Medium Rotation — This Stupid World; Breaking the Balls of History

YO LA TENGO This Stupid World (Matador) — Yo La Tengo has been kicking around for so long that it’s easy to take them for granted, especially because they’ve been so prolifically great over the years. Certainly since the back-to-back masterpieces I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One (1997) and And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (2000), the Hoboken trio has offered a steady procession of whoa-that’s-really-good-too albums. This Stupid World, their seventeenth studio album, can be reasonable heard as another case of more of the same. The distorted guitars against vocals of wafting delicacy on “Sinatra Drive Breakdown” or the bulldozer of buzz on the title cut are as distinctively bound to Yo La Tengo as their annual Hanukkah shows. The new album’s “Fallout” is even reminiscent of I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One standout “Sugarcube.” The new album is enough of a grabber that those who haven’t been paying attention might consider it a rejuvenation. The true believers know that it represents Yo La Tengo simply doing what they’ve been doing so well for more than thirty years. Be part of their world with the following cuts: “Tonight’s Episode” (with lead vocals by bassist James McNew), “Until It Happens,” the Lou Reed–like “Apology Letter,” and “Miles Away.”

QUASI Breaking the Balls of History (Sub-Pop) — Nearly ten full years passed between the release of full-length studio albums by Quasi. Of course the band’s two members, guitarist Sam Coomes and drummer Janet Weiss, stayed plenty busy in the interim, toiling away as cool-kid icons of icon rock. It’s the recent ups and downs of Weiss that give the Quasi effort, Breaking the Balls of History, a little extra import as a comeback. After helping Sleater-Kinney thunder back to life, Weiss quit the band when a St. Vincent-abetted reinvention wasn’t to her liking. Not long after that announcement, Weiss was involved a car accident that required months of recovery. Hearing her powerful, steady-yet-personality-filled drum parts jolt the life into tracks such as “Queen of Ears” and “Rotten Wrock” is almost a relief. In general, the duo is in fine form on the album, bringing a tuneful glumness to their assessment of a COVID-conked modern world with “Doomscrollers” (“And all the kids in their virtual classes/ Stuck at home sitting on their asses”) or being agreeably ornery on the title cut. Let’s hope another decade doesn’t pass before the next set. In addition to the tracks already noted, give a listen to “Back in Your Tree,” “Gravity,” “Riots & Jokes,” and “Nowheresville.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s