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


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

The festival concert is an interesting beast. They beguile you with their attractive band list (which look oh-so-impressive on the back of a t-shirt), their free-spirited collective nature between music lovers (slash, mass gathering of musical hippies/hipsters), and the promise of an excellent juxtaposition of genres. Although, there’s always another side. Between ferocious heat, growling crowds, and overpriced couscous, the three-day festivals bite back with a vengeance. Perhaps after a few different festivals, one acquires a sense of what they want over the course of the musical extravaganza, and not all of these expectations can be met. A few quick notes about Primavera Sound:

The setting: Fórum, by the Mediterranean Sea in Barcelona, Spain. The gusts of salty breeze were refreshing, but didn’t compensate for the lack of luscious grass as at Coachella or the abundant shade at Chicago’s Lollapalooza. Pavement ground covered with empty beer cups and cigarette butts just isn’t the same. Although the side program held in Parc Joan Miró – in an oasis of palm trees and a more personal feel with the band – was a different story.

The timing: Aside from the side-program, the shows didn’t start until the late afternoon/early evening. Likely, this is to avoid the stifling heat of the midday. That, and the Spaniards do things late (DJ Medhi’s set started at 4:30am!). I have mixed feelings about this. While I prefer the nighthawk approach, I think it leads to a tighter schedule with very unfortunate show overlap. On that note…

The scheduling: Oh God, why? Why were The Pains of Being Pure of Heart playing the same time as Carsick Cars, who were cut short by My Bloody Valentine? Gang Gang Dance with Sonic Youth? (Sarah’s personal nightmare). Andrew Bird and Phoenix? Deerhunter with my only opportunity to eat during the night? Sigh. It happens every time.

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— , June 8, 2009    10 Comments

Primavera es está en el aire, spring is in the air.  In Spain, anyway. (Thanks for Marc for the correction… clearly, my Spanish still has a ways to go!) Considering the pilgrimage to Coachella was a bit unmanageable this year, my summer concert festival will be Barcelona’s Primavera Sound 2009. The three-day tunesfest takes place may 28 to 30 (next week) and features a indie-packed international crew that will make your head spin. There are few names on the playbill that we haven’t yet spun here at Ca Va Cool, (as well as some old classics) so I thought I would do the honours and throw the records in the jukebox for all to hear. And, there’s a selection of favourites for good measure.

Download | Primavera Sound Festival 2009 Preview


01 | Girls – Lust for Life / Lust for Life EP / 2009

Talk about an ingenious way to prevent pirating: Band name = Girls. EP name = Lust for Life. Search results = sketchy. I’m not even sure how to buy this EP, owing to my fear of opening any of the Google hits. But this track holds a lot of promise for the San Francisco group; irony, clarity, and levity. If anyone discovers the proper way to buy this album, comment away.


02 | A Certain Ratio – Teri / Mind Made Up / 2008
03 | A Certain Ratio – Do the Du / Do the Du 12” / 1981

One of the original Factory Records post-punk bands, A Certain Ratio were featured in one of the best music movies ever, 24 Hour Party People. While maybe not explicitly named as one of the forerunners in the Madchester scene, they followed the wave by making the move into house music. Their most recent releases have been more-or-less modernized versions of their original sound, with some exceptions (like the dreamy ‘Teri’ included here).

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— , May 23, 2009    5 Comments