I first listened to Yo La Tengo sometime in the mid-90s, slightly after the release of their ’95 album Electr-O-Pura. I was living in rural North Carolina, and the idea of “indie” music was pretty new to me, and it was pretty amazing to me that there were bands creating great experimental pop music in a commercial vacuum. It seemed more “authentic” and “honest.” You can laugh at those values now, but for a young person living in a small town at the south in the pre-internet era, these things didn’t seem illusionary then. I was primarily drawn to the dueling aesthetics of ambience and noise in their music, especially evident on Painless and in songs like “The Evil that Men Do.” I saw them in Charlotte,NC and they played 20 minute stretches of noise.
Sometime after I Heard the Heart Beating as One, my musical interests had shifted, I largely abandoned guitar-based music for electronic and hip-hop. I was surprised many years later, living in San Francisco and in my mid-20s, that they had become a much quieter band, and were darlings of the latte-n-vinyl, NPR set. I wasn’t sure who had changed more — them or me — but this is still a great playlist of the songs that they’ve covered over the years. It’s also great to see bands getting more involved with curation.