All Content © 1997, 1998 Jared O'Connor and Michael Baker

Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One - Matador - 1997

October 2, 1997

Unless PJ Harvey releases something dependably earth-shattering very soon, it's looking like 1997's Album of the Year is going to be a toss-up between Radiohead's OK Computer and this, Yo La Tengo's most ambitious, accessible, coherent and heartfelt album to date. I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One is a stunning tour-de-force from the gods of indie rock. Track after track is richly layered with every style imaginable, each executed perfectly and indelibly stamped with Yo La Tengo's remarkably assured musicianship and their sharpest songwriting yet.

"Moby Octopad" sets the stage with a loping bass line and gentle feedback buttressing a sweetly melodic shuffle, turning swiftly into the organ-droned three-chord stomp of "Sugarcube". "Damage" is an achingly gorgeous ballad of loss, James McNew's bass evoking a tearful heartbeat while Georgia Hubley's ethereally breathy vocals float over her padded tom-tom pulse.

A honey-sweet pop melody belies the taut minor-chord tension that is "Deeper Into Movies"; James McNew does some of his most evocative upper-register harmonizing with Ira Kaplan in "Stockholm Syndrome", and the band even nods to trip-hop in the magnificent groove of "Autumn Sweater".

This is what makes Yo La Tengo so damn good: churning influences and disparate styles into something uniquely theirs. The Beach Boys cover "Little Honda" is inspired, morphing a pop classic with their signature sonic roar, the late-night smoky melancholy of the pedal steel in "One PM Again", the bossanova wind blowing through "Center of Gravity"; all this, plus the droning post-rock meltdown of "Spec Bebop".

Merely in the running for Best Album of 1997? What was I thinking? This is easily the most elegantly intricate, emotionally satisfying release I've heard yet this year.

- Jared O'Connor
sweetly melodic shuffle
One of the finest
albums of 1997


All Content © 1997, 1998 Jared O'Connor and Michael Baker