(cassette by Dario Robleto)
We have an old saying at Matador HQ, “the only thing predictable about Yo La Tengo albums is their high level of excellence and crazy amount of musical ground covered”. Trouble is, even if you believe we really have an old saying that unwieldly, it doesn’t really do justice in this instance. The new Yo La Tengo CD/2XLP/digital album ‘Popular Songs” (OLE 856-1,2) could be the bravest musical statement to date in a career full of ‘em. Recorded in Hoboken and Nashville in early 2009 with longtime associate Roger Mountenot, ‘Popular Songs’ finds the trio of Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan and James McNew at the height of their creative powers, fashioning an epic work that’s cooly confident as it is wildly adventurous.
Even for longtime followers of Yo La Tengo, the stylistic range encompassed on ‘Popular Songs’ is startling ; the band aren’t merely conversant with rock & pop subgenres stretching into the double digits, but their unselfconscious mastery of such is simply uncanny. Without absolving you of the sacred responsibility of listening to this album from start to finish (with no commercial interruptions!) , we can say with full confidence there are portions of ‘Popular Songs’ where a cursory needle drop reveals a band that doesn’t sound instantly like Yo La Tengo — or at least how you recognized them prior to now. In the words of Mike Wolf, “Yo La Tengo is not afraid. They walk confidently forward, into the unknown, hand in hand. And 12 (or 14) albums in, they may just be hitting their stride.”
“Periodically Double Or Triple” is the first MP3 from ‘Popular Songs’. In the days to follow, we’ll have further announcements regarding a Buy Early Get Now campaign for the album, along with Yo La Tengo’s autumn tour plans.