Music » Livewire

Yo La Tengo, with Portastatic and Chris Butler

Saturday, April 12, at the Beachland Ballroom.


Yo La Tengo
  • Yo La Tengo
"Even if I could articulate it, I think I would feel too self-conscious to tell you which moments of our own brilliance make me pat myself on the back," Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew says humbly of his favorite moments on his band's latest LP, Summer Sun. "I think earlier in the process is when I get the little bursts of excitement. Like when we suddenly manage to put our finger on a sound we'd sort of been groping towards, and we all kind of light up." As McNew sees it, it's this kind of musical rapport between him, frontman Ira Kaplan, and singer-drummer Georgia Hubley that accounts for the refinements in Yo La Tengo's sound over the years. "Over time, you get comfortable with each other, you develop a sense of how to anticipate each other," he explains. "I think that trust allowed us, this time around, the luxury of going into the studio without having the songs already fully worked out, and instead to let the ideas develop really spontaneously."

Perhaps it's the band's spontaneity that accounts for the biggest difference between Summer Sun and 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out -- two albums McNew himself acknowledges aren't that different. Where Nothing was an album of sublimated tension, Summer Sun sounds organic and unfussy -- even in its flashes of darkness. Yet, aside from noting that Summer Sun is more "rhythmic" and "textured" than Nothing, McNew keeps coming back to the theme that "very little has changed."

"Maybe the next one always seems like a natural extension of the last one," he suggests. "But seriously -- same producer as ever, same studio; we even stayed in the same places we'd stayed before. It's just that, over time, more and more people have found out about us. I mean, now that we're playing the bigger venues in the towns we've been hitting for years, even the lunkheads in the audience are gratifying. Sometimes you wish they wouldn't talk during the quiet parts," he concludes with a laugh, "but we're still glad they're out there." Likewise.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.