Yo La Tengo

Summer Sun

/matador; 2003/




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And Then Nothing Turns… was calm, peaceful and already lacked the perfect balance between resting beautiful ballads and noise-pop songs that stick to your head which inhabited the glorious I can Hear the Sun Beating As One and Painful to a lesser degree. Summer Sun is very low and slow-moving like its opening song entitled ‘Beach party tonight’. There is no longer noise-pop song endowed with a dirty sound such as ‘From a Motel 6’ or ‘Sugarcube’. ‘Rock’n’roll Santa’ (Christmas ep) let the fans hope for catchy songs but Yo La Tengo only offers peaceful songs and releases a disappointing album.

There are good moments on Summer Sun but it sounds like a compilation of b-sides from their other albums. ‘Little eyes’ is definitely an endearing pop song with a nice solo but it may strongly remind one of ‘Autumn Sweater’. My favourite song ‘Today is the day’ is clearly a voiced sequel to the instrumental ‘Green Arrow’ from I can hear the heart... Both of them evoke late sultry starlit summer night refreshed by a pleasant lazy rain which tries to make up for its being late. ‘Don’t have to be so sad’ gives a similar impression. On the other hand some songs really sound like a slack summer evening (‘Winter ago-go’, ‘Season of the Shark’). There are good pop songs, be they calm (‘Season of the shark’) or very calm (‘How to make a baby elephant’) and hushed voices generate intimacy but the overall gets boring. 
Some other songs develop the band’s appeal towards jazz which recently revealed itself with their nice Sun Ra cover ‘Nuclear War’ (they did the mistake to release four versions of it while one would have been enough). In Summer Sun, YLT explores their idiosyncratic way of playing jazz in the amusing ‘Georgia vs Yo La Tengo’ and the boring ‘Moonrock mambo’. It sometimes tends to penetrate other songs in a great way, offering nice arrangements (‘Winter a go-go’, ‘Nothing but You and Me’ and especially ‘Don’t have to be so sad’ which is endowed with a great piano parts) as they punctually did in And Then nothing turned… (‘Saturday’), and sometimes in a bad way: the hence awaited ‘more than 10 minute song’ here called ‘let’s be still’ is decorated with flutes and a saxophone but the result is clearly dull.
The last track, ‘Take care’, is a good Big Star cover (devoid of its original stringed instruments) which surprisingly sounds like Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’ (almost same chord pattern, similar arrangements and atmosphere but Hope Sandoval is not there to sing). Anyway, Mazzy Star and YLT have more in common than what we may think at first sight, both bands covered Love for instance…

In the end, even if some lines here and there seem taken from I can hear the heart beating as one (‘Don’t have to be so sad’/’Return to Hot Chicken’ – ‘Today is the day’/’Green Arrow’ for example), and even if some lively pop songs remind one of Farebook, this new album is close to their previous full-length And Then Nothing turned…because of its atmospheric dimension. Songs such as ‘Our way to fall’ or ‘Madeline’ have brothers and sisters on this one. However, except for ‘Cherry Chapstick’, YLT’s previous full length was soothing but it did not seem stuck in sluggishness and did not need a change of scenery like this one that becomes dull because there is not a single song which builds up intensity at some point, which is frustrating since we know they can do it in a very slack personal way (‘We’re an American band’).


/june 1st 2003/