus has earned acclaim as the frontwoman of the musical project Tune-Yards, developing an eclectic, percussive sound that incorporates everything from Afrobeat to the ukulele.

On their fourth album, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, out Jan. 19, Garbus and her longtime collaborator Nate Brenner dig deeper into contradictions: the music is upbeat, with dance-driven rhythms anchoring every song.

But the lyrics reflect the turbulent political landscape of the moment, as on the dark, thumping “Colonizer,” where Garbus sings, “I turn on my white woman’s voice to contextualize acts of my white women friends.” On one of the album’s highlights, “ABC 123,” she sings, “My country served me horror coke/ My natural freedom up in smoke” before proclaiming, “We’ll unite before the very next election.”

It may not be subtle, but it’s certainly audacious–and in an era of anodyne EDM, Tune-Yards proves that dance music can still have teeth.

This appears in the January 29, 2018 issue of TIME.

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