Most of us fans have a silly tendency to look at our favorite musicians as being the smartest people in the world. Within their lyrics we know we’ll find the answers to everything, if we just look hard enough. In truth, most musicians are no smarter than any of us—often much less so. You can find many books on this subject.
Georgia, Ira and James of Yo La Tengo are exceptions to this rule, and Popular Songs, their 12th (or 14th, depending on what and how you count) album is the proof. Because when this new and dramatically unimproved world puts the hard questions to Yo La Tengo, they go Socratic as hell, swaggeringly, reassuringly, honestly telling us that all they know is they know nothing. They do not know why that sunbeam comes through the window when you are determined to sulk; they do not know just how are we going to make it, anyway?
Down to their fingernails, Yo La Tengo understand that the dichotomy has never been love & hate—this life is about love & fear. And fear makes you run and hide, sit on your ass, do nothing but be consumed by it. To restate the obvious, Yo La Tengo are not afraid. They walk bravely forward, into the unknown, hand in hand. And 12 (or 14) albums in, they may just be hitting their stride.