This Stupid World
Yo La Tengo
It’s funny that Yo La Tengo’s cult or minimal mainstream success comes from their work in the early 2000s, when they were probably at their poppiest sound. I guess that makes sense, but in the years leading up to this new album, This Stupid World, they’ve proved to be one of the most exploratory sounding indie bands that refuses to die.
This Stupid World is their 17th album and it continues this notion, sounding post-rock, minimal rock, shoegaze, noise pop, and indie folk all at once. There’s usually multiple instruments blaring or whirring at the same time in the background, giving it a very present live off the floor demo sound.
And of course, leader Ira Kaplan’s almost monotone, satirical vocal delivery, sometimes backed up by members, Georgia Hubley (whose lead vocals on “Aselestine,” are a highlight) and James McNew, lead these experimental sound orchestrations. But his vocals have always sounded that way— very laid back, never reaching more than 90 decibels—it’s one of the aspects that gives the band that distinct Yo La Tengo sound.
This new album sounds like it could have been made in the 2000s, unreserved songs like “Fallout” that never made it onto one of their other many albums, but it also sounds like it’s own thing. “Tonight’s Episode” continues the artificial whirring sound from the album opener “Sinatra Drive Breakdown,” so even though at first listen it doesn’t feel like there’s consistency, I have no doubt that Yo La Tengo made sure there is. They’re just clearly a band with a long list of influences and like to make it up as they go, never satisfied with one sound. This songwriting style is how we get a song like “Until It Happens,” which is dark folk, with its minor acoustic chords, mixed with synth rock, and an almost motoric afrobeat on what sounds like bongos.
So is it good? The eternal question. I’m sure people who have been following Yo La Tengo since day one will think it’s a masterpiece, but the truth is that while it offers some new sounds (I still have no idea what’s going on in in the Sonic Youth-esque “Brain Capers”) it probably won’t cut through the current musical landscape. But you have to give credit where credit is due, and this band, that has been making music since the Chernobyl accident, is constantly expanding and adding to its musical toolbox—still showing the newer bands of this generation what you can do with the traditional band set up.
Yo La Tengo could have stopped making albums years ago, and just toured the nostalgic hits, but they didn’t and they probably never will. This is because they’re artists; artists with a loving curse that requires them to make art until they die.
Pre-order This Stupid World by Yo La Tengo HERE
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