Personal Playlist: Tuneyards’ Merrill Garbus


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Selda, Sly and the Family Stone, William Onyeabor, Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band and Pat Jordache make the cut.


The Portland, Ore.-based singer and songwriter Merrill Garbus records music as Tuneyards, whose new album, “Who Kill,” will no doubt land on many critics’ best of the year lists. An assured, smart, complicated combination of rock, African rhythms, avant-folk and funk, the record transcends regionalism. Garbus and band perform a sold-out show at the Troubadour on Saturday; she took time to e-mail a list of five listening essentials.

Selda, “Ince Ince”

Our tour manager, Fitz (check out his Doodcast on iTunes), has introduced us to the best psychedelic rock from around the world. How had I not known about Selda before now? What she was doing in 1970s Turkey was revolutionary, her voice splits skies, she’s rapping before there was rap. Mos Def knows, he sampled this on his last album.

Sly and the Family Stone, “I Cannot Make It”

I am always, always listening to this song. “If I Make It ‘Til Tomorrow I’ll Be Surprised.” Plus the best opening chords of a tune EVER, in my humble opinion.

William Onyeabor, “When the Going Is Smooth and Good”


The world is rediscovering this Nigerian electro-dance-pop king of the ’80s. Go get the reissued albums as soon as they come out. They have that essential, simple joy that I love in dance music, but the rhythmic complexity and use of synth programming was way ahead of its time.

Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band, “Between My Head and the Sky”

We have been privileged to be around Yoko and her band quite a bit this year. I do hope that I can be as relevant in my 70s as she is. This tune is so heavy, and she does her inimitable, ground-splintering vocalizing here: an inspiration to me, for sure.

Pat Jordache, “Radio Generation”

He’s my old bandmate so I know he’s good, but this is a tune I’ve asked him to play at my funeral. It’s that good. The Jordaches opened for us on tour and I haven’t danced so hard at a show in years.



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--Randall Roberts