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If you aren’t familiar with Yo La Tengo, I will spare you what would be an exhaustive history lesson. The New Jersey trio were indie before the term existed and have released too many records to count, most of which have been near flawless tutorials on musical exploration, smart songwriting, and how to remain dynamic and relevant after a quarter century. Their latest studio album, Popular Songs, will be released by longtime label Matador Records on September 8th; “Periodically Double or Triple” is our amuse bouche.
The track opens with Ira Kaplan establishing a foot-shuffling, Charlie Brown type narrator: “Never read Proust / Seems a little too long / Never used a hammer / Without somehow using it wrong.” Beneath his softly cooed vocals, the music is a ’60s soul rave up, the whole affair thoroughly impregnated with an insistent and occasionally caterwauling organ, like the sort of thing Smashmouth would have done if they weren’t total douchebags. There is some misdirection halfway through–the unexpected flavor profile native to so many Yo La Tengo compositions–and when things get back on track the sound receives some additional layering from Georgia Hubley’s back up vocals and, yes, some cowbell.
“Periodically Double or Triple” shares a defining trait of a couple of Yo La Tengo’s most recent offerings, Summer Sun (2003) and I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass (2006), namely that it is less preoccupied with pushing boundaries the way they did on releases like I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One and more concerned with letting loose and performing solid, enjoyable songs. At this stage of their career, Yo La Tengo has earned the privilege, especially if it means getting to listen to more songs like “Periodically Double or Triple.”