One of America's most influential and captivating rock bands, Hoboken, N.J.'s Yo La Tengo celebrates its 25th anniversary with the release of Popular Songs, which continues the trio's tradition of balancing soft acoustic pop with dark, enthralling rock. Guitarist/vocalist Ira Kaplan, drummer/vocalist Georgia Hubley and bassist/vocalist James McNew have made another impeccably crafted delight, which you can hear in its entirety here, for the week prior to its release on Sept. 8.
courtesy of the artist
Yo La Tengo. courtesy of the artist
The album's opener, "Here to Fall," sets the tone, with soulfully psychedelic keyboard and string orchestrations, while trance-like ambient keyboards back up Hubley's vocals on the tenderly somnambulant "By Two's." The band then steps into the garage for "Nothing to Hide" before exploring its funky side in "Periodically Double or Triple." More echoes of soul music are felt in "If It's True" — imagine a marriage of the Stax/Volt sound and Belle & Sebastian — followed by the autumnal melancholy of "I'm on My Way," which saunters like a long-lost Jimmy Webb classic. As always, Yo La Tengo showcases many musical sides and finds a way to own them all.
For those who prefer Yo La Tengo's propensity for long jams, the album closes with three epics in a row. The nine-minute "More Stars Than There Are in Heaven" is a shimmering love song, followed by two lengthy instrumentals: the hypnotically quiet "The Fireside" (an 11-minute acoustic number) and a blockbuster called "And the Glitter Is Gone," which closes the disc with nearly 16 minutes of blistering, Sonic Youth-worthy noise-rock.
So what do you think? How does Yo La Tengo hold up 16 albums — and a quarter-century — into its career? And which side of the band do you prefer: the sunny soul or the edgy experimentalism? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.