Fire Note Says: Yo la Tengo have built a sleek mellow album for you to savor.
Album Review: It all starts with a tone, a drone sound to appreciate the breath out as much as the breath in. Enter the guitar, that guitar, that lonesome tone, the crying out in a little bit of pink in an otherwise blue sky. The familiar guitar tone of Ira Kaplan.
This is how Yo la Tengo start out their 18th album, with the world falling apart. In There’s a Riot Going On, Yo la Tengo have created a womb a protective cocoon with which they wish to address the sound of the rest of the outside world.
There are gems to be had, but to get to them you will need several spins just to make those songs, several spins for those gems to rise above the sleepiness of the record. But what happens with those repeated plays is our realization as to just how comfortable it is inside the sonic cocoon Yo la Tengo have made, and how we feel about being in this warm and quiet place. Songs like “Shades of Blue” and “For You Too” have the band bringing us some of their most satisfying material, especially the latter, which might even make you feel that there is still some hope in the world.
The haze never really leaves There’s a Riot Goin On, Ira on “She May, She Might,” with Ira gentle voice cooing over a barely there arrangement so light it sounds as if the instruments weren’t on the ground when it was recorded.
“Dream Dream Away” brings us so high up, there are angels or aliens, some kind of beautiful dissonance. To go with the reverb slowly plucked electric guitar.
Some of the sounds on this records are one you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the band, which opens up new passageways of sound, it’s as if the band worked on a record for 10 years and recorded every conceivable idea. There’s more traditional Yo la Tengo songs on here, and there are songs that stretch what the idea of the band Yo la Tengo should or could be.
Then there’s the title, it’s supposed to be the the kind of sprawling records bands don’t make anymore, think Prince’s Sign of the Times, or the Clash’s London Calling, the kind of record where band’s try on new sounds like outfits, throwing out every idea, every loop. Throwing basslines and drum fills against a wall and seeing what sticks.
Yo la Tengo, it’s been awhile since they’ve put something out, and we have a tendency to want from their best music the kind of Yo la Tengo albums we return to again and again, but Yo la Tengo are in this for the long run, and if you are present and if you are patient, what you’ll discover is There’s a Riot Going On is a soft blanket on a cold day. And this album they took years to make will take just as many years for us listeners to fully uncover. And what we need to get from this album, and to have the world that we want, what we we need right now is patience.
Key Tracks: “Shades of Blue”/ “For You Too” / “Ashes”
Artists With Similar Fire: Spiritualized / early Verve / The Velvet Underground
Yo La Tengo Website
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– Reviewed by Adam Strong