TRACK MARKS BEST OF 2014: “Water Fountain” by Tune Yards

This week, writers are recounting the best music of 2014. Today’s Track Marks focus on individual songs from albums that didn’t make our individual best-album lists.

It doesn’t seem right that when I think about tUnEyArDs, I think about Chuck Klosterman. When the band’s previous album landed at first place in the Village Voice music poll in early 2012, Klosterman wrote one of his patented meta-think pieces that’s mostly about how Klosterman thinks everyone else thinks, and to a lesser extent is about how this album and tUnEyArDs (referred to hereafter as Tune Yards) may well be forgotten as a novelty within a few years — not because Klosterman thinks it should be, of course, but because he understands how people think and remains, as ever, deeply in touch with that understanding at all times. He knows the pitfalls of indie-rock acclaim, and is just concerned about whether Tune Yards can ever match (or monetize) this early success. (He strikes such a faux-populist pose that he loses his grasp of apparently non-populist activities such as counting or even estimating; he opens by explaining that Tune Yards’ victory will mean something to “maybe 10,000 people.” Though record sales are notoriously difficult to come by compared to movie box office figures, it appears that whokill, the Tune Yards album in question, sold about 40,000 copies, meaning Klosterman (a.) was pre-supposing that only about 25% of the people who bought the Tuneyards album knew who Tune Yards was or (b.) was pre-supposing that only 25% of Tune Yards fans have heard of the Village Voice or know what a music poll is or (c.) did not even try to find out how many copies whokill sold because doing research isn’t populist.)

Other people have taken apart his reasoning more succinctly and intelligently than I can. But you know what’s even better proof than intelligent rebuttals of Klosterman’s stupid points? “Water Fountain,” by Tune Yards, maybe the most immediate song I heard in 2014. The rest of Nikki Nack is plenty good, too, but “Water Fountain” rollicks in a way unlike so much on the indie-rock landscape. It starts with the simplicity of a folk song (it even references a traditional tune called “Old Molly Hare”) but makes a beautiful tangle of chant, metaphor, and allusion as the drums keep clanging and a surprising number of verses accumulate. Anytime a song sounds like Graceland, Talking Heads, Bjork, and Busta Rhymes in equal measure, I’m probably going to get on board, and stay on board for a long while. If Chuck Klosterman and his imagined isn’t there with me, well, I can be thankful for small favors.