Yo La Tengo: Popular Songs

Umpteen albums into Yo La Tengo’s nearly quarter-century of existence, it seems that they’ve finally hit on a spectacular balance. No, Popular Songs is not a compilation (though the band’s actual ‘best of,’ Prisoners of Love, is somewhat less satisfying than Popular Songs), but it might as well be. It finds the band smoothing out some of its rough edges without totally abandoning their rough-and-tumble approach to indie rock. The opener in particular, “Here to Fall,” sweeps the listener into the air with a strings-and-keyboard arrangement that’ll stir up wet dreams of Paul Buckmaster making love to Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan’s interpersonal-musical union with muted fire and momentum. This could easily be the sound of Yo La blowing their wad way too early, but as it turns out, it neatly sets up the rest of the record to roll through ‘60s homages like the Farfisa fun-time “Periodically Double or Triple” and the Lovin’ Spoonful-esque “I’m On My Way” (try singing “Didn’t Want to Have to Do It” over the verses), and on into three lengthy drones that could easily be the perfect soundtrack to getting stoned. (Matador 2009)

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