Yo La Tengo Made Their Loveliest Album Ever: Expert Witness with Robert Christgau
It's 2015 but feels like 1995.
Welcome to Expert Witness with Robert Christgau, the self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics." He currently teaches at NYU and published multiple books throughout his life. For nearly four decades, he worked as the music editor for The Village Voice, where he created the annual Pazz & Jop poll. Every Friday, Noisey will happily publish his long-running critical column. To learn more about him and his life, read his welcome post here.
Yo La Tengo: Stuff Like That There (Matador)
Right, it's been a quarter of a century, but how they've changed since Fakebook. There's the bassist around whom Georgia and Ira cohered. There's Georgia's increasingly confident calm meshing with Ira's increasingly thoughtful quiet. There's the fragile, enduring lyricism that's been their musical heart since "Autumn Sweater," and the uneasy, enduring domesticity that goes with it. Ira took the lead on Fakebook's covers, which tended toward a perky cheek now gone. But amazing as ever on this second covers album is his ear for the obscure ditty. The heartbreakingly cute Darlene McCrea opener "My Heart's Not in It." The existentially anxious Great Plains midpoint "Before We Stopped to Think." The Lovin' Spoonful filler "Butchie's Tune." Sun Ra's chart-ready "Somebody's in Love." Hell, the Cure hit "Friday I'm in Love." They also cover themselves and birth a few new ones. But what makes this their loveliest album ever is Ira's ditties combined with Georgia's confident calm. Her "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" isn't Hank's, or Al's either. But in its own way it's just as good, bereft with only the barest show of emotion—she doesn't ever really raise or even intensify her voice. You're forced to wonder, and worry—what's she got to be bereft about, anyway? A
Freedy Johnston: Neon Repairman (Singing Magnet)
His best collection of songs in this century—clever in the service of a pensive compassion, the major exception being the guy who just kept driving when the cops caught up with that crazy gal Angeline. Feel the unadorned forlorn of "Baby, Baby Come Home." Hear how thin-shoed and pregnant outgrows her "Summer Clothes." Meet the veteran who didn't get blown up with his buddies but will you sign for this please because he left his hands back in that gutter. Not many dynamics—Can You Fly? is funky by comparison. But a lot of feeling and enough tune. B PLUS
Rhett Miller: The Traveler (ATO) The cleverest, tenderest, and most rakish relationship delineator of his generation comes up with a bunch more ("Jules," "Wanderlust") ***
Giant Sand: Heartbreak Pass (New West) Tripartite autobiography that turns Howe Gelb's natural sprawl into a concept replete with strange yet sensible songs ("Texting Feist," "Eye Opening," "Transponder") ***
Wilco: Star Wars (dBpm) As hooked on sonics as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot‑-song sonics as opposed to electronic sonics or Americana sonics, and also as opposed to songs ("EKG," "Taste the Ceiling") ***