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

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(image taken from False 45th, merch from Hanukkah 2007, and a lovely tribute to one of the more shy and retiring Jewish artists of all time)

As you might recall, we polled a number of number of medium-to-high profile Yo La Tengo fans and asked for their favorite YLT song. Said results were supposed to appear in this space during each of Hanukkah’s 8 nights, but after an all too typical Matablog orgy of buck-passing, we’re (ahem) a little late. Also, we suck at math : there are ten total entries instead of 8. Happy belated Hanukkah to all!

JULIA RYDHOLM, The Ladybug Transistor
“Sugarcube” from I Can hear The Heart Beating As One

I have a lot of favorite Yo La Tengo songs, but I am going to single out “Sugarcube”. I love how the song kicks off with a lawless, tumbling drum fill, barrelling into the disciplined, driving, over-driven guitar chords that sustain the frame of the song. I love the song’s metamorphic layers of fuzzy chords, persistent shakers, splashy cymbals, and hazy vocals with Ira’s guitar solos weaving through the lot of it. I love that the song sounds like the blurry, night-windowed artwork on the back of the album. I love that the tension between the head-over-heels drum introduction and the song suddenly trying to get a hold of itself, is mirrored in the lyrics’ struggle with over-the-top acrobatic desperation and trying to keep one’s cool. I love that the lyrics sound like the mantra anyone really feeling something recites to reassure oneself, and wants to, but tries so hard not to plead out loud to the one they want.

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GLENN MERCER, The Feelies
“Stockholm Syndrome” from I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One

This song has that open-chord, campfire-strum that we often use in the Feelies. It also has a hint of a 50’s vibe that appeals to me. Nice solo.

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FRED ARMISEN
“Black Flowers” from I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass

I got married this year, and we used this song for our first dance at the wedding. My wife loves it and I love it and James sings so sweetly on it. I asked him what the lyrics were about, and he told me that it was a message from him today to himself in the past, circa 2005. A message to hang on.

BRITT DANIEL, Spoon
“Saturday” from And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

This song sends me to another place. That’s powerful, huh? The first time I heard it, it was one of those preview tracks you get to download for free before the record comes out. It must have taken me an hour or two to download it and I remember writing a friend at Matador immediately after hearing it the first time and saying “This has got me excited!” I don’t know, I love it. Every hazy, offhand element comes together into one creepy but magical focus that always gets me.

LAURA CANTRELL
“The Summer” from Fakebook

My favorite Yo La Tengo song is “The Summer,” it just has this lovely vibe to it, a lot of feeling packed into a few words, simple but really effective; the recording too is sweetly moody. I’ve also long been a fan of their version of Gene Clark’s “Tried So Hard,” which just precedes “The Summer” on “Fakebook” — I was pleased many years ago when I requested it at a show and they actually played it! Gene Clark might not have been Jewish, but it would be a good request for one of their Hanukkah shows!