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coverpic flag US - New Jersey - Full Moon 160 - 10/04/09

Yo La Tengo
Popular Songs
Matador Records / Playground

A new album by veterans (they are, 25 years/12 regular albums on in the game) Yo La Tengo is like having a dear old friend - someone you haven't seen for a long, long time - knocking on your door. You're letting him/her in for a good chat, a cup of tea/coffee, a delicious dinner (nothing fancy), guided by some good wine (or beer), and a drink afterwards. Maybe even a quick dessert, and a glass of port. Then, hugs and goodbye. Night-y-night. Friendship.

I never get tired of Yo La Tengo. Well, I 'd better correct myself. I found Summer Sun (2003) rather dull at the time. Maybe I should give it another try. Besides that one, I'm a fan all the way. Popular Songs (their 12th album, not counting some of the neat collections/compilations/soundtrack releases, or the Condo Fucks' record earlier this year) is a new album holding 12 songs, a quality pack of high standard song-writing. As always Yo La Tengo buzz and whisper. They make quiet noise and loud silence. They play to-the-point sugar-coated (sweet'n'sour taste) pop songs clocking in at 3 minutes ("Nothing to Hide"), and they glide on into expanded/extended musical landscapes lasting 10-15 minutes ("The Fireside" and "And the Glitter Is Gone").

Opener "Here to Fall" is a magic, swirling song. It's a dizzying, hallucinatory merry-go-round ride, with a dazed, psychedelic touch. "Avalon or Someone Very Similar", sung by Georgia, is a classic swaying Yo la Tengo ballad, with ace guitar picks by Ira. And a juicy organ, like most of the songs. Georgia sings the spellbinding "By Two's" as well, showing Yo La Tengo's most touching and fragile side. It's even somewhat eerie, creepy, as well. "All Your Secrets" is a fantastic, fine song. The closing, nearly 16 minutes long "And the Glitter Is Gone" is a massive piece. If I should say something negative about Popular Songs, I'd say it (maybe) is a bit too long. Well, that's what I often feel when hearing albums clocking in at 1 hour plus. That said, Popular Songs should be heard again and again, from start to finish. Eventually it works better and better as a whole. It's like the mothership of popular music never becoming too popular.

Ira, Georgia and James are good and clever people, knowing the history of pop and rock inside-out. Popular Songs is sort of a reflection of 40+ years of popular music. This album is pretty amazing, and - again - Yo La Tengo have come up with one of their best. I'm looking forward to yet another European tour later this fall.

Copyright © 2009 Håvard Oppøyen e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Yo La Tengo articles/reviews: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, Fade, I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass, I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, John Dee, Oslo, Norway, 02.11.06, Prisoners of Love: A Smattering of Scintillating Senescent Songs 1985-2003, Stuff Like That There, Stupid Things EP, Summer Sun, The Sounds of the Sounds of Science, You Can Have It All b/w Ready-Mades.

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