Yo La Tengo 

Prisoners of Love: A Smattering of Scintillating Senescent Songs, 1984-2003 (Matador)

The 42 songs on this three-CD Yo La Tengo career retrospective aren't sequenced chronologically, but it wouldn't much matter if they were. The two-decade tale of Hoboken, N.J.'s finest indie rock band resists a linear celebration; rather than an evolutionary journey, it's one of vast eclecticism and experimentation. The band's husband-and-wife core of guitarist Ira Kaplan and drummer George Hubley, along with their various cohorts (bassist James McNew stabilized the trio in 1991), have donned, sloughed, and revisited all sorts of musical styles over the years, ever circling, never settling on just one.

And so the first two discs (a compilation of previously released material) weave through Sonic Youth-style freakout skronk, densely layered shoegazer bliss, Velvets-and-krautrock-inspired drone-rock, Brit Invasion garage groovin', loping country jangle, Moog-flavored head trips, and skewed pop of the dream, power, and acoustic varieties. Fun as that is, it's the 16-track, 74-minute third disc of outtakes and rarities that makes this collection a must-have, particularly the punky crash of "Bad Politics" (YLT's 1994 cover of the Dead C song), a tender 1997 run-through of "Decora" on KCRW, and a transcendent nine-minute remix of "Autumn Sweater" by My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields.

More by Michael Alan Goldberg


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