Mark Twain was once quoted saying , “the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” It’s true. Finding the right word when describing a piece of music or band can, at times, be a challenge. Especially if you’re looking for a new word. It’s an even more Herculean effort when it involves a band like Yo La Tengo.
Yo La Tengo is an American indie rock back from Hoboken, New Jersey. Formed in 1984 by Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, they’ve been called, “the quintessential critics’ band.” Recently, the band released their 17th studio album, and first full-length record, in five years, This Stupid World.
The word I’ve seen attributed most to their music has been, ‘Eclectic.’ As a noun, an Eclectic is “one who uses a method or approach that is composed of elements drawn from various sources.” Well, on this album alone, Yo La Tengo has proven that description to be true.
The album opens with the driving rhythm section, the thumping bass lines, and aggressively distorted guitars of “Sinatra Drive Breakdown.” They continue on this musical path through the next couple songs: “Fallout” and “Tonight’s Episode.” But, midway through the album, there is a change in tone, and a change in vocalist, with the soft acoustic touch of “Aselestine.” Finally, the album ends with the track, “Miles Away.” A seven-and-a-half minute soundscape, that’s much more ambient and ethereal than the others.
Before listening to This Stupid World, I hadn’t dived too deeply into Yo La Tengo’s music, but this new album has given me a good primer and entry point into their eclectic world. And with a career that has spanned four decades, I’m sure there’s much more for me to discover. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll find some more right words somewhere down the road.