Oni can feel you creep into my private life,tUnE-yArDs'Merrill Garbusinterrogated her own choices as thoroughly as she questioned society at large onW H O K I L LandNikki Nack. After taking stock on that album, onSketchy.she andNate Brennertake charge. The duo's fifth full-length is about having the bravery and strength to confront old beliefs and old fears on a personal and global scale. It's not new territory fortUnE-yArDs, but it bears repeating, especially since the late 2010s and early 2020s brought the issues they railed against years earlier to a head.GarbusandBrennerreinforce these messages without rehashing them, and they spend as much time reconnecting with the primal force of their music as they do refining it. Casting aside much ofprivate life's electronic leanings and restraint,Sketchy.sounds unbridled even bytUnE-yArDs' standards. On "homewrecker," a metallic beat slinks its way through a jungle of dense sonics, leading to a clearing of vocal harmonies that soon take on a helium pitch; on "be not afraid.," foreboding drones culminate in a piercing shriek. Amidst these turbulent sonics,BrennerandGarbushide triumphs and epiphanies like Easter eggs. The song "hold yourself," an inspired expression of how older generations inevitably stifle the ones that follow them, mirrors its swings between anger and liberation with alternately storming and beaming brass. Along with joining seemingly improbable sounds into bracingly noisy pop, confrontation is one ofGarbus' superpowers, and she uses it expertly onSketchy."I'm just lookin' for somethin' to make me mad/Nothing personal, just sick of being sad," she sings on "under your lip," one of the album's finest examples of how she turns struggles into anthems. That goes double for "nowhere, man," which gives the impression that she turns over every rock and shines the light in every corner to root out injustice and hypocrisy. Though she andBrennernever sound less than genuine on expressions of solidarity like "silence, pt. 1," several ofSketchy.'s standouts are more personal. Imagining love as a healing bond, "hypnotized" instantly makes itself known as one oftUnE-yArDs' finest songs with its bear hug-sized harmonies. On "my neighbor," a timeless and timely fable of how fear and jealousy can destroy the best of us, the duo bring things down to a whisper that resounds as strongly as the album's boldest moments.tUnE-yArDshaven't sounded this infectious sinceNikki Nack, andSketchy.captures the inflection point where frustration becomes positive action in funky, happy, angry, and inspiring ways.
AllMusic Review byHeather Phares