Yo La Tengo Goes Mellow & Psychedelic On 15th Album ‘There’s A Riot Going On’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Hoboken, New Jersey’s Yo La Tengo continues their long indie rock career with their fifteenth studio release There’s A Riot Going On. It is just over an hour of mellow psychedelic movements showcasing a new recording process for the band yet still managing to satisfy old fans with their patchwork, dreamy tracks.

Completely self-produced, the group was recorded (by bassist James McNew) on Pro Tools with no outside opinions. Snippets were pieced together, spun backward and rearranged from various projects, performances, film scores and jam sessions, some dating back a decade. The record (by Yo La Tengo’s admission) started out as an accident but when listening to all the variant parts the group realized there was a greater whole present. The songs at times can feel like demos or outtakes or experiments (“Out of the Pool” unfortunately sounds like all three at once), but the overall sense of ease/belonging pieces things together as a complete work of art.

“Dream Dream Away” is a clear example of the bands new found recording style. Starting with acoustic strums setting a peaceful tone before warbling undercurrents connect the intro to a hypnotic airy vocal behind the scenes; both pieces would work fine on their own yet soar higher together. Other highlights are the buzzing grandeur of “For You Too” and the organic swelling of “What Chance Have I Got” which layers twinkling electric guitars around solid bass work and a gorgeous vocal.  

Whether it is the dreamy twanging of “Polynesia #1” or the digital beats underlining “Ashes” the trio (McNew with Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley) always come across as authentic. “Above The Sound” uses a repetitive rhythm with just hints of sax and numerous other instruments in front of spoken phrases to set an eerie tone while the mix of digital swirling and straight head playing of “Shades of Blue” and “She May, She Might” roll like a pleasant Beatles inspired daydream.

The trio’s instrumentals flow easily as opener “You Are Here” sets the relaxed tone, “Shortwave” is a pulsing drone with scrambled sounds in the white noise and the Latin late-night lounge track “Esportes Casual” smirks with a fun flair, setting it apart from the more atmospheric offerings. The overall sleepy tone of the record can be too loose at times with no powerful standout song, or all that much energy exuded, yet as a mood record it succeeds.  

The perfect Sunday morning band for the middle-aged indie fan now supplements their back catalog with a pretty digital hodgepodge. While not playing with any of the dark sounds, social discourse, addiction or racial complexity hinted at in its title (nodding obviously towards Sly Stone), Yo La Tengo manage to still sound aloof yet grand on the relaxed There’s A Riot Going On.

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