Yo La Tengo
Somehow, I'd not heard much of anything by Yo La Tengo until their instrumental/remix Danelectro EP, even though they've been around for well over 10 years now. In that span of time, they've put out a very diverse batch of music, ranging from tracks that squeal with feedback to slow instrumentals and even into the realm of bopping pop songs. They've progressed and tried different things, without ever managing to stray too far away from what they do well in the first place.
With And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, they done that very same thing again, but instead of turning things up, they've turned them down. With 13 songs on the album that run a whopping 77 minutes long, there's only really one track where they turn up the amplification, while the rest of the album coasts along at a beautiful pace, while exploring relationship topics (members Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley are married) with lyrics that sometimes sound like they were almost too personal to sing. In fact, on some occassions, the album reminds me of another recent album by a trio that album contains two married members (Low's Secret Name).
The album begins in a completely down state with the droning "Everyday." With only very minimal percussion and guitars, a bassline walks up and down a simple progression while Ira and Georgia sing in an almost monotone, hushed vocal style. Although it's not exactly upbeat, the second track "Our Way To Fall" is almost a complete breath fo fresh air with brushed drums and more subtle guitar and bass work. This time, it's only Ira on vocals and he sounds so shy and unsure of himself that you're kept on edge wondering if his voice will crack. A synth vox makes an eerily strange backup vocal to the track.
The album finally really shakes off it's somber tone on the silly "Let's Save Tony Orlando's House" (based around a sketch from The Simpsons). With some programmed drums and organs, it feels more loose than any of the previous tracks by far and bounces along in an almost gleeful way. As mentioned above, there are a couple tracks on the disc that remind me of music by Low, and "Tears Are In Your Eyes" is one of them. It drifts along in a very subdued way and the two-part vocal harmony between Ira and Georgia make it one of the most beautiful songs on the entire release.
Of course, the group also knows how to rock, and they show that on the feedback-laden "Cherry Chapstick." It almost feels out-of-place on the release next to all the other quieter numbers, but it's a welcome blast and it reminds one of the best stuff that Sonic Youth used to do. Perhaps they just put it on the disc to remind everyone that they still could write such songs, even in the midst of their most quiet album to date. Nevertheless, they manage to merge the squall of guitars and a great sing-along into one song. The album closes out with an almost funny, dirty lounge instrumental ("Tired Hippo") and the epic 17-minute "Night Falls On Hoboken" that feels a tad overlong but works in context with the rest of the disc in closing things down. If you're a fan of the groups older work, this one may take a couple listens to warm to, but it's very rewarding and for those who like slower styled music like some of the other groups mentioned above, give it a listen. You'll be glad you did.