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20 Watts Reviews Yo La Tengo’s Popular Songs by Irina Dvalidze
Popular Songs marks 25 years of spectacular music-making for Yo La Tengo

Popular Songs marks 25 years of spectacular music-making for Yo La Tengo

PREVIEW: DOWNLOAD Yo La Tengo’s “The Fireside”
WE GIVE IT: 17/20 Watts
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Editor’s Pick #159: Yo La Tengo’s Popular Songs

For a band that’s been active since 1984, Popular Songs marks 25 years of spectacular music-making. The band’s 7th release with Matador Records, the album leaked in July, prompting the label to put it up for “Buy Early Get Now” — a pre-ordering option which gives the customers extra goodies, from free MP3s to complementary posters, in order to “beat the leak every time.”

While this trio has never really achieved mainstream domination, Yo La Tengo have been a musical goldmine for every indie junkie out there. For a band that has been continuously evolving with the audience, yet maintaining its original roots, Popular Songs serves as more than just a spectacular album, and yes it is spectacular. It manages to be an overview/exploration of the style and technique the New Jersey trio has forged over the years, wrapped up into one release.

Yo La Tengo stick with their signature psychedelic, kooky beats and dream pop melodies in tracks “Nothing to Hide” and “If It’s True.”  The general flow of the album is pretty mellow and laid-back, an appeal that can be attributed to Georgia Hubley’s resonating vocals. Hubley manages to find a perfect frequency each time, whether she is taking the lead, or accompanying Ira Kaplan and James McNew as a chiming backdrop.

Popular Songs finds an ideal balance between the shimmering, ethereal melodies and heavier, instrumental arrangements in tracks “The Fireside” and “And the Glitter Is Gone.”

These two conclusive tracks, aside from being ambitiously long, are a massive acoustic bloc. “The Fireside” is probably the most appropriate title given to this rustic guitar arrangement. Meanwhile, “And the Glitter is Gone” is an intense musical cacophony, which just happens to be ideal for this album. It is loud, deranged and could disturb the unaccustomed ear after less than a minute, let alone sixteen.

Good album. Great 25 years of music. Should we even worry about Yo La Tengo coming up with anything short of spectacular in the next few?

— Irina Dvalidze


1 Comment

matador was always going to do a “buy early get now” for this record – they’ve done it for 7 other records over the past 4 years and it’s a pretty successful program. this is the 2nd ylt record they’ve done it for. while i’m sure leaks play into this sales approach, i think of it more as a way to reward loyal fans who were probably going to buy the record anyway, by giving them something that people won’t be able to pick up elsewhere, including a legitimate stream of the album ahead of release date.

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