Already wanting to escape the shit show which is 2018? Then, boy, has Yo La Tengo got a treat for you! The 15th studio album from these critical darlings is a soothing balm for the anxious. Sweet novocaine for the soul. A shimmering cloud to happily get lost in for an hour. It is, as any indie fan would imagine, a pretty chilled affair, but one with a few surprises up its sleeve.
Nicking its title from the 1971 Sly and the Family Stone classic of the same name, Tengo's latest release is likewise a reaction to the troubling times of the day. Like so many artists of late, Yo La Tengo find themselves forced to react to the anger and confusion currently surrounding everyday life. Naturally, the way in which they go about this is this antithesis of, say, Rage Against The Machine's sonic attack. There are no wigged out solos and distorted chords, it’s a more subtle, humane and emotional response to the great wave of uncertainty currently affecting us all.
The trio's aware they aren't going to drop a huge rallying cry, but what they can offer is solace and reflection. While the slightly politicised theme of the album is somewhat fangless thanks the dreamy journey they weave, it’s nevertheless a welcome retreat. Key to its allure is the loose and drifting manner in which the album presents itself. Constructed from fragments and in-studio jams, '...Riot' is at moments very much an ambient album. Slowly constructed over time, parts could take as long as a year to be added to one another, creating an overall effect that's quietly alluring.
Georgia Hubley's innovative percussive touches help tether songs that otherwise sound as if they could just float away, while Ira Kaplan's occasional guitar licks help give texture to the ethereal. There are a couple of tonal mis-steps, we’re looking at your ‘Esportes Casual’, and perhaps the running time could be shaved down, but overall this stands as a sweet reminder to take a step back from the madness and breathe.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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