Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 430-421


Last September, Rolling Stone magazine released their most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which includes a greater variety of artists and genres than previous lists. Looking through the list, there were many albums I’d never listened to before and a few I’d never even heard of. In fact, counting it up, I found that I’d only listened to 140 of the albums, although I’d heard songs from many more. So I’ve decided my project for 2021 is to listen to 10 albums each week and write up some thoughts about each one.

Previous Posts:

Get ready for a great week as I love all ten albums!!!


 

Artist: Elvis Costello
AlbumMy Aim Is True
Year: 1977
Label: Columbia
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Alison”
  • “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”
  • “Less Than Zero”
  • “Mystery Dance”
  • “Watching the Detectives”

Thoughts: It’s a sign of a good album if several tracks are in regular rotation on the radio decades later.  Although in the case of Elvis Costello, I feel that he has a lot of good work from other albums that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Thus the popular perception of Costello is frozen in his debut album as a pub rocker with hints of the coming New Wave.  Still, it’s good to have your first work be so fully realized that it’s still relevant well into the next century.


Artist: The Four Tops
AlbumReach Out
Year: 1967
Label:  Tamla/Motown
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Reach Out, I’ll Be There”
  • “Standing in the Shadows of Love”
  • “Bernadette”
  • “What Else is There to Do (But Think About You)”

Thoughts: Based on patterns in the RS 500, I would’ve suspected that The Four Tops would’ve have got a compilation album on this list.  I guess since this album spawned 6 songs in the Billboard Top 20 that Rolling Stone can consider it a Greatest Hits album.  The album contains three of the Tops’ greatest tunes in “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” “Standing in the Shadows of Love,” and “Bernadette” (all by the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team).  Much of the rest of the album is made up of cover songs of contemporary pop tunes, including two made famous by The Monkees.  While I’d prefer more songs written for the Tops, I understand why they felt the need to do cover songs, and really admire their work as song interpreters.


Artist: Hüsker Dü
AlbumNew Day Rising
Year: 1985
Label: SST
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “New Day Rising”
  • “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill”
  • “Celebrated Summer”
  • “Books About UFOs”
  • “I Don’t Know What You’re Talking About”

Thoughts: I’m afraid that most of my knowledge of Hüsker Dü is that they are the other 80s punk rock band from Minneapolis and the band where Bob Mould got his start. It’s another case of something I should have paid better attention to a long time ago.  This album just plain rocks and sounds perfect on first listen.


Artist: Al Green
AlbumCall Me
Year: 1973
Label: Hi
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Call Me (Come Back Home”
  • “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
  • “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)”
  • “Funny How Time Slips Away”
  • “You Ought to Be With Me”
  • “Jesus Is Waiting”

Thoughts: The second Al Green album on this list is Al Green at his peak with hot grooves and sultry vocals.  I like that he could take country songs by Hank Williams and Willie Nelson and make them his own.  And somehow he made the gospel song that finishes out the album sound sexy.


Artist: Lucinda Williams
AlbumLucinda Williams
Year: 1988
Label: Rough Trade
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Big Red Sun Blues”
  • “Like A Rose”
  • “Passionate Kisses”
  • “Side of the Road”

Thoughts: Lucinda Williams is a name I’ve heard but I hadn’t before paid attention to her music.  She has a big, beautiful, and expressive voice that works well with the blend of country, folk, and blues music presented here.  I also discovered that Mary Chapin Carpenter’s big 90s hit “Passionate Kisses” was a cover, because the original is here on Williams’ album and it’s excellent.  Lucinda Williams is another great revelation for me in this RS 500 experiment.


Artist: Paul Simon
Album: Paul Simon
Year: 1972
Label: Columbia
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Mother and Child Reunion”
  • “Run That Body Down”
  • “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard”
  • “Paranoia Blues”

Thoughts: I’ve long listened to the music of Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel, although less so in recent years (partially because I’ve learned how much of a jerk is in real life).  Nevertheless, I can’t deny that this is a collection of well-crafted songs.  The music is stylistically different from the most recent Simon & Garfunkel album, and contains hints of the “world music” fusion style that would become Simon’s bread & butter in the 80s & 90s.


Artist: Beck
AlbumOdelay
Year: 1996
Label: Geffen
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Devil’s Haircut”
  • “Hotwax”
  • “The New Pollution”
  • “Novacane”
  • “Jack-Ass”
  • “Where It’s At”
  • “Minus”
  • “High 5 (Rock the Catskills)”

Thoughts: Not only did I wear out my cassette of this album back in the day, but it ranked #78 on my own list of Favorite Albums of All Time when I ranked them back in 2009.  This album was a statement from Beck that he was not going to be the guy who had a quirky hit with “Loser.”  Instead there were a few years there in the late 90s and early 2000s when Beck’s unique fusion of folk rock and electronica (among other genres) was some of the most creative music around.  I’m surprised that Odelay is the only Beck album on the RS 500 as I would argue for inclusion of Mutations and Guero, and possibly others from his catalog.


Artist: Yo La Tengo
Album: I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
Year: 1997
Label: Matador
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Moby Octopad”
  • “Sugarcube”
  • “Shadows”
  • “Stockholm Syndrome”
  • “Autumn Sweater”
  • “Center of Gravity”
  • “My Little Corner of the World”

Thoughts: Once again, we have an album that I included on my Favorite Albums of All-Time list.  I ranked I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One at #17, the highest of 4 Yo La Tengo albums in my top 200. Obviously I like Yo La Tengo, who I think were one of the best bands of the 1990s. And I wasn’t even a record store clerk.


Artist: Marvin Gaye
Album: Let’s Get It On 
Year: 1973
Label: Tamla/Motown
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Let’s Get it On”
  • “Come Get to This”
  • “You Sure Love to Ball”
  • “Just to Keep You Satisfied”

Thoughts: Marvin Gaye puts the most courteous and persuasive request for sexual intercourse to music.  The album explores the spiritual and healing powers of sexuality with the same consciousness of Gaye’s social justice songs on What’s Going On? The only flaw with this album is that it’s way too short.


Artist: M.I.A.
Album: Arular
Year: 2005
Label: Interscope
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Pull Up the People”
  • “Bucky Done Gun”
  • “U.R.A.Q.T”
  • “Galang”

Thoughts: My knowledge of M.I.A. is basically the excellent hit song “Paper Planes,” but I really enjoyed listening to Arular.  This is M.I.A.’s debut album (why does the RS 500 seem to value debut albums so much?) and shows her talent rapping over largely minimal drum beats on a drum machine. It reminds of a mix of the simple hip hop of the early 80s with the consciousness of the likes of Public Enemy and De La Soul.


Running List of Albums I’d Listen to Again

  • 500. Arcade Fire, Funeral
  • 498. Suicide, Suicide
  • 497. Various Artists, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
  • 494. The Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
  • 489. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector from Phil Spector and Various Artists, Back to Mono (1958-1969)
  • 487. Black Flag, Damaged
  • 485, Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
  • 483, Muddy Waters, The Anthology
  • 482, The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
  • 481, Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister
  • 478, The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
  • 477, Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ in the Moonlight
  • 469, Manu Chao, Clandestino
  • 465, King Sunny Adé, The Best of the Classic Years
  • 464, The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
  • 462, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
  • 459, Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
  • 457, Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  • 456, Al Green, Greatest Hits
  • 455, Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
  • 453, Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
  • 452, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Anthology
  • 451, Roberta Flack, First Take
  • 448, Otis Redding, Dictionary of Soul
  • 446, Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidanada
  • 444, Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • 443, David Bowie, Scary Monsters
  • 440, Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • 439, James Brown, Sex Machine
  • 438, Blur, Parklife
  • 437, Primal Scream, Screamadelica
  • 435, Pet Shop Boys, Actually
  • 433, LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
  • 431, Los Lobos, How Will the Wolf Survive?
  • 430, Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True
  • 429, The Four Tops, Reach Out
  • 428, Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
  • 427, Al Green, Call Me
  • 426, Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
  • 425, Paul Simon, Paul Simon
  • 424, Beck, Odelay
  • 423, Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
  • 422, Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On
  • 421, M.I.A., Arular

Album Review: There’s a Riot Going On by Yo La Tengo


AlbumThere’s a Riot Going On
Artist: Yo La Tengo
Release Date: March 16, 2018
Favorite Tracks:

  • Shades of Blue
  • Above the Sound
  • Forever

Thoughts:

Even as a diehard Yo La Tengo fan, I felt apprehensive that their new album is named identically to a classic Sly & The Family Stone album.  Having listened to it, I suspect this is the quietest riot ever.  I enjoy Georgia Hubley or Ira Kaplan singing quietly over a guitar or piano track, but previous Yo La Tengo albums always mixed in some rave-ups with the gentler stuff.  This is not a protest album so much as a retreat from the horrors of the present day.  I think this album will grow on me with more listens, but I don’t think it will ever live up to the statement made by its title and the history contained within it.

Rating: ***

Ten Favorite Songs of 2006


The project continues with my favorite songs of 2006.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken – Camera Obscura

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Wind and Rain – Crooked Still

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Rainbows in the Dark – Tilly & The Wall

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Sleep Don’t Weep – Damien Rice

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On the Radio – Regina Spektor

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Wolf Like Me – TV on the Radio

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Crazy – Gnarls Barkley

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Dirty Knife – Neko Case

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Black Flowers – Yo La Tengo

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Emily – Joanna Newsom

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And my song video of shame for 2006 The song’s kind of bland, but I like this Red Hot Chili Peppers video for Dani California.

Ten Favorite Songs of 2002


And now the top ten songs of 2002.

Learn more about this project in the first post.

Banjo in the Rain – The Benders

[clip from CD Baby]

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Bob Hope & Charity – The Mekons

[clip from Amazon]

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Do You Realize? – The Flaming Lips

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Losing My Edge–  LCD Soundsystem

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Misery is the River of the World –  Tom Waits

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Nuclear War (Version 2) – Yo La Tengo

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NYC – Interpol

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The Old Man Doesn’t Like It – The Operators

[listen here]

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Oliver’s Army – Peter Mulvey

[clip on Amazon]

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Stop Foolin’ Around –  Quicksound feat. Isabelle Rajotte

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And my song of shame for 2002: Whenever, Wherever – Shakira

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Ten Favorite Songs of 2000


New decade. New century.  New top ten list for the year 2000.

I seem to still be in the middle of my my folk music and electronica phase.

Learn more about this project in the first post.

Blackbirds – Erin McKeown

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Frontier Psychiatrist – The Avalanches

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Last Days of Disco – Yo La Tengo

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The Littlest Birds – The Be Good Tanyas

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Me & Mr Sutton (Plug 97 Rmx) –  DJ Maus

[A link to a link where you can hear this track]

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No Place Like the Right Time – Donna The Buffalo

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Prince Charming – Jim’s Big Ego

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Still The Night – Paperboys

[listen to a clip on Amazon]

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Tanglewood Tree – Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer

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Wings of the Ragman –  Peter Mulvey

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And my song of shame for 2000:  Who Let the Mets Out by Baja Men

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What were your top songs for Y2K?

Ten Favorite Songs of 1997


The project continues with my favorite songs of 1997.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

Best Black Dress – The Nields

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Brimful Of Asha – Cornershop

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The Drunken Piper – Natalie MacMaster

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Moby Octopad – Yo La Tengo

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No Surprises – Radiohead

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Peace in the Valley –  Alabama 3

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Reunion Hill –  Richard Shindell

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Tubthumping –  Chumbawamba

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Waste Some Time – Paperboys

[The Internet does not have time to waste on this song. :( ]

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You Will Go to the Moon –  Moxy Fruvous

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And my song of shame for 1997: Doctor Jones – Aqua

You’re probably not talking to me after that one, but if you are let me know of a song you love from 1997.

Ten Favorite Songs of 1995


The project continues with my favorite songs of 1995.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

I graduate from college, get a job, and my musical tastes apparently become more obscure.  There are two folk songs in this list with no music or video on the internet.

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Born Slippy – Underworld

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Decora –  Yo La Tengo

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Doin’ What I Like To Do – Sons Of The Never Wrong

[Cannot be found]

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Down From Above –  Moxy Früvous

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House of Pancake – Swirlies

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Hyper-Ballad –  Björk

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Natural One – Folk Implosion

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On We Go – Nancy McCallion

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Stories – Maura O’Connell

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This My Town– Eddie From Ohio

[Cannot be found]

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And my song of shame for 1995: Mouth – Merril Bainbridge

Ten Favorite Songs of 1992


The project continues with my favorite songs of 1992.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

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Are You Happy Now? – Richard Shindell

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The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead –  XTC

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Church – Lyle Lovett

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Doo Doo Brown – 2 Hyped Brothers and a Dog

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Hawa Dolo– Ali Farka Touré

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7 – Prince

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Something Good –  Utah Saints

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Stars – Bobby McFerrin & Yo-Yo Ma

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Thing Of Beauty – Hothouse Flowers

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Upside-Down – Yo La Tengo

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And my song of shame for 1992: Jump Around by House of Pain

Concert Review: Yo La Tengo


It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a rock concert, especially on my own, but I couldn’t miss seeing Yo La Tengo.  So I took a Dad’s night out to the Wilbur Theatre on Sept. 16th where New Jersey’s finest band entertained a crowd of with a large number young hipsters and colleges students.  Nerd chic was in full effect as many in the audience wore checked shirts, argyle sweaters, and even neckties!  I just had to have faith that the roof of the Wilbur Theatre was structurally sound.  I didn’t feel out of place though because there were plenty of middle-aged music geeks like myself in the crowd as well.

Wilbur Theatre is a classic-style playhouse where all the seats on the orchestra level  have been removed and sectioned off by gates into different standing room only pens.  My ticket allowed me to go all the way up front and found a spot by the stage all the way to the left.  On my way in I was surprised to see three Japanese men all with extraordinarily long hair playing screaming blues rock.  They are Yura Yura Teikoku and Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan would tell us letter that this was only their third American city after New York and Burlington.  There psychedelic music was pretty good although I did start to tire of the languid, dreamy guitar solos.  I  could see Kaplan and Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew watching from the wings and drummer Georgia Hubley actually came out to the audience to talk with people she knew.  I refrained from throwing myself down before here and shouting “I’m not worthy!”

Yo La Tengo is one of my favorite bands partly because they are so eclectic.  They are equally adept in folksy songs as they are in power pop and can range between ethereal pieces and noisy machine music.  Similarly, all members of the band can take lead vocals and play multiple instruments.  I guess this versatility can be a turn off as well.  After leading off with “From A Motel 6,” Yo La Tengo launched into a least 8 minutes of reverb, feedback and screeching guitars over a monotonously repeated drum & bass line.   Kaplan stepped into a land where only he, his guitar and amp existed.  It was almost as if Yo La Tengo wanted to test the devotion of the audience.  Later they’d win the crowd over with catchier numbers like “Sugarcube” but lose them again on the finale, an extended version of the Beach Boys “Little Honda” which broke down into another feedback/noise/screech fest.  I actually saw as many people heading for the doors as there were calling for an encore, which I’ve never seen happen at a concert.

But I get ahead of myself, and whatever other may think, I loved every minute of this show.  Highlights for me included seeing McNew – a burly man with a big mop of hair and a surprisingly sweet voice – singing “Stockholm Syndrome.”   Kaplan’s guitar went out of tune on the last verse and he commented that since Wilbur Theatre is usually a comedy club that people might think he was doing comic tuning.  He insisted that they do the last verse again.  Afterwards McNew suggested facetiously that they do it yet again causing much confusion to the roadie bringing new instruments on stage.

For a couple of songs, Yo La Tengo was joined by a string octet of local musicians who accompanied the band on newly composed arrangements by a friend of the band whose name I missed.  The song “Here to Fall” from Yo La Tengo’s new album Popular Songs sounded particularly good with the string accompaniment.  Two of the violinists rejoined the band for the noise part of “Little Honda” with one of them getting down by an amplifier to get distortion from the violin!  Even if it was not a crowd-pleaser, I thought that was worth the price of admission.  The other new song I recognized “Periodically Double or Triple” was a great funky organ piece that you can dance to.

I’ll have to confess that I didn’t recognize a number of songs played, presumably from their newest album which despite that fact that I ordered it in a special package with my tickets didn’t arrive until today and I’ve been unable to find a setlist on the internet.  Also from my perch by the stage my view of the Hubley’s drumming was blocked by a synthesizer and despite being next to an ear-shredding loudspeaker her vocals were inaudible.  Actually the mix on all the vocals was pretty bad. I’m glad she came forward to sing and play acoustic guitar on a couple of songs.  But these are minor quibbles for what was a fantastic show.  I’ve seen Yo La Tengo twice before (once when they were accompanying Jean Painleve’s nature films on their Sounds of Science tour) and thought this was the best of the bunch.  Not bad for a band that’s been around 25 years.

Related links:

  • Acidgalore – the majority of this post is griping about an MBTA shutdown on the night of the show but there is some commentary about the show in the final paragraphs.
  • Boston.com – James Reed of the Boston Globe reviews the show and it’s obvious that he’s a fan.
  • On A Friday – photos from the show including many images of Kaplan going crazy with his guitar.
  • Clicky Music Blog – a photo album from the show.
  • bsearles on flickr – even more photos from the show.
  • NPR Music – a full concert by Yo La Tengo in Washington on September 17th.  Despite being just one day after the Boston show, the set list is almost completely different.  You’ve got to love a band that keeps it fresh.  I also love that NPR considers McNew the “new guy” even though he’s been with the band for 17 years.

Previously: