The Year in Review – February 2023 – One Very Busy Day!
On February 10th the acclaimed indie trio Yo La Tengo released This Stupid World, their most live-sounding album in years. Times had changed for the group as much as they have for everyone else. In the past they’ve often worked with outside producers and mixers, but for the band’s sixteenth studio record and first full-length in five years, they were left to their own devices. Their time-tested judgment across the double-LP is both sturdy enough to keep things up to Yo La Tengo’s high standards, and nimble enough to make things new. At the base of nearly every track on This Stupid World is the trio playing all at once, giving everything a right-now feel. There’s an immediacy to the music, as if the distance between the first pass and the final product has become more direct.
Over in Ireland, on the the very same day Yo La Tengo released their 11th record, folk singer/songwriter Lisa O’Neill released her 5th, All Of This Is Chance. A raconteur in the truest sense of the word, every story starts somewhere, and Lisa O’Neill started her extraordinary collection here on earth, on Irish soil. Throughout all eight songs it feels like O’Neill is writing in a constant state of wonderment, not only is it a portrait of the artist in love with nature, but one perplexed by the ever-expanding gulf between it and modern society. Lisa O’Neill sings across that divide while simultaneously digging deep into the land, eyes transfixed on a universe of colourful birds, and beyond them stargazing into the atomized constellations of outer space of which we ourselves are fragments. Listen to album standout “Old Note“, below:
On the same side of the world, while simultaneously worlds apart, young U.K. singer-songwriter Benjamin Woods, aka the GOLDEN DREGS, had also just released his 3rd album, and 4AD debut, On Grace & Dignity. Written, recorded, and produced from his South London home, and childhood bedroom in Cornwall, the album considers his home and what it means to be shaped by a place. In among the personal reflections on loss of innocence and inferiority, Woods spins subtly interweaving narratives about survival, desperate acts of violence, loss, and the limitations of community in the face of rapacious gentrification. Though throughout On Grace & Dignity, the GOLDEN DREGS keep a graceful pace grounded by Woods’s deep baritone voice (Think The National’s Matt Berninger or Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merrit), which seems to resonate from his feet while he delivers the sort of meticulously written lunar wisdom worthy of Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner, or the tidy yet revelatory koans of Silver Jews’ David Berman.