Yo La Tengo

Stuff Like That There

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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). Just as importantly, original Yo La Tengo guitarist Dave Schramm, who appeared on Fakebook, returned for the Stuff Like That There sessions, and while his style would have been a poor fit beside Ira Kaplan's clouds of six-string skronk that became a highlight of YLT's work from President Yo La Tengo onward, for stuff like this, Schramm's graceful sound, full of echo and clean single-note leads, meshes gloriously with Kaplan's implacable strum and the steady shuffle of bassist James McNew and drummer and vocalist Georgia Hubley. As "quiet" Yo La Tengo goes, like Fakebook this is top shelf, beautiful, and subtly joyous, and while the songs are well chosen and the performances are warm and passionate despite the low decibel level, the real secret weapon here is Georgia Hubley's vocals. Like Maureen Tucker singing "After Hours," what Hubley lacks in range she more than makes up for in her ability to infuse a song with feeling, and from the heartache of "My Heart's Not in It" and the lover's kiss-off of "Butchie's Tune" to the sweetly fractured romanticism of "Friday I'm in Love," Hubley's work beautifully demonstrates how much more less can be. If Stuff Like That There isn't as revelatory as Fakebook, it's a splendid, beguiling album that's perfectly suited for late nights and rainy afternoons, and a welcome reminder of one of the many, many things Yo La Tengo do so well.

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