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.