Since their last proper album 'And Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out', Yo La Tengo have been mostly touring a live soundtrack to some old short films about jellyfish. That stretchy moistness has possibly soaked through a little too much on this slightly disappointing album. Still, a disappointing Yo La Tengo is still vastly preferable to most artists at the top of their game.
'Summer Sun' is a lush, drawn-out listen, choosing delicate psychedelia over the variety and distinction of their other work. There are almost no feedback moments at all and little of their spiky, percussive jamming. And it's not often you hear so much piano on a YLT record. Even the groovier moments stay markedly gentle and echoing. Also, in another break from the norm, the studio has been invaded by a plethora of extra 'proper' musicians who weave loose, embedded brass or pedal steel into the mix. I really don't think this is entirely successful, although it does strengthen several songs, giving them a fuller, more textured feel than Yo La Tengo usually get. But I like the willful sparseness and the noise and the pointed definition of the songs. And I don't want Ira to suppress his own wondrous squalling guitar moments in the name of a wet Hawaiian Sun Ra aesthetic.
OK, actually that's too harsh - borne of high expectation and a small struggle to really get this new CD I was SO looking forward to. Yo La Tengo's back catalogue is an understated pile of such monstrous beauty and as recently as 'I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One', they were still writing utter classics...
So. Summer Sun is a lovely collection of quieter Yo La Tengo moments, with a nod towards the old-fashioned twangin' guitars of surf pop. It closes with a neat cover of Alex Chilton's 'Take Care', after an archetypal ten-minute wigout, both these closing tracks are highlights. 'Tiny Birds' is also gorgeous, in fact - admittedly - a lot of it is. My favourite moment is probably 'Georgia Vs. Yo La Tengo', in which a piano and a wobble board fight over riffs, plus there's an actual guitar solo on it. But there's no memorable 'Stockholm Syndrome' pop on this record and certainly nothing remotely violent.
7Toby Jarvis's Score