Popular Songs

Popular Songs
Composer: Yo La Tengo
Conductor: Yo La Tengo
Label: Matador
Release Date: 2009-09-16
Rated: NONE
Genre: Recording

Old married couple and YLT founders Ira Kaplan (guitar, vocals) and Georgia Hubley (drums, vocals) should by all rights be growing fat off remastered greatest-hits collections and soundtrack royalties in 2009, 25 years into their musical careers. Instead, they’ve put out two quality albums. Largely absent of the distortion-drenched garage aggression that marked their release under the Condo Fucks moniker earlier this year, Popular Songs is a headier, more carefully executed experience. Opener “Here to Fall” sets out a spongy bed of fuzzy James McNew bass and burnt-out disco strings to cushion the landing, while the lyrics acknowledge your fears without offering any real comfort. But no matter, Hubley’s multitracked sleepyhead harmonies on the non-specific “Avalon or Someone Very Similar” make for one of the most purely pretty songs of the year. “By Two’s” backs Hubley with somber keyboards and light ambience, and the effect is like snorkeling in a codeine sea. Uptempo “Nothing to Hide” is an excellent wake-up call, roughing up a catchy organ riff with some Stooges guitar squall and blown-speaker bass. The album closes with three stretched-out songs — “More Stars Than There Are in Heaven,” “The Fireside,” and “And the Glitter is Gone” — each longer and spacier than the last. At 9 minutes, 37 seconds; 11 minutes, 22 seconds; and 15 minutes, 51 seconds, respectively, they’re enough to make you wonder if today’s blog darlings even have the attention spans to keep up.