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Yo La Tengo: There's a Riot Going On Review

How about Hoboken? Never heard of it? Well now is your chance to give it some love because your favorite Hobokenite indie/noise/experimental pop band Yo La Tengo has released a new album. Yo La Tengo’s lineup features Ira Kaplan on guitars, piano, and vocals, Georgia Hubley on drums, piano, and vocals, and James McNew on bass and vocals. After thirty four years and fifteen studio albums the band has certainly earned its title from Pitchfork as an “encyclopedia” of music knowledge and talent. The introspective tunes let out by the triad are eclectic to say the least. One song is plucking and pensive while the next is brooding and prideful. A biography of the band by Jason Ankeny called Yo La Tengo “one of indie rock’s most respected bands, with a dreamy melodicism influenced by the Velvet Underground.” I, for one, get some serious Jose Gonzalez/Bon Iver vibes when I listen to their more recent stuff.

In the 80’s and 90’s they were rocking out, hard. In the years closer to their 25th and 30th year anniversary the group starts to mellow out and get more comfortable with silence. Even their videos reflect this; the feel has gone as a lot of lives do, from angsty and suspicious to contented and inquisitive. Their strong cult-like following is a testament to the way music can grow with us and around us in such meaningful ways. They have evolved with their fans and I think this is extremely telling of the way they speak to their listeners.

Last week Yo La Tengo released their fifteenth album There’s A Riot Going On. The title is a nod to Sly and the Family Stone’s 1971 album There’s a Riot Goin’ On which was released in similarly tumultuous times. SPIN said that “the band may have never sounded this fraught and for fans looking for the freak-outs of yore will be surprised to instead hear a series of tranquil undulations.” The whole work is in a constant state of rumination. Anyone who enjoys music that elates a thoughtful process, some gentle smiles, and probably tears, is sure to ingest this artistic piece like a slice of homemade pie. It goes down easy.

The album consists of fifteen songs; some a little more antsy than others which pick up the pace and provide some excitement. It’s the kind of music that takes you on an uphill battle and spits you out sparkling and passive. After taking a good listen, think about what they are trying to say. This album is a peaceful protest,. undoubtedly a response to the Trump era.

Lets lighten the mood though, why don’t we? The coolest thing about this album is that it was completely self produced and was created by curating improvised recording sessions. Without rehearsing and planning for anything, Yo La Tengo stepped in the booth and let their feelings do the work. AV Club said the album sounded like a “free-jazz freakout”, but I prefer the describe it as real human experiences coming together to decompress. My favorite song on the album "You Are Here" is melancholy, but in the totally tolerable, even rather desirable way.

Yo La Tengo has directed the American indie rock ship for a long while now. They are remarkable in their approach and openness to new material. There’s a Riot Going On is a perfect rainy day album. It’s not the kind of album you should listen to the album in the morning. Rather, it’s the sort of album that waits at home for you while you're at work, ready to help you set the past behind., So open a bottle of wine, and crank the volume while you run your bath. There’s a Riot Going On is a tubful of raw sentiment so prepare to sink in and deal with these utmost uncharacteristic of times.


For Fans of: Bon Iver, Velvet Underground, Smiling through the pain

Our Take: A thoughtful meditation on hectic times.



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