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CD Review: Yo La Tengo 

Popular Songs (Matador)

When a band like Yo La Tengo names an album Popular Songs, you can bet it's meant to be tongue-in-cheek — especially when it leads off with a nearly six-minute psychedelic number like "Here to Fall." The New Jersey trio's 12th studio release — which comes hot on the heels of their Fuckbook cover collection as the Condo Fucks — doesn't find them turning a whole lotta new tricks. But at this point in their 25-year career, are new tricks what anyone really wants? The band's Nuggets-lite impressions still do the trick on songs like "Avalon or Someone Very Similar," "Nothing to Hide" and "Periodically Double or Triple." "If It's True" is a great slice of '70s-inspired pop, while "When It's Dark" could be the soundtrack to autumn 2009. But the best tunes on Popular Songs are the ones that'll never get played on the radio — probably not even college radio. "More Stars Than There Are in Heaven" is nearly 10 minutes long and full of spacious guitars. It comes complete with a mantra that declares "we walk hand in hand." "The Fireside" sounds ripped from Boards of Canada's Music Has the Right to Children, until Ira Kaplan's hushed vocals kick in midway through a head trip. "And the Glitter Is Gone" is the lengthy album closer that finds the band rocking a pulsing, acid-tinged jam for nearly 16 minutes.


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