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Archive for the ‘Yo La Tengo’ Category

[ATTENDED: April 26, 2018] Overlake

My friend Al knows the members of Overlake and he thought he might be attending this show.  I was bummed he wasn’t there (and even moreso when I tried to text him to see if he was there and realized that I didn’t have his cell number, gah).

I wound up getting to the show really early and parked literally against the stage.  I was fascinated that at the start of the show all three drum sets were set up.  And how fascinating that Overlake (the opener) was right in the middle.

I looked up the band before the show and the description of the band sounded like I’d really like them:

Overlake is a three-piece band from Jersey City, comprised of Tom Barrett (voice, guitar), Lysa Opfer (Bass, voice), and Nick D’Amore (drums).  When they’re not incessantly waxing philosophical about the musical merits of both MBV and GBV … Overlake is busy honing their own unique brand of noisy dreampop, drawing from such stalwart influences as Dinosaur Jr, Slowdive, and Yo La Tengo.

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booksSOUNDTRACK: YO LA TENGO-Tiny Desk Concert #271 (April 15, 2013).

y-o-la-tenI’ve enjoyed Yo La Tengo’s music for years and years.  I have many of their records, although I’d never consider them a favorite band. They’re just a reliable band I like.   This Tiny Desk Concert sees the venerable band in acoustic format (with no drums!).  Ira Kaplan sings and plays guitar, drummer Georgia Hubley sings backup and bassist James McNew plays an acoustic 12-string guitar.

Yo La Tengo has a lot of diversity in their records.  And even here, their songs sound quite different.  I had never before considered that on “Is That Enough” Kaplan sounds like someone out of A Mighty Wind (Harry Shearer perhaps?)  I also never considered how much they sound like The Velvet Underground (which I guess others have, but I especially noticed when Hurley sings her slow song).  McNew also adds some lovely high-pitched harmony vocals (compared to Georgia’s deeper harmonies).

After the first song, Kaplan says, “You in the back will never hear this one”  They start “Tears Are In Your Eyes” from their 2000 album (and I can’t help but hing that McNew’s 12 sting is out of tune).  Georgia sings and sounds incredibly like Nico on this song.

It’s strange how Ira keeps whispering to Georgia (you can kind of hear him) throughout the song–the microphone is really sensitive.

“Ohm” is one of my favorite songs from their album Fade. Its simple, but with some great harmonies and I love the way the song–which is fairly straightforward–goes up an octave during the “say goodnight “ part.  That little melody shift really makes this song wonderful.  And it sounds terrific here.   I also love how the end is a repeating of the same chord and chanting vocals while Ira plays a wild (but acoustic) guitar solo.

I’ve never really considered seeing Yo La Tengo live (they tour all the time), but maybe I should.

[READ: January 23, 2017] “Don’t Be Evil”

Before Simon Rich started writing longer pieces for the New Yorker, his Shouts & Murmurs pieces were usually pretty short–and he crammed a lot of funny into that short space.

This piece is all about Google.  It’s kind of one-note, but it’s still pretty funny.  And its brevity prevents it from wearing out its welcome.

So it begins with him saying how much he loves the Google Dictionary feature.  It’s really convenient, but sometimes the results can be strange.  Then he gives some examples: (more…)

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harpoctSOUNDTRACK: THE DECEMBERISTS, LAND HO!, BOBBY KNIGHT RANGER, LETTERS TO CLEO and more on PARKS AND RECREATION (April 24, 2014).

unityLast night, in the season finale of Parks and Recreation, the Pawnee/Eagleton Unity concert finally happened.  And, despite them never talking about who would be at the concert, the final show list was surprising and maybe not so surprising.

To see the Decemberists play live was a huge surprise and was totally wonderful (and to see Jenny Conley on keyboards looking healthy was very nice) especially since they have been more or less on hiatus for a time.  Although maybe it shouldn’t have been such a surprise since Michael Schur directed a Decemberists video a few years back.

Ginuwine played a song as well (I don’t actually know him), and it shouldn’t have been a surprise because in a past episode it was revealed that character Donna is actually Ginuwine’s cousin.

Then came Letters to Cleo.  This was a surprise because they’ve been broken up for years and, aside from a hit were never really all that big (I was huge fan and saw them live once).  Although it was not a real surprise because Ben has been seen wearing an LtC shirt from time to time on the show.  Seeing him sing along to the chorus (off stage) was great.  I also just read that the drummer from LtC is the drummer in Andy’s band Mouse Rat.

Next was Bobby Knight Ranger, a hilarious visual joke of three members dressed like Bobby Knight (with really fake white wigs) who, played nothing but “Sister Christian” for their set.  At the end of their set they threw chairs.  It was a weird throwaway joke that was very funny.  It was made even funnier when during the credits it became clear that Bobby Knight Ranger was actually Yo La Tengo.  This is just surprising as I don’t know any connection there, but in my experience Yo La Tengo are game for anything.

Land Ho! finished the night.  Land Ho!, if you follow the show is Pawnee’s biggest band (fronted by Wilco dude Jeff Tweedy (!)).  They played a song and then Mouse Rate (and others) jammed with them for a holographic tribute to Li’l Sebastian (a running joke that I think is way overplayed and yet which makes me laugh every single time)..

I was so delighted to not know who was playing before hand because every band was a fun surprise.  But seriously, did these bands all fly in just to play one song?   Surely they must have done a few songs for the crowd.  And if so, I think it would behoove Parks and Rec to get a CD out of songs from the Unity Concert (including some solo Johnny Karate songs as well.

The episode itself was also quite good.  While I didn’t care too much for the Tom’s Bistro segment (most of the jokes were pretty obvious from the get go), it was nice to see so many old characters make a cameo.  In fact, with the concert and the old characters and the tidy wrap up, it felt more like a series finale than a season finale.

And, SPOILER ALERT UNTIL THE VIDEO CLIP OF LETTERS TO CLEO PASTED BELOW: I though that their meld from the scene in the office on the third floor with the sly tag of three years later was a stroke of genius.  I have been a little down on this season because I thought it was getting a bit overdone with Leslie’s failures and whatnot. I actually wanted her to get the hell out of Pawnee.  But the compromise of how she stayed made sense for the show (if she didn’t take that job I was done with the show).  I was also not looking forward to a year of Leslie being pregnant (the triplets thing was also lame to begin with).  So the fact that it was all utterly skipped over–the pregnancy, the baby problems, the sleepless nights, even the fact that we didn’t have any awkward transitions in the job and that Leslie is just settled into her new job was excellent.

I also loved that Ben and Leslie were off to do something interesting (with Ben in a tux) with no explanation–what a great cliffhanger.  Kudos for one of the best season enders I’ve seen in a long time.

[READ: April 24, 2014] “The Gifts of Anna Speight”

This was a confusing story.  Well that is because it is an excerpt from a novel and therefore doesn’t stand on its own.  But I don;t know if it was just the excerpt they chose, but I found it not very compelling at all.

The story is told in second person, with Sylvie telling “us” what she knows about the Wibletts Institution.  Sylvie knew someone whose son resided there.  He suffered from PKU, a recessive disorder associated with seizures, mental retardation and blue-green urine.

There are so many layers of storytelling involved here that I was quite confused as to just who was who when Jess was suddenly interested in the story of Bob Germen.  Germen’s son is the above mentioned resident.  She wants to know about Bob’s son.  First we learn that Jess knew a lot about literary figures with disabled or retarded siblings or children and later we learn that she has a special needs daughter, Anna.

But most of the excerpt talks about the literary figures. (more…)

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ny060912SOUNDTRACK [RECONSIDERED]: YO LA TENGO-I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (2007)

yolaWhen I reviewed this record a while ago, I had enjoyed it, but it didn’t leave that much of an impression on me.  Well, I just listened to the disc again, and I was amazed by how much I remembered the riffs and choruses of just about every song.  I was also impressed thinking that no matter where you were to drop the needle (as it were) on the record, you’d get a different style of song, one that would be interesting and entertaining.

I think part of the reason last time why I felt nothing really “stuck” is because of the varied nature of the disc.  Typically, Yo La Tengo albums have a “feel” to them, but this one is so all over the place that it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.  But each song, taken by itself, is very strong and very fun: Piano pop (with horns- “Beanbag Chair” and without horns-“The Weakest Part”); Mournful ballad (” I Feel Like Going Home”); Falsetto faux funk (“Mr. Tough”); A winding, beautiful song (“Black Flowers”–which sounds uncannily like Arcade FIre’s “Celebration Guns”); Feedback/folksy 60’s style song (“The Race is on Again,” “I Should Have Known Better” “Point and Shoot”); Memorable keyboards (“The Room Got Heavy”); Garage/Grunge Rock (“Watch Out for Me Ronnie”).  It’s all done very well, and not at all like they are simply aping the styles.

Granted, it is a long album to listen through in one sitting, but it’s still pretty great.

[READ: October 25, 2008] “Hypocrites”

This is a short reminiscence about religion and the nature of hypocrisy.  I assume this is a true story, so I’ll say that young George stumbled upon a priest and a nun making out in the back of the chapel where he was supposed to practice a reading for the day.  He wondered if this one act destroyed all of Catholic faith, since these two were supposed to uphold all that was sacred. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YO LA TENGO-I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (2006).

I’ve liked Yo La Tengo for a really long time.  And not only because they’re from Hoboken and play Maxwell’s pretty much every week.  I wouldn’t call them a favorite band, but most of their singles from the 1990s are some of my favorite songs.  I find that they don’t really release great albums, and they don’t really release bad songs: they release great songs and good songs, and their albums are made up of some combination of these.

The great title of this album, is something of a misnomer, as you might expect a riled up and raucous record.  And the first song, the nearly 11 minute squealing guitar rave-up “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind” goes along with that premise.  But some of the middle songs like the piano ballad “I Feel Like Going Home” and the 8 minute instrumental ballad “Daphnia” are mellow, and rather pretty.  In fact, the album is kind of all over the place.  Some songs really stand out: “Mr Tough” and the long opener and closer are really great.  The middle is a bunch of solid, well-crafted songs.  For some reason, not too much left an impression on me, even though I enjoyed the disc while I was listening to it.

[READ: July 18, 2008] Player Piano

When Kurt Vonnegut died, I made a note to myself to read more, if not all, of his books. I had read Slaughterhouse Five and Time Quake maybe one or two others, but I figured I’d make the effort and start from the beginning.

Player Piano was his first book. And what a way to start. The time is the future, after the next war; the second industrial revolution. Machines now do most of the work that people used to do. In fact, machines now determine what job you are allowed to do. If your IQ is tested high enough, you can become an engineer (or manager) of the machines. If not, you get assigned to the Reeks and Wrecks: Reconstruction & Reclamation Corps, or basically, manual labor: fixing the roads and other maintenance projects. It imagines a future in which machines can do everything. And, it’s pretty horrible. (more…)

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