A Hanukkah Special (Crammed Into A Few Days) : Peers & Pals Pick Their Yo La Tengo Favorites (Pt. I)

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(the above tee — designed by Stephen Hunking, based on an original work by Raymond Pettibone, marked Yo La Tengo’s December ’08 eight night stand in Hoboken, and is still available)

Yo La Tengo are taking a rare year off from their annual Hanukkah shows at Maxwell’s —they’re in Japan right now — and as a result, we polled a bunch of famous name YLT fans and asked them to pick their favorite song from the trio’s vast back catalog.  Ideally, we’d planned to roll one of these out each night for 8 days (get it?)….but then the Beggars Group Holiday Party happened….and we all lost our wallets, keys, laptops and senses for a few days.   So we’ll start with 5 today, alright?

CLINT CONLEY, Mission Of Burma
“The Race Is On Again” from ‘I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Am Going To Beat Your Ass’

To me this song is typical of YLT finding their way into a quiet corner of the Indie-sphere that hasn’t been raked over by the hordes, and is theirs alone.   Sweet and beautiful melancholia .   With chord changes that feel fresh every time I hear them.

BRIAN TURNER, WFMU/The Mad Scene
“Deeper Into Movies” from ‘I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One’

Some YLT songs kinda crack open more and more instrumentally, spiralling up to a total frothing pot of epic noize but never obliterating the fabric of the song and how it’s structured. This one is definitely one of the ceilings in that realm; there’s vocal unity and a swoony melody with a repeated mantra that pokes through as the chaos builds, and it’s really lovely. Anarchic but centered, never forgetting the song and its progression. It’s almost like the Beach Boys backed by a Sonny Sharrock-fronted Rallizes Denudes or something insane that shouldn’t work but does perfectly.

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DAVID KILGOUR, The Clean
“From A Motel 6” from ‘Painful’

I’ve had the pleasure of playing this with Yo La Tengo a few times. They gave me the job of the slide, which I gleefully took.  A unique song from a unique band. Of course I’m biased, but who ain’t?!

DAVID CROSS
“Big Day Coming” from ‘Painful’

My all time favorite YLT song (for now) is Big Day Coming.  And the fact that there are two of them only doubles my pleasure. That’s saying quite a bit too as I have over fifty-seven favorite YLT songs. And that, for reasons I won’t go into here, Yo La Tengo will forever be associated with severe stomach cramps and extreme nausea and I STILL love them very much.

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KURT WAGNER, Lambchop
“Wizard’s Sleeve” from’Short Bus : Original Soundtrack’

The title still haunts me like a Halloween movie.  Sure, I have many other favorite YLT songs, but play this one for me and I’ll most likely not recognize it.  To me, that really speaks volumes to the special nature of this particular song.