“This Stupid World” is Yo La Tengo’s 17th album in a career spanning nearly 40 years.
Indie Rock, Alternative, Art Rock, Shoegaze, No Wave, Post Rock, Experimental, Krautrock, Drone, Noise Rock… If any of these terms cause the hairs on the back of your next to perk up (like mine) this is a band and an album that you need to check out.
Sonically speaking, even though officially formed by husband wife team Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley in 1984 it wasn’t until 1992, when multi-instrumentalist James McNew joined the band for their sixth album: “Painful,” that YLT seemed to solidify.
“I think it sounds different from the things that came before it,” says Kaplin. “… it really seems like mostly we’ve built on that record… Since Painful, I think we’ve gotten more confident and more willing to trust ourselves and trust each other, and probably better at dealing with things that go wrong.”
Taking a turn from 2020’s We Have Amnesia Sometimes, a collection of five pleasant, improvised ambient jams, “This Stupid World” is a return to form (if that’s even possible with this band). For me “Stupid World” most resembles their 1995 indie rock classic Electr-O-Pura, their first studio album after “Painful.”
The opening track, “Sinatra Drive Breakdown” is 7:20 min. wandering soundscape that unfurls not unlike a late period jam by the seminal Krautrock band Can.
Track two, the single “Fallout,” is a melancholic shoe gaze number that combines Sonic Youth styled guitar lines with lofty Mama’s and The Papa’s vocals. The guitars are crunchy and resonant while Kaplan’s understated vocal style shines through like a rain cloud on a murky desert horizon.
Aselestine, named after a medication used to treat asthma, is a dreamy folk song featuring Hubley’s exquisit sleepy alto range. The spaced out pedal steel is the secret sauce on this one IMHO.
Critics are calling ”This Stupid World” YLT’s Beat Album in ten years and I’d have to agree. No other band in recent memory has made such consistently challenging and beautiful music over such a long period. Like much of YLT’s work there’s a cinematic quality to this record that also captures an intimacy that is hard to describe. The word hope come to mind. – Major Matt