Yo La Tengo creates unique, captivating new album

By Kimberly Givant || Managing Editor

On August 28, Hoboken-based indie-rock band Yo La Tengo released their 14th studio album Stuff Like That There. Active since 1984, Yo La Tengo has attracted a sizable and loyal audience based on their ability to create a wide range of individually unique, yet all successfully experimental, series of albums. Their original style of husband-and-wife mumbled harmonies by married original band members Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley and experimental roots is still felt in this album. But while that well-worn, beloved style is present, Stuff Like That There lacks the envelope-pushing that YLT usually brings to their artistry.

Earlier this year, James McNew, who was formerly a member of YLT in the ’80s, rejoined the group. This semi-reunion made it appear likely that their new album would include a wider range of instrumentals, similar to their 11th studio album I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass. But Stuff Like That There is surprisingly simple for Yo La Tengo, and the track of shocking originality that YLT usually sneaks into their albums is absent.

Many songs on the album even bear resemblance to some of YLT’s most popular compositions. The tracks “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Deeper Into Movies” have comparable arrangements to “Tears Are In Your Eyes,” and other dream-pop and dream-rock tracks on their ninth studio album And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out. Yo La Tengo prove they are still the masters of the deep-dark indie genre with their aptitude to create an entire album of distinct, yet all relaxingly melancholic, tracks. “The Ballad of Red Buckets” fully embodies their hauntingly lackadaisical forte with an off-putting, but expertly crafted, instrumental and vocal arrangement. This song fits very well into the traditional Yo La Tengo style, similar to their hits “Green Arrow,” “Autumn Sweater,” and “Everyday.”

Though this album is not quite as experimentally indie as some others in YLT’s discography, the group did put a new spin on their style. Tracks “All Your Secrets” and “Butchie’s Tune” both have a touch of what I can only describe as lethargic Appalachian-indie-surf rock. The beachy, slothful guitar paired with off-beat vocal harmonies adds an interesting spin to their distinct music. YLT also brings their indie tranquility to the most conventionally popular track on Stuff Like That There, a rendition of British rock band The Cure’s 1992 hit “Friday I’m In Love.”

Unfortunately, the album does not include a beautifully tender and vocally-driven track by band member Dave Schramm like “Stockholm Syndrome” from I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One and “Black Flowers” from I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass.

Stuff Like That There also does not contain the noise-pop and experimental-rock that many fell in love with in songs like “Sugarcube” from I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. Though Stuff Like That There still contains their original style and undisputed YLT creativity, the experimentation that made Yo La Tengo such an interesting and exciting indie band to follow is dialed back on their newest album. While none of the tracks on this album are so shocking and strange that they make you keep going back for another listen, Yo La Tengo has created another brilliantly-structured, and completely serene, indie album. 

Kimberly Givant is the Managing Editor. Her email is kgivant@fandm.edu.

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