Robert Kimmerle
executive branch in a nation of one

Sunday, April 13, 2003
So I took a four-day weekend, doing the whole spring-fever thing finally; we had a couple of nice days earlier, but lately we've been buried in rain and chilliness, and only now can I trust the idea that winter is over.

I made a wondrous discovery while thumbing through the New Yorker: Yo La Tengo have a new album. It's a sign of some kind that I'm now getting news of bands I care about from the New Yorker, but anyhow. So today I ran out in excellent weather to buy a fittingly titled album, Summer Sun.

Their last album, And then nothing turned out inside-out, was the album that made my decide finally that YLT are my favorite band anywhere. Since then, they've put out an electro EP, an out-of-left-field cover of Sun Ra's "Nuclear War" (notable for both its bald atavism -- "It's a motherfucker, don'tcha know" -- and the utterly unheralded funkiness they manage to pull off), and a self-released album called "The Sounds of the Sounds of Silence", the soundtrack for a French avant-garde documentary of underwater flora and fauna. There is, indubitably, something good and right about mailing your favorite musicians a small sum of money and then receiving -- within 72 hours, too -- their most recent creation, but it wasn't a Yo La Tengo album in the sense I knew.

I was also worried about the new album, both by its title and the off-kilter beachball logo they adopted for the album, and by the song titles, notably the first one, "Beach Party Tonight". I had the dark omen that Yo La had gone berserk on their Beach Boys tendencies, but several awestruck listens later I have not yet wrapped my head around this first track. It's brilliant, sad, wise, drifts in and out of dreams, smiles and waves goodbye. There's a trumpet in there somewhere, playing the soundtrack to the wishes you've told no one about.

Truth be told, I've played the album several times without making sense of any of the other parts. There's a quietly cheery song called "Season of the Shark" that rises out of the haze long enough to make an impression of its own, but for the rest I'm content to be carried along on the album's unspoken impulse. I'm pretty sure this can last me all summer.

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