On her debut CD, BiRd-BrAiNs, Merrill Garbus, the sole member of Oakland's tUnE-YarDs, has at her disposal a small drum kit, a ukulele, some software, and a digital voice recorder. What she gets out of those items is an astounding racket of no-fi folk punk, a collage of loops, found sound, garage-rock twang, and unexpected rhythmic complexity, all topped by a bracing voice.
Quinn, Quinn (quinnsounds.com, 2009)
I listen to this EP a lot. They're friends of mine from the Oakland area and I got pretty addicted to listening to this album this summer. They're crazy-talented musicians, composers, arrangers—the kind of people that you don't know about quite yet, but who you're sure to in time. It's a short EP so I find that when it's over I just want to listen to it again. The songwriting and playing is free of the kind of bravado and ego you'd expect from a trio of musically educated indie-rock dudes, and the result is refreshing, joyful, free music. The song "Doctor" should be the music during the credits of the movie version of Perfect Strangers. (You remember it, that TV show from the '80s?)
"How to Do ‘Tek Weh Yuh Self' Dance" (YouTube)
I was looking for dance moves for the tUnE-YarDs show and came across this, which is apparently super-popular as a dance craze now. My favorite thing about YouTube is how you can access things from all over the world—in this case, the Caribbean.
Ruth Garbus, Rendezvous with Rama (Autumn Records, 2009)
Ruth's my sister, which I feel very lucky about. I get to hear her and see her play more than other people might. This album is her latest one, and hard to come across, but I listened to it throughout much of the summer. The songs are eerie and catchy and sad and life-filled, and I often find myself craving it. Somehow it satisfies something that very few other kinds of music do. I'm biased, of course, but I think people not related to her will find the same is true for them.
Micachu and the Shapes, Jewellery (Rough Trade/Accidental)
This band's name is ever-present these days as the up-and-comers, but they deserve every ounce of attention that they get. I was able to open for them this summer and had the distinct feeling that it was the music of the future.
CKUT in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
This radio station is one of the greatest I've found around North America in terms of the diversity of music they offer. Go Canada! Luckily we have the Internet. Go give it a listen!