Let the Bay Area pride fly: According to the the Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll, whose results were released late yesterday, the best album of 2011 was made by none other than Oakland funk-pop outfit tUnE-yArDs.
Yep, that's best album, period. The same coveted title awarded (almost unanimously) to Kanye West last year has now been bestowed upon w h o k i l l, tUnE-yArDs' second album and a riot of loop-pedal groove, roiling bassfunk, and multidimensional vocalizing from headwoman Merrill Garbus.
Regular readers of this blog will know that we've been in love with tUnE-yArDs and w h o k i l l since the album's first single, "Bizness," dropped last spring. Before this album, Garbus was a respected local weirdo playing shows at venues like Amnesia. After it, she landed in the pages of Rolling Stone and the New York Times, sold out her local shows, got booked to play Outside Lands (and now Coachella), and now, this.
What's so good about tUnE-yArDs? The record topped our list of the best albums of year because it moves and feels like nothing else released in 2011. But while w h o k i l l's socially conscious funk-pop sounds distinctive, it's also surprisingly fun and accessible -- you don't have to be a lo-fi obsessive or a world music nerd to notice "Gangsta" tugging at your hips.
Still, the music doesn't appeal to everyone (or at least it hasn't reached them): As one of the accompanying essays to this year's poll points out, w h o k i l l might be the lowest-selling No. 1 pick in Pazz & Jop history, with sales numbering only about 47,000 at this time. (For the purposes of comparison, last year's No. 1, Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, has sold 1,238,000 copies.) That's low even by 2012 standards.
Regardless, we can't help but be thrilled to see our local lady -- and one of our favorite musicians from anywhere working right now -- get the nod from a nation of critics. Congrats to Merrill Garbus, bassist Nate Brenner, and the tUnE-yArDs crew. And while you're here, check out some of what we've written about this band in the past:
* Tune-Yards Featured in Rolling Stone, Because 'Bizness' Is Amazing (Mar. 8, 2011)
* The Subversive Beauty of tUnE-yArDs (Apr. 20, 2011)