Yo La Tengo

Photograph by Michael Lavine

Happy 25th anniversary, Yo La Tengo. Instead of marking the occasion by exchanging silver paperweights and reminiscing about their years of critically praised genre-jumping music, the Hoboken, New Jersey trio will release Popular Songs on September 8. Somewhat of an ironic title, considering that despite twelve albums and countless EPs, the experimental band is little known to the mainstream radio listener.

Like anyone involved in a union spanning a quarter century, the group has forged a bit of a routine together. A few Yo La Tengo album trademarks are notable in the newest release: a foray into dream pop euphoria with the upbeat ‘Nothing to Hide’, a jazzy showcase of Ira Kaplan’s keyboard and clear enunciation in ‘Periodically Triple or Double’, and a motown-esque sweetly written duet ‘If It’s True’. The album also includes a few self-indulgent (but rightly so) 9-minute plus tracks in their traditional style; slow and stark, quick and frenetic. Patience might be required for the meandering length and slow pace of ‘The Fireside’. However, they shine at their non-lyrical best during ‘And the Glitter is Gone’; carefully cacophonous guitar feedback clashes perfectly with the building denseness and Georgia Hubley’s echoed syllables.

All in all, Popular Songs is a sweet, mellow addition to the Yo La Tengo catalogue. There is little semblance to the early 2009 surprise release by the band’s lo-fi garage alter ego, the Condo Fucks. It doesn’t quite bring me back to the I Can Heart the Heart Beating As One days, but it’s not the settled down, over the hill, get-in-the-mini-van-to-pick-up-the-kids-from-soccer album. Calm and cool, but ensnaring and exciting; sounds like a perfect chill album for a breezy, rainy summer. This tuneful marriage is still harmonious.

As an anniversary bonus, if you purchase the LP from Matador Records early, you also get a copy of the score to Adventureland, composed by Yo La Tengo. A toast, cheers to 25 years of “making sweet music together”, and here’s to 25 more.

Yo La Tengo – Nothing to Hide
Yo La Tengo – Periodically Triple or Double
Yo La Tengo – If It’s True

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— , August 21, 2009    Comments Off on Yo La Tengo: Popular Songs
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