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Studio album by Tune-Yards
Released 19 April 2011
Genre Art pop, noise pop[1]
Length 42:12
Label 4AD
Tune-Yards chronology
Nikki Nack
(2014)Nikki Nack2014

Whokill (stylized as w h o k i l l) is the second full-length release by Merrill Garbus' project Tune-Yards. It was released on 4AD Records on 19 April 2011.

It was the number one album of 2011 on The Village Voice's annual Pazz and Jop critic's poll[2] The album was recognized as one of The 100 Best Albums of the Decade So Far by Pitchfork Media in August 2014. [3]

Musical style[edit]

The album covers a "formidable range of genres and styles"[1] including acoustic folk, rock, R&B, punk rock, funk, free jazz and Afrobeat. As on her first album, Bird-Brains, Whokill relies on heavily layering looped sounds – notably vocals, drums and ukulele – which multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/composer Garbus uses to create her sound.

Unlike the lo-fi Bird-Brains, which was self-recorded on a handheld voice recorder, Whokill was recorded in studio, resulting in a fuller and clearer sound. It was produced by Garbus and engineered by Eli Crews at New, Improved Studios in Oakland, California. Tune-Yards also fleshed out the line-up to reflect the live shows, adding bass player Nate Brenner, who co-wrote some of the album's songs, and using horns on several tracks.


Thematically, Whokill is concerned with "power struggles that arise from inequity and lead to further cruelty and injustice,"[4] rooted in issues of privilege around race, gender and class. The album opens with "My Country," "a love-hate anthem"[5] about America, which subverts the patriotic song "My Country, 'Tis of Thee."

The lyrics of Whokill are concerned with violence in different forms, including police brutality ("Doorstep", "Riotriot"), neighborhood violence ("Gangsta"), and more figurative forms of violence, as on "Powa," where Garbus tells a mirror, "you bomb me with life's humiliations every day / you bomb me so many times I never find my way." Garbus is both repelled and fascinated by violence: in "Riotriot," Garbus secretly fantasizes about the police officer who arrests her brother, before announcing "there is a freedom in violence that I don't understand / and like I've never felt before"; and on the final track, "Killa," Garbus declares, "All my violence is here in the sound."

Garbus changed the album's original working title (Women Who Kill) to its final released version as an expression of modern dissonance. The irregular spelling and spacing represents, in her words, "what we get from texting and e-mailing all the time, when nothing is ever exactly right."[6]


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 86/100[7]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[5]
The A.V. Club B+[8]
Chicago Tribune 3.5/4 stars[9]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[10]
MSN Music A[11]
NME 8/10[12]
Pitchfork 8.8/10[4]
Q 4/5 stars[13]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[14]
Spin 8/10[15]

Upon release, the album was met with critical acclaim and very positive reviews. It holds a current score of 86/100 on review-aggregator Metacritic, indicating "universal acclaim,"[7] and was ranked as the number four album of 2011 on Metacritic's Music Critics Top 10 Lists.[16] It was ranked as the number one album of 2011 on The Village Voice's annual Pazz and Jop critic's poll, showing up on 135 top ten lists,[2] making it likely the lowest-selling and lowest-charting winner in the poll's history.[17]

Uncut placed it at number 44 on its list of the "Top 50 Albums of 2011".[18] Pitchfork put it as number 7 on its Top 50[19] while Mojo placed the album at number 45.[20]

The song "Gangsta" was featured in the TV shows Weeds, Orange is the New Black, and The Good Wife.[21]

As of January 2012 UK sales stand at 8,000 copies according to The Guardian. [22]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Merrill Garbus, except where noted.

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "My Country"   3:40
2. "Es-So"   3:29
3. "Gangsta" Nate Brenner, Merrill Garbus 3:58
4. "Powa"   5:03
5. "Riotriot"   4:13
6. "Bizness" Nate Brenner, Merrill Garbus 4:23
7. "Doorstep"   4:16
8. "You Yes You" Nate Brenner, Merrill Garbus 3:33
9. "Wooly Wolly Gong"   6:06
10. "Killa" Nate Brenner, Merrill Garbus 3:12
Total length: 42:12


  1. ^ a b Cole, Matthew (April 28, 2011). "Tune-Yards: w h o k i l l". Slant Magazine. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Pazz and Jop Poll: Top Albums of 2011". The Village Voice. Retrieved 21 January 2012. 
  3. ^ "The 100 Best Albums of the Decade So Far (2010-2014)". 
  4. ^ a b Perpetua, Matthew (April 18, 2011). "tUnE-yArDs: w h o k i l l". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Phares, Heather. "W H O K I L L – tUnE-yArDs". AllMusic. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  6. ^ Frere-Jones, Sasha. "World of Wonder". The New Yorker. Condé Nast (2 May 2011): 76–78. Retrieved 9 October 2011. 
  7. ^ a b "Reviews for Who Kill by tUnE-yArDs". Metacritic. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  8. ^ Gordon, Scott (April 19, 2011). "Tune-Yards: Whokill". The A.V. Club. Retrieved November 11, 2015. 
  9. ^ Kot, Greg (April 15, 2011). "Album review: Tune-Yards, 'Whokill'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  10. ^ Costa, Maddy (April 14, 2011). "Tune-Yards: Whokill – review". The Guardian. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  11. ^ Christgau, Robert (April 19, 2011). "tUnE-yArDs/Ustad Massano Tazi". MSN Music. Retrieved November 11, 2015. 
  12. ^ Parkin, Chris (April 20, 2011). "Album Review: Tune-Yards – 'Whokill'". NME. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved November 11, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Tune-Yards: Whokill". Q (298): 126. May 2011. 
  14. ^ Rosen, Jody (April 14, 2011). "WhoKill". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  15. ^ Hogan, Marc (April 19, 2011). "tUnE-yArDs, 'w h o k i l l' (4AD)". Spin. Archived from the original on 8 December 2011. Retrieved June 19, 2011. 
  16. ^ "2011 Music Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Retrieved 21 January 2012. 
  17. ^ Molanphy, Chris. "Pazz & Jop's Album Results Get Soundscanned". The Village Voice. Retrieved 21 January 2012. 
  18. ^ Uncut's Top 50 Albums Of 2011. Stereogum. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  19. ^ Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums of 2011
  20. ^ "MOJO's Top 50 Albums Of 2011". Stereogum. 2 December 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2011. 
  21. ^ Austin City Limits (2012). "Tune-Yards: A Show Unlike Any Other". Acltv.com. KLRU-TV. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  22. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2012/jan/16/indie-rock-slow-painful-death?newsfeed=true

External links[edit]