Album Review

Yo La Tengo, 'Popular Songs'

September 7, 2009

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Indie Rock
You La Tengo Popular Songs
ESSENTIAL “If It’s True’’
Yo La Tengo plays the Wilbur Theater Sept. 16.

Yo La Tengo records are love notes from music fans to music fans. “Popular Songs,’’ the trio’s 16th album, is another pleasing installment of cleverly assembled songs that unite homage and originality. Married couple Ira Kaplan, on guitars and vocals, and Georgia Hubley, on drums and vocals, plus longtime cohort James McNew on bass are so in tune with one another that it makes possible the sorts of flips that bring Yo La Tengo from the sweet, audio hug of “Here to Fall’’ to the psychedelic sprawl of “And the Glitter Is Gone.’’ Along the way, the group conjures Motown (“If It’s True’’), modified funk (“Periodically Triple or Double’’), garage-punk (“Nothing to Hide’’), and pastoral folk (“I’m on My Way’’). Prominent organ waves and violin swells heighten the cinematic feel of the album. And with so many songs celebrating the power of partnership, that theme becomes a guide through the sonic sweep. Yo La Tengo does, however, get bogged down in the album’s closing run of three long-form songs, each built on an instrumental meditation. Two - “More Stars Than There Are in Heaven’’ and “The Fireside’’ - ramble into the ether, ultimately blunting the album’s strong, hypnotic charms. (Out tomorrow) SCOTT McLENNAN