The amount of stuff I buy nowadays that has actual “songs” is scary to me, a guy who is usually given to buying texture and beat-driven music more than anything else. Every time I buy something with actual chord changes and hummable melodies, I think I’m that much closer to the state of mind that makes records like Ride’s Tarantula, The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Stoned and Dethroned, or Lush’s Lovelife. That is to say that even if those albums are good, they’re a huge departure from the band’s old sound. This is also to say that growing old may make you like effects less and classic sounds more. See? Its scary! A body hits 25 and suddenly he’s closer to Randy Newman than Kevin Shields!
Prejudices aside, Yo La Tengo’s new record drew me in when I heard “Saturday” on a sampler disk. It was full of murky, aquatic reverb and an overall mood of mildly psychedelic introspection. Suddenly, much like my personal revelation with Cat Power, I would have to check out this Yo La Tengo band. The whole record more or less fits into the emotionscape of “Saturday” with the exception of the rocker “Cherry Chapstick” which strikes me as a spritely Sonic Youth joint. This emotion is one that a body into Low, Dirty Three, or Galaxie 500 might get into.
If that seems patently obvious to you, then I guess you’ve been listening to Yo La Tengo all along and aren’t the Johnny Come Lately idiot I am. Oh well, so be it. Since I’ve always got mad love for the late night bedroom ambient stylings of bands like Bark Psychosis, Low, and Insides, an album ender like “Night Falls Over Hoboken” means I was bound to find this band anyways.
How does this compare to previous Yo La Tengo albums? Hell if I can say accurately. Even though my disk came with a companion compendium of previous efforts — all of which proved eminently listenable (thus doubling my head slapping) — I’m still probably not the best to judge this as a record from a fanboy purist viewpoint. Having said that, my less-informed-than-some view is that Yo La Tengo are steadily getting more subtle, more heady, and better with age.
What do I love precisely here? The Low-esque vocals (see “Tears Are In Your Eyes”); the lightly hit, yet not-without-detail-drums of Georgia Hubley; monochrome keyboards; subtle use of sound effects (see “Saturday” for a surprise appearance on percussion by former David S. Ware Quartet drummer Suzie Ibarra); the subtle/sly/playful lyrics; and the nuanced guitar parts of Ira Kaplan. The cover art really sums it up. A suburban scene, a man with a six pack in hand, dazzled by a light from the sky. The mix of the mundane and the heavy mental. VERY nice.
Written by Pearson Greer.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.