WRITEN BY: Ben Abrams
The lineage of Yo La Tengo is made up of many musical and sonic roads taken. They have been cast as an art rock, noise pop, and shoegaze band whose experimental nature is responsible for their constantly shifting sound. This formula has afforded the band a staunch cult following, as well as success on the charts. 2013’s Fade saw the band reach 26th on the U.S. Billboard 200. This has been one long climb for the band, as they began the project in the early 80s, but never have they shied from their creative spirit. On their latest work, There’s a Riot Going On, we see the band revamping themselves once again. Turning to more of a warm and ambient sound, Yo La Tengo has produced an album of strength in subtlety.
The album’s opener, and lead single, “You Are Here” is completely lyric less. Instead of propping up vocals as the mainstay of the track, a humming guitar melody loops as the beat of the song drives down a path of lush echo and reverb. “Shades of Blue” follows as the second song, and is the album’s most “pop friendly” cut. It harkens back to the sound of some of the tracks off Yo La Tengo’s compilation of covers, Stuff Like That There, from 2015. There’s a Riot Going On has a definite shape to the layout of its songs, as the tracks at the front and back of the album are more lively and the middle portion sounds like it has fallen into a deep slumber. “Shortwave”, the centerpiece track, is complete ambient bliss. It is an amorphous drone of wispy delays and synths left in stasis. The whole album seems to be put on pause so that this song can explode forth, while still not causing too much of a stir. Towards the end of the album, the surfy “Forever” beautifully sways, and “Here You Are” closes the album with vocals and instrumental themes from earlier in the track list. This makes the song feel like a summation of everything preceding it, and functions as an appropriate conclusion.
In their more recent efforts, Yo La Tengo have focused on uplifting the listener. Soothing songs of love and strength have become their domain, and these sonic qualities have kept them interesting as the years go on. There’s a Riot Going On continues down this path of confident songwriting from a band that is ever evolving even after accomplishing so much.
There’s a Riot Going On can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, and many other streaming services. The band will be performing live in Philadelphia on April 7th at Union Transfer.