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Album Review: Yo La Tengo - This Stupid World

Yo La Tengo’s characteristic dreamy melancholia is ironically amplified in their most recent and most rocky album in decades, This Stupid World.

By Darcey Cameron, First Year English

Yo La Tengo’s characteristic dreamy melancholia is ironically amplified in their most recent and most rocky album in decades, This Stupid World.

Whilst the trio consistently experiments with cross-genre synthesisation, this album sees the familiar dark tones submerged within an album which listens like a twisted fairy-tale, each song highlighting the individual yet harmonious personality of each member, forging a homogenous whole revelling in its fragmentation.  

This Stupid World Album Cover | Matador

The rocky, electronic undertones of ‘Sinatra Drive Breakdown’ rapidly set the tone of the album as one concerned with dark themes of mortality and time’s un-repenting passing. The repetitive lyric “until we all break” appears a relentless preoccupation, explored through the responses of Hubley, Kaplan and McNew individually and cleverly interwoven in the amalgamation of indie, grungy and ethereal songs composing the nine-track album.

‘Tonight’s Episode’ sung by bassist James McNew reflects the complexity and unpredictability of the album as he sings humorously illogical lyrics paired with a psychedelic baseline, combining childlike imagery of yo-yo’s with unsettling lines concerning losing ones’ mind and “hanging by a thread”. The seemingly dissonant contrasts embedded within the song work effectively to affirm the mediations upon mortality and human multiplicity throughout the rest of the album and mark a new turning point in Yo La Tengo’s work in the past decade of a 40 year career.  

Followed by ‘Aselestine’, Hubley’s introspective familiarity satisfies the lust for the characteristic dreaminess of the trio’s previous albums I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One and And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out with her hushed, elegiac meditations. The middle of the album sees a revival of the light, lively, indie side of Yo La Tengo with the dreamy baselines of ‘Until It Happens’ and ‘Apology Letter’ which, in classic Kaplan style, combine light melodies with ghostly instruction of “prepare to die”.

Cyclically, the final tracks echo the rockiness of the first, crafting an emphatic sense of decisiveness and intentionality, ending with the spooky incantations of ‘Miles Away’ and overtly reflecting the eerie tone of an album born out of fundamentally human meditations upon mortality.

It is the darker tracks of the album which forcibly take prominence and reflect the changing direction of the band whose dark melancholia and murmured contemplations have often taken them to the strangest boundaries of indie rock. Nevertheless, it is the classic Yo La Tengo feeling which gives this album its charm. The lively traditional relapse within the mid-section is compellingly captivating and the more experimental first and last tracks fall to the waste side in comparison to Hubley’s beautifully ghostlike whisperings in ‘Aselestine’.  

Featured Image: Matador

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