This sounds like an uncharacteristically warm day in the middle of a Canadian winter. On that note, how lucky are we to still have ~6 degree weather in the beginning of December? After the God-awfulness of last year? Very lucky. Also lucky to have this.
Lucky because all of these songs – mostly covers, which makes it easy to write off because to certain people, songs that are written by other people are automatically worse, for some fucktard reason – are well-sung and well-played. Well-sung, such as when they run through the wordy bridge of “Friday I’m In Love” or the hook of “Somebody’s in Love” (I learned recently that a young Sun Ra, like a young Lou Reed, was in a brief doo-wop group) at breakneck speeds, they deliver them without losing the gentle aesthetic. Well-sung, such as the sheer heart-tugs of “My Heart’s Not In It” (answered/elevated by the chipper guitar) and, especially, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” (which invalidates about half of the other covers of this song by actually sounding sad – novel, I know!). Well-sung, such as the solemn delivery of “Before We Stopped To Think” (a sharp contrast to the preceding tunefulness of “Friday I’m In Love”). Well-sung, such as the close harmonies throughout (cf. “Rickety” and “Automatic Doom”); close, as in, they sound like they’re serenading you in your bedroom. And said aesthetic elevates minor songs like “I Can Feel the Ice Melting” (nice bounce after “Awhileaway”, which didn’t bounce but had lovely pillows made out of the dual guitars) minor triumphs; “Friday I’m In Love” is an improvement than the original because they drop how self-pleased Robert Smith sounded after he realized he wrote a great tune, letting the melancholy of the words hang in the air instead of subverting it (with unnecessary woops). (So no, it doesn’t sound “out of place,” Stuart Berman, and it certainly isn’t “a distant second” to fucking Dinosaur Jr.’s overrated cover of “Just Like Heaven.”) Similarly, they manage to sell lyrics about crystal cosmic sparrows and neo-pterodactyls without losing focus on “Automatic Doom”’s inherent focus on repetition and anxiety. And they improve “Deeper Into Movies” (a time-waster from I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One) by stripping away the distortion but turning up the tune (the “…and it blows my mind” bits are sung with such frailty and wonder at the “crashing cars” that “never seem to collide”) and turn up the texture (the guitar solo, searching for something in space; the vocal harmonies in the coda), while still keeping the propelling guitar.
Yo La Tengo were a band that I always liked and never loved (I’d say their friendliness makes for a band that’s hard to dislike and impossible to hate), and here, they made an album that I loved outright.