YO LA TENGO Ė Popular Songs (Matador)

It has been too long since Yo La Tengoís last album ĎI Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Assí, so it was a welcome surprise when I heard that this was due out. One listen to it confirms that the band are as quirky and experimental as ever, but at the same time can produce great indie-pop like ĎHere To Fallí, which opens the album. The sweeping strings at the end recall parts of ĎI Am The Walrusí, while the song itself is as catchy as anything that they have written so far. ĎAvalon Or Someone Very Similarí floats by on a cloud of subdued fuzz guitars, while the vocal soars on this deceptively simple song. ĎBy Twoísí is more experimental, with a droning backing and minimal bass and drums, and it evokes an atmosphere of otherworldliness. If there is one thing that Yo La Tengo excel at it is being able to change genres in the blink of an eye, and so from the dreamy ĎBy Twoísí we are treated to the 60ís garage rock of ĎNothing To Hideí, complete with gritty guitar solo and pulsing organ. ĎPeriodically Double Or Tripleí rides along on a funky bassline and Stax organ, including a great discordant solo, and this groove carries on with the purer Motown sound of ĎIf Itís Trueí. ĎIím On My Wayí is a countrified ballad, which oddly enough doesnít sound out of place after the last three tracks, and ĎWhen Itís Darkí is pure indie pop, complete with harmony vocals and catchy melody. ĎAll Your Secretsí adds in some twangy guitar and a nice organ break for another 60ís influenced pop song, which brings to a close the first half of the album. As is always the case with Yo La Tengo, they love to challenge their listeners, so the last three tracks on here are lengthy guitar work-outs, starting with the slow building ĎMore Stars Than There Are In Heavení. Although stretched out to over nine minutes, this is still a fairly conventional rock song, and grooves along nicely for its allotted time. ĎThe Firesideí is a bit more abstract, with its acoustic and electric guitar pretty much carrying the whole piece, and even when the vocals make a fleeting appearance at the end it just adds to the atmosphere created by the sparseness of the instrumentation. ĎAnd The Glitter Is Goneí closes the album with one of the bandís trademark guitar freakouts Ė fifteen minutes of squalling guitar, krautrock rhythms and chanted vocals. For me this is the band at their best, although I know it is not to some peopleís taste, but the great thing about Yo La Tengo is that if you donít like this style there are plenty of other songs that you will enjoy, so donít be afraid to give them a try.
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