I think this is as good a time as any for a new Yo La Tengo record. The world could do with a little bit of the soothing balm they put into their music. Unlike many other bands of their vintage who rely on collaboration and guest stars to ice their records, Yo La Tengo did this all themselves....and that's the way we like it.
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My favourite genre of completely useless televised news is the “What’s your secret?” bulletin, where they find an elderly couple who’ve been married longer than we can imagine holding a short conversation and the interviewer asks them why they still want to sit next to each other. That, but, like, for bands -- you’d have to go to Yo La Tengo, the incidentally married band who’ve been making music of more or less the same quality and consequence for… over three decades? Are you for real? How do they do it?
Yo La Tengo’s best record was, ultimately, a mixtape, a subtle and unintrusive collection of all their dreamy sonic hallmarks that let people pick and choose their favourites. ‘I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One’ isn’t so much their masterpiece as it is their best example; over sixteen beautiful tracks, they spread themselves out to listeners, offering each biggest fan their chance to have a different favourite song. With its shy instrumentals, light bluesy inflections, free jazz experiments and songful domestic ecstasy, ‘There’s a Riot Going On’ reminds me of that Yo La Tengo: one wandering on a nice day through different trains of thought until they reach their destination and find themselves amongst the same loving, familiar faces.
As soon as I heard “You Are Here” I just knew; much like Fade’s “Ohm”, it has a light, shrugged-off drama, its shoegazing turned inwards like the trio are playing their instruments in a tight circle, facing one another. It’s enough to send a tremor through my heart and then sooth it, and it sets the tone for a record of lush, emotive sounds set against everyday thrills. The blissful melancholy of “Shades of Blue”; the hypothetical romanticism of “She May, She Might”; the gleeful empty-threats of “Polynesia”. The record, performed with the exactness of a Yo La Tengo record, never sounds anything but beautiful. It is whispered to the listener not because it’s a secret, but because we know to lean in: we don’t need to ask Yo La Tengo how they do it, because we did it with them. If you’re a first time listener, there’s no difference: you listen to this band and you live with them.
As other bands do less or more, Yo La Tengo go with their heart: this record offers the same gentle noise and light indie pop, and yet I find comfort in how utterly lovely it is to revel in that sameness, to turn your band into an object in the world that time stands still on. Listening to this mixtape of homely knick-knacks, I realise how appropriate it is to call the record 'There's a Riot Going On'. Adjacent to the world, they notice it. Yo La Tengo are going at half the speed in the opposite direction.
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- There’s A Riot Going On by Yo La Tengo
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