Review #423: I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, Yo La Tengo

Karla Clifton
3 min readJul 25, 2023

#423: I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, Yo La Tengo

Don’t hate, but I was sort of hoping for an easy one this time. Please don’t be a five-hour long compilation album, I prayed. This one was a little over an hour, which I thought boded well, until I learned that it was shoegaze.

Yo La Tengo (who, I just learned, are very different from Yo Yo Ma) are an indie band from Hoboken NJ. Very East Coast. Guitarist Ira Kaplan went to Sarah Lawrence in Yonkers. He and percussionist Georgia Hubley have been married for most of the band’s existence, and have gone through 14 bass players total. Imagine being a third wheel in someone else’s band and relationship, having to perform songs about your drummer wearing an “Autumn Sweater” and about your guitarist being your drummer’s “Center of Gravity.” (Kaplan has said that the lyrics were the last thing they wrote, which is probably why so many of their songs sound like off-the-cuff, late-night love poems.)

Reviews that talk about how varied and eclectic this record is, which is true. There’s sickass Hawaiian slide guitar (“One PM Again”) and there’s the occasional sticky-sweet acoustic ballad (“Shadows”), but don’t believe the hype: this is shoegaze and nothing but. If you don’t believe me listen to “Spec Bebop,” which is a pillowy, ten-minute-and-counting guitar jam. It’s like indie with pixie dust on it — trippy psych rock at a bonfire in the woods. See “Return to Hot Chicken,” “Damage,” and the excellently titled “The Lie and How We Told It.”

So Yo La Tengo is an indie band, but don’t hold that against them, because they’re also low-key hilarious. They’re more than that, they’re clever. Their name (Yo La Tengo, “I Got It”) is a baseball reference. Their other albums range from hilarious to deathly serious: see I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass and There’s A Riot Goin’ On. Even on this album, they decide to play a big trick on everyone, placing advertisements for fake bands inside the jewel case of the CD. (Later on, they would release a cover album titled F*ckbook under the name of one of those fake bands, the Condo F*cks. It’s a whole thing.)

Yo La Tengo is also cover happy — elsewhere they cover Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw The Light,” and on this one they cover the Beach Boys“Little Honda.” But even when they’re not doing covers, they’re doing impressions. Here’s a list of everyone that I thought Yo La Tengo sounded like:

“Moby Octopad” : Cocteau Twins, Silversun Pickups.

“Sugarcube” : Yuck. (Check them out, even though they’re no more.)

“Deeper into Movies” Nine Inch Nails.

“Stockholm Syndrome” — Arcade Fire in their The Suburbs era.

“Green Arrow” The XX.

“We’re an American Band” Sonic Youth with a Led Zeppelin twist at the end.

“My Little Corner of the World” — The Juno soundtrack.

Shoegaze has a weird effect on me: I listen once, I roll my eyes. I listen twice, I kind of like it. I listen to it three times, and I become wholly obsessed with it. Good driving music, or for running when you’re in a weird mood.

Review #422: Let’s Get It On, Marvin Gaye

Review #424: Odelay, Beck

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