Essential New Music: Tune-Yards’ “I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life”

Oakland-based vocalist/ukuleleist Merrill Garbus is the most visionary white artist of the last decade, and such singular, hooky and uncomfortable documents as the abrasive wonder of 2009’s BiRd-BrAiNs, 2011’s funkily disturbing w h o k i l l and 2014’s intersectionally playful Nikki Nack speak (loudly) for themselves. Fourth album I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life is merely very good. Tired of having her political message lost in universes of sound junk and lyrical abstractions, she streamlines both here into danceable nuggets of unmistakable self-criticism.

“All I know is white centrality,” she fears on best-in-show lead single “ABC 123,” while the buzzing, Cibo Matto-esque “Colonizer” chides a version of herself that spoke too familiarly of Kenyan men. But aside from exceptions like the bass-line-and-snare-hooked “Look At Your Hands” and eerily harmonized dirge “Home,” these are some of the least catchy tunes in her catalogue, as well as the least decorous. Like Eminem on Revival, of all things, she’s too self-conscious at her most conscientious to find her ease with the material.

—Dan Weiss