tUnE-yArDs, ‘w h o k i l l’ (4AD)
“I am not beautiful,” Merrill Garbus hollers near the end of 2008’s BiRd-BrAiNs, her no-fi pop-folk debut as tUnE-yArDs. Jury-rigged from ukulele, field recordings, and Garbus’ own powerhouse, Afropop-influenced voice — here a twee murmur, there a soulful honk — the record reveled inits inadequacies. Adding bassist Nate Brenner, fancier mics, and augmented sonics, this sophomore album cleans up without sacrificing charm. The songs are more consistent, too, flashing a certain lyrical swagger, careening from terrific sex to celebratory violence to uncomfortable cultural realities.