On her critic-wowing 2011 breakout, Whokill, Merrill Garbus made sexy, kinetic pop out of avant-folk vocal technique and hip-hop flow. Following such head-rush originality ain't easy. But her third LP, cut with bass-minded partner Nate Brenner, suggests an innovator in for the long haul. There's Haitian-inflected groove voodoo and self-aware cultural politics ("I come from the land of slaves/Let's go, Redskins! Let's go, Braves!" she chants on "Real Thing"). There's also a newly supple melodic sensibility, abetted by guest producers Malay (Frank Ocean) and John Hill (Shakira). On "Wait for a Minute," you hear a slow-jam diva bloom in stop-motion. Who knew?
From The Archives Issue 1209: May 22, 2014