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Thursday, September 08, 2011

The National + Yo La Tengo + Wye Oak

Friday Night in Boston
by Julie Stoller

The National w/ Yo La Tengo & Wye Oak
Fri, Sept 9, 2011
Bank of America Pavilion
Check Ticket Availability


INTRODUCTIONS - In the twelve years since their arrival, The National has blossomed from critically revered cult following to a much wider appeal. Their most recent release, High Violet, has sold over 500,000 copies, and they've made the round of festivals, including Latitude, Lollapalooza, Reading & Leeds. Their fans discuss singer-songwriter Matt Berninger's symbolic, densely poetic, often cryptic lyrics and debate his intentions ("I prefer misquotes to the actual lyrics, says Matt. It gives the songs more dimensions when people hear something else..."), though a lot of his inspiration seems to come from living one's life in extreme emotional discomfort. Low self-esteem and disillusionment; a lost sense of focus and direction... and the desperate yearning for the unfettered freedom of a more innocent time...

"I made a mistake in my life today / Everything I love gets lost in drawers / I want to start over, I want to be winning / Way out of sync from the beginning" - from Slow Show on Boxer.

"We'll run like we're awesome, totally genius / Hey, love, we'll get away with it / We'll run like we're awesome / We're the heirs to the glimmering world." - from The Geese of Beverly Roadon Alligator.

The National began in 1999 in a pop-informed, alt-country/Americana vein, dark and moody with a deeply foreboding and somewhat sinister air, due to Berninger's distinctive baritone vocals. With each successive album, they've become musically more complex and layered, incorporating string and horn orchestration and sophisticated arrangements.





Berninger's painfully introspective lyrics and mournful delivery remain a constant, and are perhaps even bleaker and more heart-wrenching as time goes on ("What makes you think I'm enjoying being led to the flood? / We got another thing coming undone / But I won't be no runaway" - Runaway, High Violet). Wait, is that a glimmer of hope I hear? At the very least, there's a determination to see it through to the end.

Last year's release... High Violet (4AD), has more of an expansive, collective feel. It was recorded in Aaron Dessner's home studio, with contributions from several friends, including Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and Sufjan Stevens. There are hints of happier moments, centered on a treasured relationship, however tricky those can sometimes be. Perhaps in loving someone and caring for a young family, there can be some sense of salvation. In the meantime, misery has never been so damned pretty.

"I'm a confident liar / Had my head in the oven so you'd know where I'll be / I'll try to be more romantic / I want to believe in everything you believe/ I was less than amazing / Do not know what all the troubles are for / Fall asleep in your branches / You're the only thing I ever want anymore" - from Conversation 16 on High Violet.




The National
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INTRODUCTIONS - With a dozen releases since their debut in 1986, Ride The Tiger, Yo La Tengo has had long-standing critical acclaim though incredibly, not mainstream success. They are "musicians' musicians," with a strong, steady cult following. Which is probably fine by them, 25 years later, as they're still recording and touring and are highly regarded by their peers and music aficionados.

For the past nineteen years, Yo La Tengo has been the husband and wife duo of Ira
Kaplan
(guitars, piano, vocals) and Georgia Hubley (drums, piano, vocals), joined by
James McNew on bass and vocals. Their musical style has varied from gentle, sweet
indie folk to noisy jams and electronics, shoegaze to punk rock. I Am Not Afraid of
You and I Will Beat Your Ass (2006) included string and horn arrangements, no doubt
influenced by their soundtrack work.

Yo La Tengo's wide range of tastes and influences is evidenced by the cover songs they've performed over the years. They've done Cat Stevens and Randy Newman; The Stooges and Burt Bacharach; The Bonzo Dog Band and Petula Clark. Some were courtesy of annual WFMU fundraisers, in which YLT would participate, doing impromptu cover songs requested by people who pledged money to the station (these were eventually compiled into the album Yo La Tengo Is Murdering the Classics). My first introduction to Yo La Tengo was their 1991 collaboration with Daniel Johnston on his epic "Speeding Motorcycle" (yes, it was quite an awakening).

There's also the band's sense of humor which infuses their sets, such as bringing a giant wheel up on stage which someone would spin to decide what they'd be performing that night (i.e. all 'S' songs). They do hail from Hoboken, which might explain something.

Their last album, Popular Songs (2009, Matador Records), was recorded in the band's New Jersey rehearsal space and features string arrangements by jazz composer Richard Evans. To date this is the most successful of their albums, debuting on the Billboard chart at #58. Long overdue, and hopefully a sign of things to come!





Ed's Note: On Saturday, Yo La Tengo will perform at The Met in Pawtucket, RI along with Cambridge, MA-based guitarist and songwriter Glenn Jones (Cul de Sac).

Yo La Tengo
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INTRODUCTIONS - Serene, personal indie folk with deft touches of noisy cacophony and dreamy wanderings give the Baltimore, Maryland duo Wye Oak a unique sound and something a bit more unusual than your usual indie pop fare. They first came to the attention of this blog last year, when they were out supporting Lou Barlow (of Sebadoh).

After Wye Oak independently released their debut, If Children, in 2007, they signed with Merge Records, who released their third album, Civilian, earlier this year. Lyrically, it's about being alone, moving on, and letting go; musically, it's mesmerizing, with quiet passages dissolving into thick, satisfying walls of guitar and electronics.





They have quite a lush sound in live settings, with Jenn Wasner on vocals and guitar, and the impressive multi-tasking of Andy Stack, playing keyboard melodies with his left hand while drumming with his right hand and feet.

The opening spot on a three-band bill (read: arrive early) is a tough position to be in, but hopefully there will be an attentive audience for these guys, especially if they close their set as they have been with the very lovely "Doubt," which Jenn performs solo on guitar and which eloquently showcases her rich, resonant voice.


Wye Oak
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1 comment:

lsg original said...

Saw Wye Oak recently. Fantastic duo!