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Yo La Tengo

There is power in knowledge learned and perceived jointly then presented as an original sin” (1)

Dear Miss Knishkowy,

It seems like almost every other spring one of the robins in our front yard builds a nest on our front porch. It’s always in the same spot above a column in a corner. This is one of those years. A nest appeared as it always has and in time three baby robins poked their heads above the lip of the nest with their beaks pointed to the sky, open wide and requiring. I took to calling those chicks Georgia, Ira, and James. They are in my eyes.

Like the nest, the arrival of a new Yo La Tengo record is a wonder of nature indeed. Constructing in their own fashion a nest for the making of recordings in a comfortable, familiar setting. Assembled from a variety of materials both natural and synthetic, their nest is a strong one. Yet unlike the bird’s nest held together by poop, theirs is a nest that rarely needs such an adhesive to some relief. With occasion, the splendid nature of both endeavors requires the new and its relations.

Between us I honestly wondered if either would in fact return at all following Fade and a tough winter. But I’m a dumbass. The robins showed up again this year and the trio has returned to a concept from which in nineteen ninety they made another F-word-titled record: Fakebook. It was the first record by them I ever heard.

That was nineteen ninety three or four.

It’s now twenty fifteen and I’ll be damned.

Stuff Like That There.

Time has an unfunny way of moving pretty fast as we move with it. As artists we benefit from the accumulation of experience. A professor once told me “most artists only have maybe two or three ideas through the course of their lives. Try as they might they are doomed to repeat and refine those ideas. Sometimes they turn out to be good ideas.” That guy was full of beans but the notion of it gives me pause from time to time. What if he’s right?

Stuff Like That There may well be a 25th anniversary sequel to the idea of Fakebook but to my ears it makes a case for simply returning to what moved Yo La Tengo to make things in the first place:  embracing the people who they still hold close and making a spirited noise about it.

Does it not sound like fun to work with old friends like guitarist Dave Schramm and engineer Gene Holder? It also seems like a good way to try something “McNew,” like James McNew on upright bass, an elemental contribution whose significance cannot be overstated. With Fakebook as template, Stuff Like That There is a record with ties to the past which contribute to the sound they make furthered by an affinity for the sounds they love. Somehow they compose the already composed by return. It’s clear-eyed. It’s clever and concealed.

Rare is the band that can cover themselves. Rarer is the band that would even think of it and rarer still is a band that would return to the conception and re-imagine its first breakthrough record. Someone may have read recently that old quote about how “in not knowing history one is doomed to repeat it.” There’s not another band that I know that is less doomed than Yo La Tengo.

I thought it would be a good idea to listen to this record while writing the bio for it. It’s not. It is distracting. I drift away from the virtual page and fall deep into the virtual sound. Suddenly all sounds are amplified all around me, my dogs are barking and I’m in love all over again. “All Your Secrets” is playing and I hallucinate that the intro is from one of my old songs. I searched “Automatic Doom” to see what “cover” it was and it appears to be a song by either @mistersparrow or Special Pillow. My money is on the pillow though both are in the same key.

“Awhileaway” has got to be an original, I wrote one recently with the same title. Lucky for me I abandoned it. “I Can Feel The Ice Melting” turns out to be a Parliaments song. And “Naples” seems pretty dang original to me and it was originally by Antietam. “Somebody’s in Love” is a Sun Ra song. Darlene McCrea’s “My Heart’s Not In It” kicks things off and The Lovin’ Spoonful gets a nod with “Butchie’s Tune” (I still wonder who Butchie was). For me, my favorite track on the record is “Before We Stop To Think,” a cover of the great Great Plains. In a way it is the one that sums up their approach at its best.

One thing I’ve noticed is that once you learn who these songs are by originally it some how makes you seem much smarter when you can reveal its origin to another listener. Imagine yourself saying, “yes, it’s a great song and it’s by Great Plains!”
It makes you the wiser. Yo La Tengo choose sources that make you enriched if not empowered. There’s a word I swore I’d never use.

Power up, people, this is stuff like that there.


Kurt Wagner




Videos & Press
  • Yo La Tengo Bringing Its Alternating Loud/Quiet Improv To The Warehouse

    [Hartford Courant] By Michael Hamad Write acoustic-leaning, drone-based, melodic pop songs that often don’t rise above the volume-level of a whisper. Cover classic material by Gene Clark, Cat Stevens, the Kinks, the Cure — anyone, really. For good measure, pick up electric instruments, kick on some weird effects pedals and improvise freely, in 30-minute, feedback-filled […]

  • Joan Baez, Richard Thompson, Yo La Tengo and More in the Ark’s 2016 Folk Fest Lineup

    [mlive] By Jenn McKee The 39th annual Folk Fest – a two-night, super-concert fundraiser for The Ark – is scheduled for January 29-30, 2016 at Hill Auditorium, starting at 6:30 p.m. both nights, and the full lineup has just been announced. On Friday night, the show will feature sets by City and Colour; Richard Thompson; […]

  • Yo La Tengo: Morning Edition’s In-House Band For A Day

    [NPR] By Lars Gotrich When listeners aren’t writing to NPR to comment on a story, they mostly just want to know what music was played between segments. We call those buttons or breaks or deadrolls, and they give a breath after reporting a tragedy, lighten the mood after you most definitely cried during StoryCorps, or […]

  • NPR Review: Yo La Tengo, ‘Stuff Like That There’

    [NPR] By Jason Heller “We would write our songs soft / Then we would try to make them tough.” That’s a line from “Before We Stopped To Think,” a song by the obscure, now-defunct indie-rock band Great Plains, covered by Yo La Tengo on its new album, Stuff Like That There. The choice of song […]

  • First Watch: Yo La Tengo, ‘Friday I’m In Love’

    [NPR] By Otis Hart The members of Yo La Tengo flexed their record collector muscles on their revered collective of covers, Fakebook. The 1990 album featured interpretations of songs by The Flamin’ Groovies, Daniel Johnston, NRBQ, and some bands too obscure to even mention on this website. Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley clearly weren’t aping […]

  • Yo La Tengo ready new LP, touring, including Kings Theatre (w/ BV presale) ++ Little Black Egg Big Band show

    [Brooklyn Vegan] Yo La Tengo, who recently celebrated their 30th anniversary, will release a new album, Stuff Like That There, on August 28 via Matador. Reuniting with former member Dave Schramm on electric guitar, the Hoboken legends are also revisiting the Fakebook concept, mixing covers (Hank Williams, The Cure, Lovin’ Spoonful, Antietam), redoing a few […]

  • Hear Yo La Tengo’s Delicate New Recording of Their 1997 Song ‘Deeper Into Movies’

    [Vulture] “Deeper Into Movies,” from Yo La Tengo’s 1997 album I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, is a fuzzy guitar song with lots of drums. A new version, premiering here on Vulture, is on the band’s forthcoming albumStuff Like That There (out August 28 on Matador), and is much more subdued. Band member […]

  • Yo La Tengo covers old tunes on new ‘Stuff’

    [USA Today] For Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan, recording a new album in the same vein as one his group had made 25 years ago seemed like a slightly ridiculous notion. And that’s just why he liked it. “The idea of self-consciously going back in time and revisiting a record from 1990 seemed wrong in […]

  • Yo La Tengo Collect Covers, Reworkings, New Songs on Stuff Like That There, Announce Tour

    [Pitchfork] Yo La Tengo are back with a new album to follow 2013’s Fade. It’s called Stuff Like That There, and it’s out August 28 via Matador. It features re-recorded versions of some of their old songs as well as covers of the Cure, Hank Williams, the Parliaments, Sun Ra, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Darlene McCrea, and others. Listen to […]

  • Yo La Tengo Announce ‘Extra Painful’ Reissue + 30th Anniversary Shows

    [Matador Records] YO LA TENGO ANNOUNCE DEC 2 “EXTRA PAINFUL” REISSUE + 30TH ANNIV SHOWS DELUXE PACKAGE TO INCLUDE 12 BONUS TRACKS + MORE VIA DOWNLOAD COUPON “The true start of the unstoppable decade-long run that would make them one of indie rock’s most revered and canonical bands on record.” –Ryan Schreiber, Pitchfork (in Best […]

  • Yo La Tengo : 30th Anniversary Shows This December

    [Matador Records} Hi everybody, If you’ve been following my daily posts on, you’re probably aware that December 2 marks the 30th anniversary of our first show. We’re throwing ourselves a little commemorative shindig. It starts on the December 3 and 4, at New York’s Town Hall. Sharing the bill with us will be Antietam, […]

  • Yo La Tengo – deluxe ‘Fade’ 2XCD, new 7″ and 3 Brooklyn Dates In December

    [Matador] September 18, 2013 On November 19, we’ll be issuing a double CD version of Yo La Tengo’s widely hailed ‘Fade’ ; the bonus disc (track listing below) features an amazing array of ‘Fade’ outtakes, extra tracks and alternative versions, plus there’s a download card for the “Stupid Things” (12″ version that preceded the album), […]

  • Yo La Tengo – “Super Kiwi”

    [Stereogum] By Tom Breihan Yo La Tengo – “Super Kiwi” Earlier this year, New Jersey indie royalty Yo La Tengo released their truly excellent new album Fade, and you should make a real effort to hear it if you haven’t already. One song that came from that album’s sessions but didn’t make the cut for […]

  • Watch Yo La Tengo Perform at Pitchfork Music Festival

  • Watch: Yo La Tengo’s New Video for “OHM”

    Yo La Tengo’s new video for “OHM,” was written and directed by Donick Cary, with animation created by Sugarshack Animation, and produced by Dejda Mishkovsky. Take a look here:

  • KCRW Presents: Yo La Tengo

    [KCRW] Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew visit the Morning Becomes Eclectic studios to perform songs from their most recent album, Fade. Watch the venerable indie-rock trio play a KCRW favorite, “Two Trains.”

  • Watch Yo La Tengo Cover The Supremes’ “Come See About Me”

    [Stereogum] March 19, 2013 By Claire Lobenfeld When Rhino released Girl Group Sounds: One Kiss Can Lead To Another boxset, I was all over it. There’s a whole range of emotion that tends to get overlooked by the patina of choreographed pop, but when you have torch songs from Dusty Springfield, guttural yearnings from Connie […]

  • Watch Yo La Tengo’s “I’ll Be Around” Video, Starring Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan

    [Pitchfork] by Evan Minsker Yo La Tengo have shared the new video for Fade’s “I’ll Be Around”, directed by Phil Morrison (who directed Junebug). It stars Superchunk/Merge head Mac McCaughan, and it features a bunch of text, including a pretty delicious-sounding recipe. In other Yo La Tengo news, two early albums by James McNew’s solo […]

  • Q&A: Yo La Tengo on Personal Songs and Keeping New LP Brief (Rolling Stone) By Eric R. Danton Yo La Tengo have sometimes had trouble knowing when to stop writing songs, but not this time. The New Jersey trio’s latest LP, Fade, clocks in at 45 minutes, a modest length for a band prone to stretching past the 70-minute mark. “We tried a little harder explicitly to stop […]

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