Here’s a great piece of Sunday reading on the new Yo La Tengo album. It’s written by Steven Hyden, one of my favorite music journalists, who strikes at the heart of what it means to enjoy those rare bands that paint murals across decades.
I first saw Yo La Tengo in 2010. They were playing a one-off show with Wilco in a Minor League baseball park in South Bend, Indiana. (Wilco is another band that has achieved this Zen trajectory.) Yo La Tengo opened with Autumn Sweater. I was working as a caddie at Westwood Country Club at the time, strung out and aimless in the wake of graduating college. It was one of the greatest nights of live music I’ve experienced, and it could have only happened that summer.
A few years later, when I was working at Scene, I interviewed James McNew, and, looking back at that article today, we talked about this very theme, this idea of mindful growth.
“Widespread validation does not improve this music; what allows Yo La Tengo to endure derives entirely from the band members’ ability to be great in a way that could only happen at a specific moment in their lives. There’s A Riot Going On is a great Yo La Tengo album that could’ve only been made by Yo La Tengo 32 years into its recording career, just as 1993’s Painful is great because it sounds like a band seven years into its career.
“At every moment, Yo La Tengo sounds familiar and new simultaneously, as all humans should.”