Stranded In Stereo: My Formative Years: "I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One" by Yo La Tengo, 1997

Thursday, June 7, 2007

My Formative Years: "I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One" by Yo La Tengo, 1997

I honestly don't remember when I got this album. Again, it was the bald head of Matt Pinfield and his Sunday night forum 120 Minutes that introduced me to the awesomeness of "Sugarcube" (greatest music video of all time. Period.) It's an anthem -- it's the theme song to my life (musically, even lyrically maybe?) I don't think I picked up I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One right away though. I'm almost thinking it wasn't until early 1998 that I bought this at Borders (I remember that much.)

The one thing I remember most about the first time I spun this record was the second "Autumn Sweater" came on. My friends Paul and Justin were spending the night and they had passed out on the couches in my basement living room, so at 1:30 in the morning I found myself not ready to rest. I grabbed my Aiwa discman and put on Heart for the first time. The sequencing is intense: for me, I blame this Hoboken trio for my love for mixtapes. Their albums, especially this and last year's tour de force, I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass, floored me with how varied they were. On both of these albums, no two songs sound the same. It was as if they were mix tapes made by the great fictional charcater of literature and film, Rob Gordon. With Heart, the album opened with a swift instrumental overture, before tapping in to some jazz piano and simple bass and then launching in to "Sugarcube." The set of songs that hold up the first half of these 16 songs, the order just floors me:

Sugarcube (loud indie noise post-punk what have you)
Damage (muddled vocals, infectious bass line, and murky drums)
Deeper Into Movies (LOUD LOUD LOUD LOUD: if VU got back together, this is what it would come down to)
Shadows (jazzy snazz with Georgia crooning next to a great brass mid-section)
Stockholm Syndrome (acoustic lament pop song, right up there with "Make It With You")
Autumn Sweater

This is what I remember about the first I heard this record. "Sweater" comes on, and it's like a knock out of the ball park: it sounds nothing like any of the songs that preceded it. The drums were such a crucial part of the song, they were all up in the mix; and then, as opposed to several other songs on the album, it's all built around some maracas and organs and key bass. No guitar appears once in the five and a half minutes. It's the stand out track, the one that stands out more than any other. It's such a cute, quirky description of your typical high school party that Ira Kaplan laments about. The song ends with a flat-lining synth that almost brings a tear to the eye. It then launches in to their rendition of "Little Honda" and just continues to floor the listener up until you reach "My Little Corner Of The World."

Any Yo La Tengo album is like an organic experience. All the songs always go together so well, even though they're all of varying genres. Their follow-up, 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, which I might add is what I may actually dub my favorite Yo La Tengo album, is such a calm and reflective effort. If they'd take out their attempt at re-creating "Teen Age Riot" ("Cherry Chapstick,") the album would be the greatest album this decade. But this, for me, will always stand out as the album that really changed me. The album that just opened me up to so many other acts, past and present. It's a record that is influential, groundbreaking, and pristine without even trying.

"Sugarcube" (Bob Odenkirk never looked better as a Kiss wannabe):

Download: "Autumn Sweater" [mp3] /// [Buy Here]

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