Inventive, ethereal Indie Rock from Yo La Tengo
Sometimes the hardest part of a post is the title. I usually try to convey a sense of what I’m recommending in 5 or 6 words, plus the band’s name. Yo La Tengo is hard to quantify. Especially because they display such range even within one album. Most people call them Indie Rock, but this genre has become so broad as to be almost as meaningless as “Alternative.“ For example, what do Indie Rock bands Belle & Sebastian and The Flaming Lips have in common? Beyond the fact that my wife hates them both, not much.
Yo La Tengo brings a wide variety sounds from creeping and haunting to pleasant and melodic to driving and raucous. You may have heard of them (They’re not Hispanic; they’re from Hoboken, NJ. Check out the funny story behind their name). While they haven’t had huge commercial success, they’ve been around since 1984 and have a very loyal following. If you aren’t familiar with them, a good introduction is their gorgeous 2000 release, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.
This is a very strong disc all the way through and more than half the tracks made my iPod. Check out these.
- Everyday – This is one of the creeping, haunting tunes I mentioned. Plodding drums and warbling harmonies (that you don’t hear on the sample) are backed by plinking atmospherics. The overall affect is cool, but it is a bold choice to kick off a disc.
- Our Way To Fall – This delicate vibe is sung gently and laced with airy keyboards. The percussion is perfect, with just enough kick to keep it from getting sleepy.
- Saturday – This song won’t be for everyone, but listen to the sample. It gives you a good sense of the kind of experimentation they’re doing with ambient noise and production effects on the percussion. It works for me.
- Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House – This has more of a danceable beat but still sports a relaxed feel and pretty vocals.
- Last Days of Disco – Another beautiful song with creative percussion. It tells the story of meeting a girl at a party and dancing with her.
- You Can Have It All – The backing vocal vamp and marching beat continue throughout (except for 8 bars) and there’s some tasteful extras: gongs, strings.
- Tired Hippo – This instrumental sounds like incidental music from a Quentin Tarrantino film.
I realize I have picked the mellow songs off this album. To get the Rock part of Indie Rock, you may like Cherry Chapstick off this album.
Like any band who has been around for 20+ years, they have put out a lot of music and much of their catalog is great. If you like these tracks, check out some of their late work: I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (1997), Summer Sun (2003), and I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (2006).
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