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Posted on August 27th, 2015 (10:00 am) by Noveen Bajpai

Rare is it to observe a band as assured in its intentions as Yo La Tengo: since the group’s formation in 1984, the trio have amassed an enormous discography of nearly thirty albums and EPs. In 2013, they released Fade, which had on it some of their most mellow and beautiful efforts to date. Alongside partner and lead guitarist Ira Kaplan, drummer Georgia Hubley provides a large chunk of the vocals on the album, working excellently in tandem with longtime bassist James McNew in providing a second voice equally capable of narrating the band's gentle musical reveries. From loud and electrified to subdued and acoustic, the band’s mastery of different approaches to rock music has become one of their calling cards.

Now, Yo La Tengo return with Stuff Like That There, where they have compiled a graceful collection of sleepy covers, remakes, and new originals that successfully retain the charms of the originals while still offering shreds of novel inspiration. The album gets off to a flying start with a gentle take on Darlene McCrea’s 1964 hit “My Heart’s Not In It”. Doing without the soulful grooves and crackly lo-fi recording quality of the original, Georgia Hubley’s assured vocals and Kaplan’s melodic guitar provide a soft and free-flowing take on a legendary track.

Elsewhere, “I Can Feel The Ice Melting” functions as the feel-good fulcrum of the album. Retaining the pleasant pace of the original, acoustic and electric guitars mingle with soft drumming, making for a breezy, effortlessly enjoyable cover that compliments the soulful aura of the original take done by The Parliaments quite well. This is a track that demands the repeat button.

Longtime Yo La Tengo fans will be interested in hearing the remake of "Deeper Into Movies," which originally appeared on their 1997 album I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. Stripped of the reverb-heavy guitars which were a central feature of the original, the remade track relies more on gently-strummed acoustic guitar, matching the power and emotion of the original without lathering on any excess noise; every sound feels deliberate. While there is much to be said about making use of reverb and distortion to build powerful tracks, there is also a huge value to relying instead on tight grooves where every note serves a distinct purpose.

Another track that gets a makeover is "The Ballad of Red Buckets," which originally appeared on Yo La Tengo's 1995 album Electr-O-Pura. More streamlined and less sprawling than the original, the remake is bolstered by precise instrumentation and firm structure. The track is clearly improved, and stands as a testament to the trio's great experience and capacity for continued artistic growth. Whether one prefers the originals or the versions Yo La Tengo presents on Stuff Like That There, what’s certain is that the band has a knack for cleaning up tracks and filtering them through their own distinctly sleepy lenses—rarely does Georgia Hubley's frayed drumming exceed a murmur, functioning instead as pace-setting background noise. This is the same approach the band used on Fade, where quieter instrumentation gave the group a more intricate, deliberate sound.

On this release, Yo La Tengo have trimmed the fat from old hits. They've reinterpreted louder songs as quiet ballads and left fans with tracks that sound leaner and quieter than their original counterparts. Stuff Like That There feels like the work of an accomplished band that is still exploring its own musical consciousness, and having fun in the process.

Tracklist

  1. My Heart's Not in It (Darlene McCrea)
  2. Rickety
  3. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams)
  4. All Your Secrets (remake of track from Popular Songs)
  5. The Ballad of Red Buckets (remake of track from Electr-o-pura)
  6. Friday I'm in Love (The Cure)
  7. Before We Stopped to Think (Great Plains)
  8. Butchie's Tune" (The Lovin' Spoonful)
  9. Automatic Doom (Special Pillow)
  10. Awhileaway
  11. I Can Feel the Ice Melting (The Parliaments)
  12. Naples (Antietam)
  13. Deeper Into Movies (remake of track from I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One)
  14. Somebody's In Love (The Cosmic Rays with Le Sun Ra and Arkestra)
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

74 / 100
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