Oh, eclecticism can be a drag. It takes a discerning ear and a strong hand of restraint to pick and choose a variety of elements and bring them together to resemble something coherent rather than a big old dog's dinner. When it works, though, you witness that rare thing: something that edges close to originality, and Tune-Yards - the loopy New Englander Merrill Garbus - looks set to grab such an elusive prize.
Mixing West African rhythms and vocal styles, old fashioned blues, the occasional hip hop beat and a soulful voice worthy of Al Green doing a Nina Simone impression, Tune-Yards' music should be a mess. Except it isn't. The range of genres are exploited perfectly, and her intricate ukele playing prove that she's mastered more than a loop pedal. Whooping and hollering and throwing her hands in the air like a disco infused banshee, she faces the crowd unafraid. It takes bravery to be this different, and talent to pull it off so proficiently.
There's also something wonderfully nuanced about both her lyrical content and musical style. With her endearingly crazy, expressive eyes, she gazes up the length of the ukele as if it's both friend and foe, and sings 'I'm not beautiful' without a hint of self absorption or pity, just the unadorned honesty of someone who believes this is the case. 'You are always on my mind', she repeats and repeats, as if with understanding of how this can be both romantic blessing and exhausting curse.
If commanding attention through creating a beautifully unique sound is the order of the eve, who better to continue the evening than Brooklyn's Dirty Projectors. Orchestral sweeps and peachy-sweet harmonies shudder through the room, amidst a scrapping of conventional approaches to song structures. At times it's totally sublime, though its disjointed nature means it's easy to lose the thread of the piece. Multi-layered and strange, the band give regular time signatures the slip before clicking like it all back into place, clockwork fashion. It all seems very deliberate, but the disorderly palate the band paint their quirky rhythms on won't suit everyone.
Image courtesy of David Emery.