Swell maps

Feb 9, 2000 at 12:00 am

How do they do it? In the course of 15 years, 10 albums, a bunch of singles and various EPs, Yo La Tengo’s musicians have never lost their way (and the band’s from Hoboken). From its velvet-soft pop balladry (with a big nod toward Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground) to its guitar-based drone / feedback excursions into pure sound (ditto), Yo La Tengo occasionally shifts focus but always hits its target dead-on. While things have gotten smoother in general and Yo La’s recent discs all have a fairly luscious sheen to them, guitarist / singer Ira Kaplan and drummer / singer Georgia Hubley are still the most accomplished husband / wife team in rock. Certainly Kaplan’s guitar vocabulary is better than ever with a full grasp on crunching indie-rock / garage-noise and he knows exactly how to execute multiple layers of ambient dream pop replete with a hushed vocal croon. Having two distinctly different singers affords the band a wide variety of sounds, but things always end up sounding like Yo La Tengo. Is there a better, more enduring indie-guitar band in America today? Who cares, Yo La Tengo is on top of its game and still makes infectious records. It’s time to invest in its latest labor of love.