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YO LA TENGO - Popular Songs

Much is made of the dependability of Yo La Tengo. After all, Popular Songs, their 12th full-length album, comes some 25 years into a career which has consistently seen them release some of the most influential and timeless records of American indie rock. But it's worth noting that midway through the '00s, things weren't looking so rosy for the Hoboken trio. After four stunning records in a row, their quality began to wane, whether by way of lukewarm duds (Summer Sun), self-indulgent wankfests (their unconvincing cover of Sun Ra's "Nuclear War"), or mail-order exclusives (The Sounds Of The Sounds Of Science OST), all releases more curious than canon-worthy.

What's a rapidly aging indie band to do? How about defiantly title an album I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass and stomp out the slump? That 2007 record was a classic multi-genre slab of YLT that demonstrated fully that the band had lost none of its range, and Popular Songs keeps the streak alive, embracing soul-strung psych ("Here To Fall"), fuzzy pop nuggets ("Nothing To Hide"), squelchy organ funk ("Periodically Double or Triple") and a stab at Jim O'Rourke-style folk ("I'm On My Way") with equal cunning. Like nearly all Yo La Tengo records, this one's a long one, but with a bit of a twist—the album is essentially divided into one relatively pop album (the first nine tracks), and one album of drawn-out epics (the final three). The first album is top-drawer; as for the second, well, there is a time and place for them, but none of these tracks really warrant their running times, especially the sixteen-minute closer "And The Glitter is Gone". Too bad, because a seven- or eight-minute version of it would've been a blast.

Flawless? No, but dependable? You bet.

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