Yo La Tengo’s diversity in art is rivaled only by their longevity. The iconic indie rock band has lasted & lasted, yet never felt stale, because Georgia Hubley, Ira Kaplan, and James McNew consistently do new things, and have the skill to pull it all off. For instance, even with all their own impressive material, Yo La Tengo might be the greatest cover band out there today, from obscure songs to “Meet the Mets”. Last year, they teamed up with Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara for an LP to be included within a limited-edition catalogue for the LACMA exhibition on Nara. The first side was a collection of covers, chosen in collaboration with Nara, and one original, which is now getting its own Matador Records release as the Sleepless Night EP.
As befits Nara & Yo La Tengo, the covers are not obvious choices, but fit very well together, restrained and beautiful Americana such as The Byrds’ country journey “Wasn’t Born to Follow”. The version of Bob Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” is converted into moody loss, while Flying Machine’s “Smile a Little Smile for Me” is still oh-so-sweet. And there’s one original, the airy, wafting, “Bleeding” (QRO review).
Obviously, this is a bonus release from a band whose catalog is already stuffed past the brim, re-released on its own while we’re all stuck at home, desperate for anything new. But you can still always count on Yo La Tengo.