The music of Merrill Garbus, the singer and songwriter behind Tune-Yards, tends to thrive on exuberance and full-throated outbursts of emotion. “Speaking up, speaking out—that’s a theme that will always be there for me,” Merrill Garbus recently told Pitchfork. So it’s surprising to hear Garbus, on new track “Wait for a Minute,” questioning her own voice, and even considering quitting altogether.
“The pain is in the empty time/ Just twiddling my thumbs and hoping for the words to rhyme,” she sings over synthesizers and the distinctive sound of Nate Brenner’s bass. Garbus has spoken about the crisis of confidence she had between her breakout album w h o k i l l and new album Nikki Nack, and the song seems to express the self-doubt she felt while working on the album.
The music, too, is surprisingly subdued, by Tune-Yards’ standards. Garbus worked on the song with producer and songwriter Malay, one of the key creative forces behind Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, arriving at a sound closer to smooth alternative R&B. Not that you would question for a minute that this is Garbus: As you listen to her layer her vocals on top of each other and pile on drum machines and hand drums, building complexity into the deceptively simple-sounding track, it’s enough to make you glad she didn’t quit.
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