Saturday, September 5, 2009

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Yo La Tengo
Popular Songs
Matador Records

The overall mood of this album is contemplative: living a good, full life, loving all it has to offer, as part of a couple in a long time marriage. Ira Kaplan and Georgia Huxley, are the performers, he being the singer and guitarist for Tengo, Georgia is the other singer, and the drummer. They seem to be taking stock of their lives and their relationship, with grace, gentle wit, and a bit of wonder that they've lasted as long as they have, a bit of worry over how to make what they have keep going, and a sense of bliss that they are so happy and in love.

The music is just as meditative. Even as most of these songs are short, they fit the moods of the lyrics. They pull off all this very well. There is no irony here, musically and lyrically. This is straight emotion, and honest as well.

The two jams that close the album, "The Fireside" and "And the Glitter is Gone" run counterpoint to one another. "The Fireside" is all whispering accoustic guitars, with just a few mumbled words for lyrics. It is eleven minutes long, and a beautiful piece of music.

"And the Glitter is Gone" is fifteen minutes long, and mostly Ira's famous fuzz, feedback and melodies taking the place of lyrics. Georgia's deft, fluid, and flowing drumming alongside a galloping bass makes for sonic regret, some sadness, but also a fierce determination to bring the glitter back someday. It is a smashing way to close out a great album, and a worthy addition to their canon. []
Andrea Weiss

Taken By trees
East of Eden
Rough Trade

Victoria(no last name given) and her guitarist Andres Soderstorm traveled to Pakistan to make this album with musicians from Pakistan. They were male musicians, Victoria wanted women, but was told that it was too dangerous for them to travel from north to south Pakistan. None of the musicians spoke English, except the Trees host. Victoria used other means, too, like singing what she wanted the musicians to play. Teaching the musicians to play wearing headphones, and playing at times out side the studio, which was harder than when they were in the studio.

So what did they come up with? Ambient, atmospheric slow music, Victoria’s whispered singing, and quietly powerful guitar playing. These are relationship songs, mostly romantic, except for a re-working of Animal Collective’s “My Girl” re-titled “My Boys.” That remake is the loudest song on the album, and fits into the other songs very well.

The concept is interesting, the music is great, and Victoria’s singing fits the mysterious mood of the songs. It’s different, a nice album for quiet times. []

Andrea Weiss

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