Hazy 12th album from perennial indie favourites
When we last heard from Yo La Tengo, on 2000’s And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, the dependably marvellous Hoboken trio were contemplating the minutiae of long-term relationships. These were songs that mapped the vagaries of love from an adult perspective, with correspondingly subtle music. That sounded almost unbearably intimate, like the aftermath of fights being piped direct from bedrooms in the middle of the night.
On Summer Sun?originally known as Beach Blanket Bingo?the disorientation may be caused by heat haze rather than sleepiness, but the effect is the same. Yo La Tengo have spent 17 years experimenting with an eclectic sound palette, drawing on a voracious love of music, and being pigeonholed as a correlative to the New York traditions of the Velvets and Sonic Youth. Now, though, they seem happiest unifying their influences into a gauzy, understated art-pop.
Everything happens gently and absorbingly on Summer Sun. Where once Ira Kaplan would use his guitar to rip his songs apart, to trigger explosions, now his experiments are remarkable for their discretion, with space his main weapon rather than noise. The fluttery underwater textures of last year’s low-key instrumental album, The Sounds Of The Sounds Of Science, remain in the mix, and the free-jazz players who backed them on the recent “Nuclear War” single are still around. But on the likes of “Beach Party Tonight” and “Season Of The Shark”, they’re aligned to muted beat group dynamics. Only at the end does the mist lift to reveal Georgia Hubley singing Big Star’s “Take Care” with Alex Chilton’s trepidation intact. From the edge of the sea, back to the fringes of sleep, Summer Sun is uncommonly lovely.