Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
After a quarter century and more than 14 albums, it's difficult for any band to remain relevant. That's the challenge that faces Yo La Tengo as the critical darlings get set to release Popular Songs on September 8th.
For the most part YLT rise admirably to the challenge. While we get familiar sounds like the "Sugarcube"-esque indie pop/rock of "Nothing To Hide" and the twee of the Georgia Hubley-led "Avalon Or Someone Very Similar", the band do manage to weave in just enough new tricks to make the album interesting. The opener "Here To Fall" is a startling blend of ambient electronic sounds coupled with a big string arrangement. Duffy and other '60s pop revivalist should be jealous when they hear "Periodically Double Or Triple", YLT's stab at the sound.
From time to time the record does fall into ruts. Down tempo numbers like the AM soft rock-styled "When It's Dark" and the simmering "More Stars Than There Are In Heaven" lack either the clever turn of phrase lyrics or the musicianship that made past efforts of this ilk engaging. This results in a handful of lacklustre tracks.
Of course this wouldn't be a YLT album without being rounded off by a long jam of a track. In this case it's actually two tracks that fit the bill. The mellow "Fireside" is 11 minutes perfect as background music as you read by the roaring fire. In contrast, the album closer "And the Glitter Is Gone" is a bombastic art rocker with a mesmerizing white noise groove.
Popular Songs is not the most vital album in the Yo La Tengo catalogue, but it does prove that after 25 years there are some bands that can remain fresh and near the top of their game.
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