Friday, September 11th, 2009

More Stars Than There Are In Heaven

Review of Yo La Tengo's Popular Songs

Photo via FacebookFacebookThere’s a good run of albums, there’s career consistency and then there’s Yo La Tengo. The New Jersey outfit has been turning out full-length gems for almost a quarter-century now, and while some are held in higher regard than others, their consistently high standard has been nothing short of astonishing. And this isn’t a case of a band finding a style they excel in and working on variations of that theme, at least not unless you consider “restless creativity and experimentation in the realms of pop music” to be a single theme. So in sitting down with their twelfth proper album Popular Songs, you would have an excuse to not be surprised by what they have to offer, but none to not be delighted.

2006’s I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass was a welcome dose of energy for those afraid that the two preceding records were finding the band settling into a comfortable, somnambulant zone, bringing back not only the band’s noisier side but also their genre-hopping aesthetic. It wasn’t as many individually sublime moments as their previous highwater mark I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, but as a collection it was a more than worthy addition to their discography. If this was as good as Yo La Tengo could be 20 years in, then we should consider ourselves lucky. But if Ass was the luck equivalent of finding a $20 bill in the street Popular Songs is like winning the lottery.

Okay, that’s probably overstating it but Songs has a certain something that you didn’t even realize Ass lacked. It’s hard to articulate exactly what that is, but it’s the ineffable quality that distinguishes a classic Yo La record from just a great one. I’ll put it down as a sense of fun. Ass had the sense of the band exploring terrain that they hadn’t visited in a while (and tinged with the sense of looking for a way to stay interested) and that sense of curiosity yielded its own rewards, but now it sounds like they’re comfortable again and are having fun with it. Everything that makes Yo La Tengo wonderful is present in abundance – the quiet, extended meditations (“The Fireside”), the skronky garage pop (“Nothing To Hide”), the gentle folk of “When It’s Dark”, the jazzy grooves (“Periodically Double Or Triple”) – and all points in between. For most bands, it’s probably too much to expect them to turn in one of the best albums of their career after the 20-year mark. Once again Yo La Tengo have defied expectations.

Spinner talks to the band about the secret of their longevity as well as the secrets of their songwriting. Paste also has a feature peice and also gets Ira Kaplan to offer up a recommended listening list.

Yo La Tengo are at the Opera House in Toronto on October 3.

MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Here To Fall”
MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Periodically Double Or Triple”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “When It’s Dark”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Nothing To Hide”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Avalon Or Someone Very Similar”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Periodically Double Or Triple”
Video: Yo La Tengo – “Here To Fall”
MySpace: Yo La Tengo

DCist salutes Velocity Girl’s wonderful Simpatico! record, talking to most of the band about the making of the album. I loved that record. Must put it back into rotation this weekend.

Video: Velocity Girl – “Sorry Again”
Video: Velocity Girl – “I Can’t Stop Smiling”

Decider talks to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

Wye Oak have released a new video from their excellent second album The Knot.

Video: Wye Oak – “Sight, Flight”

Billboard talks to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Robert Been about the live CD/DVD set – creatively titled Live – due out November 10. Their new studio album is targeted for a Spring 2010 release.

The upcoming tour that pairs like-it-loud Asobi Seksu with like-it-low Loney Dear and Anna Ternheim was a bit of a head-scratcher until it was announced that Asobi would be releasing an acoustic album entitled Rewolf November 10, recasting old songs originally done loud in a quieter setting. The Village Voice confirms that the band is taking this setup live, so expect to see them as you’ve never seen them before when they play the Horseshoe on October 14 – no bad thing if you’ve already seen them many times before.

The Flaming Lips’ continues to talk smack about Arcade Fire to The Independent. Embryonic is due out October 13.

The Times Daily checks in with Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers. They just released a rarities and b-sides comp entitled The Fine Print last week and will have a new studio album out in February.

Under The Radar mind-melds with Telekinesis.

New Grizzly Bear video.

Video: Grizzly Bear – “While You Wait For The Others”

The endlessly prolific The Fiery Furnaces, whose latest album at the time of this writing is I’m Going Away but may well be something new by the time you read this, will be at the El Mocambo on November 7, tickets $20.

MP3: The Fiery Furnaces – “The End Is Near”

Obviously not ones for verbosity, San Francisco’s buzzy, fuzzy poppy Girls have set a September 22 release date for their debut album Album and Fall touring bring them to the El Mocambo on November 10.

MP3: Girls – “Lust For Life”
Video: Girls – “Lust For Life”

The Quietus talks to Warren Ellis about the second Grinderman album, which should be out sometime next year.

Doves have rolled out a new video from Kingdom Of Rust

Video: Doves – “Winter Hill”

Little Boots recorded a Black Cab Session in Austin during SxSW in March. So THAT’S what the Tenori-On does! And technically, Austin cabs are not uniformly black but that’s neither here nor there. Little Boots plays Wrongbar on Monday night.

Video: Little Boots – “Stuck On Repeat” (live on Black Cab Sessions)

BeatRoute talks to Arctic Monkeys. They’re at the Kool Haus on September 29.

Shanghaiist chats with Handsome Furs.

Blare grabbed an interview with Jay Ferguson of Sloan a couple weeks back at V Fest, where he revealed there were plans to release a new digital EP this Fall and that he’s done with making CDs. Not albums, just CDs. The band also just announced they’ll be playing a free show outside the Air Canada Centre next Wednesday night, September 16, before the Leafs-Bruins pre-season game. This may well be the highlight of the season for Leafs fans.

And speaking of free public shows, that Neil Young performance that was supposed to happen at Yonge-Dundas Square on Monday is off. You can stop lining up now. Why? The Toronto Star, who reported the event in the first place, got a hold of Young and he says he had no idea he was supposed to perform in the first place and was never going to be in town. Hmm. The Jonathan Demme concert film Neil Young Trunk Show is still coming to the Film Festival though, so you can try an line up for that.

Trailer: Neil Young Trunk Show

Pitchfork invites an array of indie-rock luminaries to make “best of” lists for the century so far.

By : Frank Yang at 8:35 am
Category: General

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post3 Responses.
  1. vicky says:

    Hey Frank,
    Do you know if Vice is still holding its Festival Ball for TIFF this year?

  2. Frank Yang says:

    I actually inquired about this a few weeks ago and no, no Festival Ball – would have been tonight if there was. But there will be a Vice anniversary party next month so… free booze still!

  3. Yo La Tengo and The Horse‚Äôs Ha at The Opera House in… | MP3 Music at MixBurner says:

    […] YangIn my review of Yo La Tengo’s latest Popular Songs, I lauded the New Jersey trio for their unbelievable […]