A Lo-Fi 2013

December 31st, 2013 No comments

In prior years, the months prior to December 31 were often spent putting together long lists and reviewing every album twice to check to see whether the band was naughty or nice. This year I decided to change that. I am not sure that I can sit here and post an “End of Year” list that I would ever feel right with. Names did not necessarily cement themselves in stone as the best album. Instead, as trends go, I find myself becoming more transfixed into lo-fi music.

Even as the clock is ticking down to midnight, I find myself still listening to new music, (as I am presently writing this) a sideproject of Ty Segall’s by the name of ‘Fuzz’ that has more in relation to Black Sabbath. Unlike his singular solo effort for 2014 which was more acoustic and slightly on the depressing side, his music still seemed to play a pivotal role for me in my overall music listening for 2013, even though I seemed to overlook this album until the final 12 hours of the year.

Such is the hunting for new music and it would seem that you can overlook things of even of the music you appreciate most.

The debates for streaming music continued as well as more artists got into the fray either defending or criticizing sites such as Spotify which has changed the landscape of music-listening. I found myself supporting the streaming crowd finding the old days of listening to music on CD, LP or Cassette more about listeners clinging to their romanticized past and I find the complaints of artists, especially established ones barking up the wrong tree and should instead focus their efforts on their record companies who seem to think that they are offering something worthwhile.

There were still several established acts that got me interested in music. Wire continues to put out solid records, and “Change Becomes Us” both takes from the past and the present as the band took some material that was initially written to be a follow-up to 154 and took some of those tracks and rewrote them.

Yo La Tengo’s ‘Fade’ continued along their subtle movements in psychadelic rock. The opening track, ‘Ohm’ was, in my opinion, one of their best tracks in years.

The most anticipated record would have had to be My Bloody Valentine’s “MBV”, their first release in over 20 years. If anything the album felt to me like where “Loveless” left off and captured 20 years of My Bloody Valentine up to present day 2013. In the case of Kevin Shield’s, we would hope that any follow-up would take less than 2 decades to complete.

Thom Yorke’s sideproject, Atoms For Peace, came out with “Amok” and my thoughts seemed to be that there was not much different between this and the most recent Radiohead release King of Limbs.

As much as I was in love with Foxygen’s EP ‘Take the Kids Off Broadway”, I felt that “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic” to borrow to many different clique’s of the 60s as if it was attempting to emulate the best of the 60s. On the surface, the album is filled with hooks a plenty but for a combination of my preference to their earlier work as well as getting tired of their publicity stunts/immaturity, this album was a disappointment considering I had lofty expectations going in.

There were other bands that disappointed me. I felt that Arcade Fire’s newest album “Reflektor” had too few amazing tracks for a double album. Their title track was amazing and the video that followed but I am finding that bands that set up these marketing machines to promote a record before it was released become fairly exhaustive vs. the choices of artists like Beyonce who just released an album without any promotion as well as My Bloody Valentine that did something similar with MBV.

Deerhunter’s “Monomania” was also a slight disappointment although the title track was probably one of my favorite tracks of the year.

2013 was not necessarily an eye-opening year for music or should I say there was not a ton to get excited about. In fact, I think that there is not even an “Album of the Year”. At the very least I see myself delaying this until I have something to announce. There were several good records but nothing great.

Most of my time seemed to be centered around Ty Segall/White Fence who both released some good albums this year. Segall came out with Sleeper, which the majority is an acoustic affair that focuses some on the death of his adopted father from a long battle with cancer as well as a falling out with his mother. It’s a solid and emotionally intense affair and again shows the dexterity of Segall’s material.

There were a couple of White Fence affairs of note. Cyclops Reap which, I thought was one of their most consistent releases as well as a live show from San Francisco which provides a bit more insurgency to their material. Having been introduced to both artists (White Fence, Segall) work separately in 2012 as well as a collaborative effort, ‘Hair’, I knew that going in that 2013 would be a year full of both new releases as well as a more concentrated effort on their earlier material.

I found myself going back and listening to quite a bit of Velvet Underground (even before the passing of Lou Reed) and as mentioned before made a more constant effort to explore the world of Guided by Voices and the prolific Robert Pollard.

For me, it could be that lo-fi focuses so much more on something that feels real as compared to electronic music while still trying to avoid music written for the Civil War. I think there is a certain energy that exists that I have been attracted to. At the end of the day, this music fan that likes putting together a list just couldn’t do it but rather reflect on the direction that I am headed for 2014.

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Between Thought and Expression Lies a Lifetime

November 12th, 2013 No comments

I have always loved that line. It might be because I have always felt a difficulty to express myself. I used to joke that I thought at about a 40 words per minute pace and unfortunately, it would be the wrong word or thought that would come out. Of course the reality of the song is that that it would be dealing with the taboo thoughts on sex, as Reed eloquently puts it. Maybe, the line above has more to do with never being satisfied as in the second stanza, “Some kinda love, the possibilities are endless”.

But this is what is so great about that line is that I have been listening to it for the last 22 years and I am still trying to grasp it. To me, this is when the poet wins, when the poet writes the perfect line and it ends up being written on the margins on school papers or stolen by yours truly probably in the hundreds of times.

I had not had a chance to appropriately file my thoughts on the passing of Lou Reed, the Godfather of Punk. Reed happened to be the first rock star that I had met, way back in my freshman year of college when I saw him at a book signing in Chicago. I still remember wearing a Chicago Bears sweatshirt and a winter coat and remember walking up to him while he was wearing green tinted hexagon metal-rimmed sunglasses.

While his music had piqued my interest when I was noticing R.E.M. and their covers of “There She Goes Again”, “Pale Blue Eyes” and “Femme Fatale”, it was not until the summer of my graduation after high school that I began to delve into the actual Velvet Underground discography.

I started with the Best Of and I still remember the haunting moments of listening to “Heroin” late at night and I will tell ya, things were never quite the same after that moment.

I remember getting a care package sometime in the fall with some newspaper cutouts from my mother regarding Lou Reed during my first quarter at DePaul, and I am not sure she would have sent those cutouts had she ever listened to the song herself. The decision had been an easy one and even with only a couple months, it was fairly obvious that Reed and the Velvets had made an early impression on me.

Understand there was a certain vulgarity that existed with the Velvet Underground, and today we might take it as commonplace but in the mid-60s rock and roll was still at it’s infancy when many considered rock and roll vulgar already. The Velvets took it one step further, writing about trannies, drugs, prostitutes, deviant sex acts.

It was always about pushing that boundary just a little bit farther; it was about not being afraid.

I am not a classic writer. There are mistakes strewn all across this page. I used to write much more than I do today but I came to the realization that I need to continually write my thoughts down for public eyes whether it’s 5 or 5000 and I have to say that I have a bit of gratitude to Lou for helping me get there.

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#1 R.E.M. – Murmur

October 17th, 2013 No comments

R.E.M. – Murmur

Murmur has always felt like a dark fairytale; the album cover is covered in Kudzu, a plant that arrived on America’s shores from Japan and found a place in the south to deal with soil erosion. Of course the plant not only solved the issue of soil erosion but started taking over the land, killing trees and covering it’s history.

Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry probably did not have much of an idea then they walked in the studio at this point in their careers to understand the nuances of making their first full length record. They had an idea of what they didn’t want; an album that sounded their live sets but rather create an eerie atmosphere to work with. With the help of Mitch Easter and Don Dixon producing, they not only redefined rock and roll but redefined the south as we know it.

When we think of southern rock we think of bands like the Allman Brothers or Lynrd Skynrd. However, what R.E.M. did was add some mysticism, in a way feeling a bit more in line with Faulkner’s ‘Sound in the Fury’ whether this was trying to decipher the lyrics of Michael Stipe or/if you understood what he was saying, what it exactly meant and immediately the phrase “Katie bar the door” comes to mind.

They borrowed from their past, taking their original songs from their first single Radio Free Europe and Sitting Still as being the backbone of the album. ‘Radio Free Europe’ creates a level of insurgency but the meaning can still be questioned as Stipe himself babbles lyrics that are both indecipherable as times and often contain phrases that are hard to discern the true meaning. In some ways, they were just random words

The arguments about what’s the best era for R.E.M. and I think its fairly obvious their first full length record was not just the best record of their careers but one of the top albums ever made. Delivered in the wake of punk, right at the height of New Wave, R.E.M.’s album works because it’s ability to not only launch one of the quietest revolutions in rock and roll but in such a subtle manner taking elements from pop. It lacks a bad chorus, verse, chord or note. The album works as much as a post-punk statement as much as it works as a psychedelic folk rock album with Michael Stipe’s mumbles creeping through the kudzu. Literally, I would say that this is the kind of album that makes dreams. Michael Stipe’s thoughts in his lyrics early on were not necessarily linear but phrases in many cases constructed together “purposefully haphazard”. Listeners would spend hours trying to make out the words and of course the internet was developed with part of the goal was for the world to get together and cobble together “Unofficial” lyrics of the band.

As much attention that is spent on Stipe’s lyrics or the guitar work of Peter Buck, the glue that holds everything together is Bill Berry whose drum work is underrated when considering the genius of this album. While fans were scourging to figure out what was being said, you find yourself lost in his percussion work on tracks like ‘Pilgrimage’ or Catapult (which also happens to be the grand experiment with Stephen Hague that went wrong).

While the band has shared songwriting credits equally through the years, there is one song the band has claimed was written by Berry and that would be their first “Ballad”, if you could call it that, and that would be ‘Perfect Circle’. Lyrically indirect, it seems the only clear quote would be “A perfect circle of acquaintences and friends’, and yet the song and music feel emotional and real.

Putting together this list of albums, at times, was a challenge. Making a determination of what albums should go where felt like pulling teeth and even after putting together the list there is still some doubt as to whether something should have been higher or lower on the listing. This is the one album that I have never doubted as being my favorite album. There is never any question that I would tattoo this on my chest wondering whether the dreamlike qualities exhibited throughout seemed to be more about my own personality. Maybe it is because I have always been difficult at remembering lyrics to songs and find the idea of memorizing key phrases more important.

Maybe it’s my love of the psychedelic sounds that the album displays, whether it’s the freakish nature on a song like 9-9 or are they the simple hooks on songs like Sitting Still that make this feel more like a pop album. Maybe it is the qualities of songs like “We Walk” which seem to invoke scary fairytales that remind me of my youth. It is an album that has only strengthened with time. I used to wonder if rock and roll would ever die in my heart. That I would grow old and start listening to something like Kenny G, but I realized that the album has kept me young, even if I have plenty of gray hairs on the outside, I am shaking through on the inside.

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#2 Radiohead – OK Computer

October 16th, 2013 No comments

Radiohead – OK Computer

The age that we live in often feels too fast. There appears a mutiny of data passing through our brains whether it is on the news, social media or in our lives. OK Computer has often felt like the culmination of these ideas as one slowly goes insane during the process. One might link it to a modern day “The Wall” by Pink Floyd, although without the storyline and quite a bit more abstract than that album was.

‘Ok Computer’ was a difficult sell, not due to the fact of the music on the album but rather my own preconceived notions of the band Radiohead. There was something that was not appealing to me before this point and so I believe it took me at least a year to get the gall to purchase the album, partly due, I believe to all the good press that it was getting not just by critics but by fans as well. Hell, I still remember listening to Sound Opinions back in 1995 when it was on Q101 and both Jim Derogatis and Bill Wyman were critical of R.E.M.’s choices for their opening bands during the Monster tour. Looking back at that decision it would appear that they made the right choice.

The story on where to begin with Radiohead is often whether you would prefer the safe approach (OK Computer) vs. the experimental route (Kid A). While these albums were made back to back, their styles albeit both depressive show a stark difference. That being said, OK Computer by itself is by itself a leap of faith but it also demonstrates the growth the band endured by their third record. In fact, we could say that Pablo Honey was amateurish compared to OK Computer.

Radiohead quite simply were able to create one of the most beautifully depressing albums that you would ever hear. When we talk about the growth of Radiohead, we can start with the song “Paranoid Android”, a song with 4 distinct sections, and ties many of the themes of OK Computer together including greed, violence and insanity. Paranoid Android is a game-changer for the band that released “Creep”.

“No Surprises” should be the warning sign for any band that is dealing with the pressures of fame. Simply, its beautiful and depressing and the video featuring Thom Yorke underwater for a great deal of it sheds light on the both the theme of the album but also the state of Thom Yorke. This on top of “Exit Music (For a Film)” brings more light to this theme when Yorke sings “Breathe, Keep Breathing, Don’t lose your nerve”. But throughout the songs there is the antagonist: “We hope your rules and wisdom choke you”.

OK Computer, is part science fiction, a grasp on late 20th Century fears of a digital age, on aliens but it’s collected in part to a collage of beautiful music that it becomes to feel very visual. Unlike the very stark Kid A, there is a bit of humor on the album and hope (see Lucky).

For me, the album seemed like this alternate universe that the band tapped into. I seem to remember listening to this album alongside R.E.M.’s ‘Up’ at the time and noting the similarities that Up had to Ok Computer, it was not as political as Ok Computer was nor concerned with the speed at which society was speeding up. In a way the album is very reflective, and allows us to slow down, to ponder and to think.

The bar was raised by such a degree between The Bends and Ok Computer that, if it were not for the current popularity of the band, both The Bends and Pablo Honey are natural progressions for the band but do not hold water to their work from this point. For me, the album seems poignant to current events. There was a host of emotion when I thought of America’s current default crisis and it just seemed like a fitting moment to reflect on all of this and the first album that came to mind was my number 2 album of all time.

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#3 Velvet Underground – Velvet Underground

October 10th, 2013 No comments

Velvet Underground – Velvet Underground

I think that the argument could be made that the Velvet Underground were the most important American band of the 60s and at least can have a healthy debate whether they are more important than the Beatles. It is true that the Beatles have offered something universally cultural in their music, but if there was ever an underbelly to rock and roll, the Velvets should hold that title.

Not as experimental as either it’s predecessor, White Light/White Heat or Velvet Underground and Nico, the Velvet’s third album is a much gentler album, feeling a bit more traditional than some of their earlier works. This might be due to the fact that John Cale had been forced out of the group and replaced by Doug Yule who is not throwing electric violin solos in the middle of songs.

It is their most melodic album and the first album that I would suggest to pick up for any beginner to the Velvet Underground experience. Now, even the gentle VU experience is full of surprises. “Candy Says” is about Warhol transsexual Candy Darling, a somber, vicious and telling portrait.

And that is the telling portrait. Songs like ‘Candy Says’ and ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ are beautiful in their composition but lyrically they draw a level of morbidity and yet there is a tenderness as well. ‘Jesus’ is simply a plea for someone that has lost their sense of direction. Yet, there is still moments that they push the tempo such as “What Goes On” and “I am Beginning to See the Light”. Overall, there is this level of warmth that exists on this album that has always compelled me to pull it out first and fairly often when digging into the Velvet Underground collection.

Whereas, Velvet Underground and Nico had shocked me with songs like “Heroin” and “Black Angels Death Song”, and White Light/White Heat continued on that path with “Sister Ray”, their third album for me has always been that perfect compromise. Lou Reed is at his best being both the poet and the musician moving in a more folksy direction but still willing to draw attention with the “Murder Mystery”. It is other moments such as “After Hours” sung by Mo Tucker that give this album a bit of heart as well.

I know there will be those that will state that their first two albums were more important or even that Loaded is more accessible with songs like “Sweet Jane” and “Rock and Roll” but there again is this late night chill moment that this album just feels so proper, so right and so perfect for my 3rd favorite album of all time.

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#4 R.E.M. – Reckoning

October 9th, 2013 No comments

Reckoning. The title suggests it all. R.E.M.’s second full length album is a departure both in sound and mystique. It is a more straight-forward southern rock record, without the overdubs, the studio work and extras that made Murmur such a unique record when it was released. Instead the band focused on a more live sound, completing the album in about two weeks with the same team of Mitch Easter and Don Dixon.

For me, it was the album that started the madness. I remember listening to the opening chords to Seven Chinese Bros.; “Seven Chinese brothers swallowing the ocean”, a bastardized reflection on a children’s book, the 5 Chinese Brothers, where one of them has the unique ability to swallow the ocean which brings us to the theme of the record. . . “File Under Water”.

Reckoning was the album that resonated. This strips it bare and sounds more straightforward rock although if you compare it to music today, you could say that it was one of the first “Alt-Country” albums.

I seem to remember Peter Buck railing against the idea of writing songs about being on the road, but the album itself always felt like it held a bit of Americana with it. On a recent road trip, I loaded the iPod mix I created with this album and the moments passing through Kansas or Nebraska did not seem so mundane.

There was also something very southern about the album and helped redefine southern rock as something that didn’t sound like Lynrd Skynrd. Remember that R.E.M. came out of an Athens scene that was more noted for it’s crazy new wave dance sounds such as the B-52s. This album if anything is farthest from it and in my opinion truly breaks the band away from the Athens scene and allows them to stand on their own two feet without the weight of the sleepy college town.

As I have grown more gray hairs, the song that I have adopted has to be So. Central Rain, which would probably go down as my favorite song if not for it’s flexibility and sincerity. I have always thought that So. Central Rain was the perfect pop song, the use of water i.e. “Rivers of Suggestion” to explain a poignant moment in a relationship. On the other end it, suggests that the song is just about a natural calamity such as a hurricane. I remember thinking about the song after Hurricane Sandy and thinking it became that perfect moment for me when thinking about the destruction that the storm caused.

The album following the breakout release is the difficult one and what R.E.M. was able to do was create an essential album. It speaks to the influence the band had on 80’s rock and it’s importance when the UK was getting all the notice.

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#5 Massive Attack – Mezzanine

October 8th, 2013 No comments

Is music dominated by critically-accepted era’s that have imprinted themselves on a music scene or do we create those eras based on our lives events? 1998 for example, turned out to be a good year for me in terms of albums hitting my top 10 listing (R.E.M.’s ‘Up’, Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’, and Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’) but what does this say about me?

One of these is clearly considered one of the best releases over the past 20 years (Neutral Milk Hotel), a second is critically acclaimed (Massive Attack) and Up has somewhat has a maligned career among critics.

The band ‘Massive Attack’ is the evolution of the “Wild Bunch”, a musical collective of DJ’s that formed in the mid-80s in Bristol, UK club scene. Three of those performers, Robert Del Naja, Grant Marshall, and Andrew “Mushroom” Vowles went out to form the band. Their music had incorporated a wide variety of inspiration from Hip Hop, Jazz, Rock , Reggae and Soul/R&B. It was these genres of music that unexpectedly brought me to appreciate the band from the first time I listened to them.

There is something mysterious and dark about ‘Mezzanine’, an album that for me always seemed to have some level of urban seediness to it. It felt like a Wicker Park bar, with mood lighting and instrumental music.

It might just be the fact that I have lived in the city for the past 20+ years and see the lights and sights of the city as the backdrop for the music on the album. It might also have to do with the fact that the first time that I listened to it, I had never experienced music quite like that.

Mezzanine might be the sexiest album ever released. The seductive nature of ‘Inertia Creeps’ takes over before the slow embrace of “Exchange” creates that perfect 3 in the morning moment after a night on the town. The entire album feels more of a departure from their earlier releases, embracing a much more ambient sound rather than some of their more jazzy sounds from their previous two full length albums (Blue Lines and Protection).

In terms of the genre of Trip-Hop itself, I would say it was the strongest of all releases, even moreso than Portishead. The album for me is so visual. It’s midnight on a cold, moist fall evening in Chicago. The album blended the perfect moments of rock, soul and hip hop, the layers at which songs like “Man Next Door”, sampling “10:15 Saturday Night” by The Cure and “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin, a weird combination on paper but clearly works on the album.

With all the sampling, guest musicians and such, it is still as if every note and sound was perfectly placed like a symphony.

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#6 Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over the Sea

October 3rd, 2013 No comments

Apologies for not getting back to this sooner. I went on vacation and I have been in the midst of trying to get back on track.

Jeff Mangum had created something that felt familiar and unique at the same time. But what had been overly compelling was his ability to express the tone of the lyrics in such a perfect manner. In “King of Carrot Flowers pt. 2” there is an almost surrealist gospel moment when Mangum proclaims” I love you Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ I love you, yes I do” and proceeds to launch into pt. 3 which feels like a punk explosion. What it comes down to was that Mangum’s lyrics I have always saw it as a funeral procession. Neutral Milk Hotel feels as part of a band of minstrels parading through the town that contains a mix of punk, psychaedlic, jazz and folk. What has given the album it’s power is Mangum’s lyrics; some of which can be considered some of the most powerful lyrics on paper.

The album, thematically has been tied to Anne Frank, as Mangum has stated the fact that he was inspired by Frank after reading her diary and it would appear that it would be the center of the album, however, there are tracks such as “Two-Headed Boy” which sounds more like a mutant out of a science fiction classic.

Mangum is a true genius in his lyrics and one might say that he set the bar so high for himself that there is so much pressure to release an album as a follow-up. (Not counting of course his Orange Twin Field Works album which I do not think counts. I do not think that I have ever approached a lyricist in the same manner that Mangum has been able to resonate on the album and on top of this incorporate a wide range of music that over the years has inspired countless bands.

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#7 R.E.M. – Lifes Rich Pageant

September 26th, 2013 No comments

R.E.M. – Lifes Rich Pageant

I return from vacation from beautiful but flooded Colorado. I do have to say that our time was well spent there, however, certain changes had to be made to our itinerary since flooding did knock out some of the roads and I guess you take it as Inspector Clouseau would in that it is all part of life’s rich pageant.

Outside of the ridiculous nature of the quote, it somewhat is thematically perfect for this album. After the difficulties of making Fables of the Reconstruction, there appears an almost newfound confidence for the band.

For all the pomp that the band got for the release of ‘Document’, and deservedly so for their first true Hit in “The One I Love” as well as the culturally significant “It’s the End of the World As We Know It”, ‘Lifes Rich Pageant’ sees the band finally putting the pieces in place as a successful rock band. Michael Stipe begins to enunciate, they create a viable message and continue down the road of writing catchy pop songs. ‘Document’ might be one of the series of coming out parties, but Lifes Rich Pageant is a stronger set of music from beginning to end. The political motivations are stronger with a strong first half consisting of the hard rocking ‘Begin the Begin’ and ‘These Days’ exhibiting the emotion behind political movements without all the historical motivations that allow for songs to lose their luster.

The melodic “Fall on Me” and “Cuyahoga” have played the role of environmental hits, although the former can also be considered an ode to “Chicken Little” ala “The Sky Is Falling, The Sky is Falling!”, and the latter to a river in Ohio with a very serious pollution problem at the time the band wrote the song. What situates albums like this so highly is not just the catchy pop music but the words by singer Michael Stipe who is the American Morrisey (or maybe Morrisey is the British Michael Stipe). At any rate, there is a definitive war brewing between the UK and the USA about this time as to what band is better: R.E.M. or the Smiths. Where R.E.M. wins is their rhythm section as Berry and Mills are clearly superior. Consider a song like “Superman”, we hear Mike Mills on lead vocals for the first time for this cover version of a tune by the 60s band The Clique and we start to hear the other strengths of this band.

For me it has been an album that has strengthened with time. It’s political motivations are just as strong in 1986 as they are now as they will be years from now. They were able to institute a purpose without the elements of the songs feeling dated. Stipe was a poet but an information source as well. If I were to recommend a starting place for R.E.M., this would probably be my personal favorite as it still has the spark of their early years, with the maturity of lyrics that you begin to see in the later years.

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#8 Yo La Tengo – I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One

September 11th, 2013 No comments

I think that if there was ever an award given out to a band based on their credibility, Yo La Tengo would be your band. Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley have been there since the start and after the band had gone through several members before that, the sound truly began to gel, after James McNew had joined the band since 1992’s May I Sing With Me.

For a band that has almost been in existence for 30 years, they are the only band that I am aware of that does not have a crappy release. I do have to say that I have a preference for their material since McNew joined the band, as I think that the combination has offered something sublime. There exists, quite possibly an aura over their music, or maybe it is over me when I listen to them. They seem to have the similar problem that the Feelies have is that they spent way too much time in their parents basement as kids and so they capture a fairly endearing quality.

Also, you cannot claim that this band has sold out and now that Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon have separated, Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley have become the official first couple of bands.

‘I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One’ is the definitive career album for Yo La Tengo, the moment where they have a perfect blend of rock, pop, shoegaze and noise. For me, Yo La Tengo have always had an urban feel to their music, the backgroud of the smoke-filled room, they have always created an ambiance in their music. I want to turn on lava lamps and drive boulevards lined with neon signs. The music feels fresh, with all of three of them sharing the lead vocals on some tracks.

We also see that this is a culmination that occurs between McNew signing and them starting to feel like a band with a distinct sound. While I think there are moments on both Painful and Electr-O-Pura that feel a bit more jazzy and not as garage rock-ish, it comes together on I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One.

There are some very quirky moments like ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, with McNew on vocals, which sounds more like a folksy tribute to Neil Young than an album featuring Shoegaze and Noise.

The band still keeps it real by showing their passion for their favorite tracks, taking the Beach Boys’ ‘Little Honda’, and adding a little Jesus and Mary Chain to make it their own.

Songs like ‘Autumn Sweater’ feels like it should be 40 degrees and chilly. However, it is not just the ambiance but the method at which every song feeds off each other. By the time you get to the psychedelic ‘Spec Behop’, an epic 10+ minute song that takes a page from Spaceman 3. Every song is perfectly placed and by the time you get to the final track Georgia Hubley is doing her best “Moe Tucker” impersonation with ‘My Little Corner of the World’, the second cover song on the album.

I admit to the fact of being a seasonal listener or should I say, having the appreciation of music that seems to prefer cold weather, and generally, here in Chicago, our colder months outlast our warm ones so it just so happens that Hawaiian music is just not going to be all that attractive. But there is something about the warmth that this music possesses. Maybe it’s just that the voices are so warm. Sweeter than a drop of blood from a sugarcube.

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