These days, every band seems eager to honor the anniversary of one of its landmark albums, usually in the form of a concert tour or an expanded reissue, and even Yo La Tengo have gotten into the act – a quarter century after they released their endlessly charming 1990 LP Fakebook, in which they covered a handful of their favorite songs and reworked a few of their own numbers in semi-acoustic fashion, YLT have recorded what amounts to a sequel, 2015's Stuff Like That There. Just like a sequel to a 1980s horror movie, Stuff Like That There follows the template of the original as closely as possible – there are two new songs, three remakes from the YLT back catalog, and nine covers, which range from the instantly recognizable (Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," inspired by Al Green's version) to the thoroughly obscure (unless you're a Hoboken pop obsessive or a James McNew completist, "Automatic Doom" by the Special Pillows is probably not on your hit parade).
This year (2014) marks Yo La Tengo’s 30th anniversary, and they’re celebrating it by reissuing their sixth album, Painful, released nearly a decade into their career. The cardigan-cozy sound of the record effectively established Yo La Tengo as indie rock’s great romantics, and featured a couple of significant firsts for the trio.
On September 28, on the eve of the label’s 21st anniversary celebration in Las Vegas, the Matador at 21 box set lands in stores. The limited-edition box contains five CDs documenting the history of the label with remastered songs released from 1989 through 2010, and one CD of unreleased live recordings from the Matador 10th Anniversary concerts in New York City in 1999. These were recorded to multitrack via the Rolling Stones Mobile Truck and not mixed down until now.
M. Ward's Transfiguration of Vincent is nothing less than spectacular. From the buoyant, late-Beatlesque "Vincent O'Brien" to the dank, shuffling, south of the border groove on "Sad, Sad Song," the troubadour manages to capture a timeless folkiness and match it with a surreal and sparkling sense of nostalgia that clearly echoes Tom Waits. Recorded with the Old Joe Clarks as the backup band, Transfiguration is rooted firmly in old-time Americana, yet M. Ward's take on country and particularly his vocals somehow fit perfectly with Giant Sand, Sparklehorse, and California's surreal, pastoral psych-pop outfit Grandaddy (whose Jason Lytle contributed some field recordings).
On Silence Yourself, Savages' passion burned so brightly it seemed like it might consume itself before they could record a second album. Fortunately, Adore Life proves that the band not only has the endurance to return, but the finesse to come back better than ever. Jehnny Beth and company sound as bold as they did on their debut, but with a newfound precision that only makes their impact more powerful. Adore Life depicts love's most fearsome and joyous sides with a hunger that feels like these songs are really about devouring and being devoured. The churning opener "The Answer" boils relationships down to the plainest ultimatum possible: "If you don't love me/Don't love anybody."
Brooklyn singer, songwriter, and guitar slinger Steve Gunn makes his Matador debut with Eyes on the Lines, a windblown set of road explorations that, despite its meandering nature, is one of his most accessible records yet. The Pennsylvania native has maintained a prolific output over the previous decade, much of it in the form of one-off projects and collaborations, but his solo releases all seem to spring from the same well of wanderlust. Expanding on the spacious sound of his excellent 2014 LP, Way Out Weather, Eyes on the Lines is more of a free-flowing rock affair, finding Gunn and his band locking into bucolic grooves that take their time to unfurl.