Originally Posted by BroncoInferno
Hey Hogan--How is the new Yo La Tengo? I've been meaning to pick it up but it keeps slipping my mind.
YO LA TENGO - POPULAR SONGS
Rating - 3 1/2 Stars (on The Dave Marsh scale of a block to 5 stars)
I have no doubt long time fans of the band will be content with this, the bands first album since 2006. Popular Songs (a title that's firmly tongue in cheek) is a holding pattern, offering more of the same directions explored in previous efforts with a variety of variation. The new wrinkles here are added strings that don't rob the band of it's power (a problem that R.E.M. never recovered from) and a one-off flirtation with classic Motown soul never before attempted in the entire catalog.
Things start off neo-psychedelically with "Here To Fall", a keyboard based mind**** romp augmented by tasteful backing strings that never overshadow the song or it's trippy inclinations. There's nothing like it previously in the band's catalog.
Avalon is a good to great slice of mid-tempo jangle pop. I thought this track had Georgia's vocals on it initally, but after seeing the band play it live, it's actually Ira singing it in a high-pitched voice. It's a beautiful song and maybe stood a better chance of breaking out had Ira sang it in his normal voice, oh well.
BY Two's is an ambient track circa "And Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out". Very slow and atmospheric with a dry Georgia vocal. I once asked Ira about tracks like this and he said to me that they are really showcases for the band's love of the ebow......you can expect one track like this per disc for the remainder of the band's career. It's up to you whether or not you use it as an intermission.
Nothing To Hide is a fuzztone three chord indie rocker with an Ira "solo" dripping in feedback and recalling the ghost of Robert Quinne. It's as thrilling as it is awesome.
Periodically Double Or Triple, with it's catchy, funky bassline is the band's entry for dance pop radio airplay. The tracks accessability is ultimately underminded by weirdness in the bridge, making a wide audience unlikely. Still, it's synths and bassline make it probably the most likeable song on the disc at first listen. This is the track most recalled when people are asked about this disc and with good reason.
If It's True is my personal favorite. A classic bit of Motown soul, colored by strings, a Hammond organ and with call and response vocals by both Ira and Georgia. The band never before attempted anything like this and they succeed beyond expectations.
I'm On My Way, When It's Dark & All Your Secrets are low key, adult pop done as you'd come to expect from the band. Each could fit comfortably on "I Can Feel The Heart Beating" or "I'm Not Afraid Of You" with ease and very well may be holdovers from the last album, although none of them feel like outtakes.
The final three tracks on the disc collectively run just a bit longer than the previous nine. They make for demanding listening and bring down the disc as a whole. Perhaps as a reaction to the overall pop leanings of the initial tracks, More Stars Than There Are In Heaven recalls Big Day Coming with it's hypnotic keyboard loop and slow pace for close to 10 minutes.
Perhaps the most unbearable track on the disc, The Fireside is a spare, acoustic arrangemnt that drifts for 11 minutes without variation of any kind. It's sleep inducing drone recalls I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One's "One PM Again" If that does cause you to dose off, then you'll be awaken rudely by And the Glitter Is Gone, a 16 + minute Ira guitar freakout jam drenched in ear-splitting feedback.
I awarded the album 3 1/2 stars, meaning that it has appeal to fans of a particular style and/or is of interest to established fans of a particular artist, but the work is unlikely to attract new fans or win over detractors of an artist's previous works.
That's how I see it Inferno. I personally think you would like it, but I'd direct newbies to other albums before this one if they were being introduced to the band for the first time. Once you get it, lemme know if you agree or disagree with this assessment. I would be most interested in your opinion of it.
Hope this somehow helps.