Yo La Tengo | Popular Songs

Matador (2009)
By MICHAEL PATRICK BRADY  |  August 19, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

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Yo La Tengo are articulate, thoughtful purveyors of highbrow pop. Popular Songs proves that they're also studious fans. They deploy a broad stylistic vocabulary in the gauzy, sun-dappled sheen of "Avalon or Someone Very Similar" and the Condo Fucks–informed power pop of "Nothing To Hide."

Homages abound, as in the "Taxman"-like organ stabs of "Periodically Triple or Double," and the lead-in of "If It's True," which is copped directly from the Temptations' "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch." Popular Songs can be cut down the middle into 35-minute halves.

The nine crisp, to-the-point pop songs of the first half showcase the band's wryly clever songwriting. The second half starts with the shoegazing "More Stars Than There Are in Heaven," an extended bliss-out that would make for a perfect closer. Unfortunately, they continue with two desultory instrumentals that drag on for 25 minutes. No matter — you still get an album's worth of pristine, beautifully constructed songs that enhance Yo La Tengo's literate reputation.

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