The hottest music from Chicago & beyond

Tag: yo la tengo

Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Sunday Photos

The third and final day of the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival was just as incredible than the first two, if not more so. After the jump, enjoy the visual odyssey that was Sunday with photos of R. Kelly, M.I.A., Yo La Tengo, Chairlift, Sky Ferreira, Waxahatchee, Run the Jewels, Killer Mike and Foxygen. For complete coverage of everything related to this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, simply click here.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Final Thoughts

I’m pleased to be wrapping up this week-long adventure into coverage of the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival with a quick look back at the weekend that was. Having attended the festival for the last few years, you really get used to how things are run and where you need to go for everything from water to food to restrooms. So as you return in a sense it’s like coming home, and that’s comforting. I never once felt out of my element or like I had no idea what I was doing over the three days. Of course I didn’t quite see everything I wanted to see and hear everything I wanted to hear thanks to traffic delays and one too many hits of the snooze button, but what I missed was miniscule compared to what I saw. Hopefully you’ve read all about those adventures in my daily recaps (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). That should give you a pretty good idea of the best and worst of the music side of things this year. But just for fun, I put together a little list of superlatives, helping to highlight some of my favorite and least favorite musical treats from the weekend. Check that out:

Most surprising set: Killer Mike
Most disappointing set: Yo La Tengo
Set that best lived Up to the hype: Savages
Band that sounded better live than on record: Parquet Courts
Most openly fun set: Solange
Most likely controlled the weather during their set: Bjork
Set that proved punk rock is alive and well: Metz
Veteran act that still has “it”: Wire
Veteran act that has lost “it”: The Breeders
Band whose set would have been far more popular in a different decade: Chairlift
Band that felt so right in the middle of a sunny afternoon: Phosphorescent
Quietest set (artist + crowd): Joanna Newsom
Funniest set: Mac DeMarco
Most gratuitous use of the word “SWAG”: Lil B
Flashiest performance with the least amount of genuine substance: M.I.A.
Most pathetic attempt to attract attention: Foxygen

Outside of those superlatives, I want to talk for a brief minute about how things went overall. Since we’re on the topic of music, let me say a few words about this year’s lineup. To me, it felt just a little bit weaker than in the last few years, though all of the headliners were certainly nothing to sneeze at. Perhaps that’s where most of the budget went this year. I suspect it was telling that unlike the last couple years, the festival wasn’t a total sell out this year. Sunday was sold out, most likely due to obsessive R. Kelly fans who camped out at the Green stage for much of the day just waiting for him. But Friday and Saturday didn’t sell out, as far as I’m aware. I did keep hearing that there were a “very limited number” of tickets left for Friday, so maybe that eventually sold out too. When I look at it, I like most of the artists on the lineup for this year, but I’m not overly passionate about a lot of them. It made for another fine festival overall and I’m glad I saw what I did, but for whatever reason it sometimes felt like something was missing. Not a whole lot of artists really jumped out and grabbed me by the ears, so maybe that’s what it was. If I were put in charge of naming one act each day that was my favorite, the list would be the following: Friday – Bjork, Saturday – Savages, Sunday – Killer Mike. Of all the days, I’d classify Friday as my least favorite, primarily because many of the artists that performed that day were either relatively bland (Woods, Mikal Cronin) or didn’t quite feel like they belonged at an outdoor festival (Angel Olsen, Joanna Newsom). Perhaps I should have made it to Union Park in time for Trash Talk, I heard their set was crazy.

Music aside, let me comment on the amenities this year. Considering the capacity of Union Park every year, festival organizers have gotten everything at just about the right levels to make things comfortable. The restrooms are plentiful and you’ll never wait too long for one. The food booths offer a wide variety of cuisine for even the most sensitive of palates or dietary restrictions. I had some amazing tacos on Sunday. The return of Goose Island as the provider of alcoholic beverages was an inspired move. The availability of key beers like 312 and Green Line was nice, but even nicer was the special Goose Island booth that had a rotating cast of different beers from the brewer’s catalogue, not to mention two beers crafted exclusively for the festival. I tried both of the fest-exclusive beers, and they were delicious. The singular gripe I have, and it’s basically always been a problem, is with water fountains. Union Park has a distinct lack of water fountains, and therefore the few it does have resulted in long lines. There’s nothing that can really be done about that, but I’ve got to hand it to the volunteer crew at the festival for often walking around with cases of bottled water, handing them out to anybody that wanted one. A lot of people were likely spared a trip to the medical tent as a result of such gestures, though I did see at least a few people go down due to heat exhaustion and dehydration. On the whole, this year’s festival went rather swimmingly, where the sets all started on schedule and the lines were never astronomically or annoyingly huge. It’s a sharp reminder that no matter what the lineup might be, this is one of the best-run music festivals in the country. As I stated in my earlier coverage, Pitchfork Music Festival weekend is my favorite weekend every single year I attend. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true again by the time we reach the end of 2013.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Sunday Recap

Phew, what a weekend! As usual, I’m feeling quite a bit drained from three long days of experiencing the dizzying highs and physical tolls of attending a music festival. It doesn’t get any easier as you get older, I can tell you that. Judging by the average age of the attendees this year, I’m beginning to fall on the older half of the spectrum. In spite of this, I’m never less than excited to attend the Pitchfork Music Festival each year, as I consistently claim it is my favorite weekend of the 52 that take place annually. So I may be tired and writing about the festival in a timely manner has brought its own set of unique challenges, but I’m not anything less than satisfied with how everything turned out. I’ll have my final set of thoughts on how I think the festival went this year, along with a massive photo set from the entire weekend, coming up in the next few days. In the meantime, please enjoy this summary of all the acts I saw perform on Day 3 of the festival, aka Sunday.

Album Review: Yo La Tengo – Fade [Matador]

It’s 2013 and Yo La Tengo are putting out their 13th album. Depending on your personal beliefs (or lack thereof) about the number 13, this could either be a very lucky or very unlucky record for them. When you consider their storied career and some of the most amazing collections of songs therein, you’d think the pressure might be higher. But of course when you hit your 13th record it’s likely you’ve already “peaked” and by this time fan expectations have fallen to the point where making a quality but not necessarily original album will satisfy most of the fan base. You listen to the last couple YLT records, 2009’s Popular Songs and 2006’s I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, and they fit well into the classification of the band’s “late period” recordings. What does that mean exactly? Well, the trio hasn’t exactly scaled back their energy in spite of their age and longevity, but they have embraced a more mature sensibility when it comes to composing their songs and arranging their sequences on records. The band’s earliest material was exciting and beloved because of its unpredictability and experimentalism during a time when not a lot of other bands were doing the same. They could go from serene calm to a roar in seconds, and look good doing it. These days, they favor structure and pacing, which means the overall flow of their albums is comfortable and intelligent, bringing its own set of benefits. You look at the track listing for Popular Songs and notice that the final three songs are between 9 and 16 minutes in length apiece, while nothing else that comes before it even reaches the 6 minute mark. So they saved the prog rock experiments for last, and that’s beneficial for fans that favor that side of them over everything else.

Looking at the track lengths for this new album Fade tells you astonishingly little, and in this particular case that’s a good thing. The two longest songs on the album, which are bookended as the first and last things you hear, both fail to cross the seven minute mark. With more than a couple 10+ minute jams on the last couple albums, the shorter song lengths and minimal 10 tracks here shrink this new record down to 46 minutes, making it their shortest full length in over 20 years. What does it all mean? Well, the band is getting more economical, likely in the hope that any extra fat is trimmed away in favor of something purer. There definitely is a feeling of balance and restraint across the record, mostly in how they peel away some of their sharper or rougher edges in favor of soothing calm and meditation. As 2003’s Summer Sun was a lackadaisical and sometimes lazy album built for life’s lush but quieter moments, this album feels similar in tone but with significantly less bloat. It also begs to be compared to Yo La Tengo’s much-hearalded masterpiece, 1997’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One, even though it’s missing the gritty rock songs that broke up some of the softer melodies, which kept you on your toes. There’s precision and weight prominently on display throughout this album, which might make it seem like one of the band’s less important efforts, but just because it’s one of their more insular and introspective long players doesn’t mean it loses strength and excellence.

One of Fade‘s biggest assets is how it can give you the impression that a melody is smooth and simplistic when in fact it’s anything but. Opening track “Ohm” establishes a nice groove over its nearly seven minute run time, and if you’re not paying close enough attention the squall of noise that arrives near the end will sneak up on you in the best possible way. “Two Trains” and “I’ll Be Around” are equally deceptive, their lush acoustic pleasantries thrown off course slightly thanks to a carefully picked but wayward electric guitar and some day-glo synth work. If you’re in search of the one song that best encapsulates the sound and the rush of feelings generated by this record, you can’t do much better than album centerpiece “Stupid Things.” The track was inspired in part by some health issues that Ira Kaplan dealt with somewhat recently, and embraces the impermanence of life and love as we grapple with whatever threads we have at our disposal. It’s ultimately a happy song and celebrates life’s little moments, but with a certain amount of unease at being a flawed and vulnerable human being. The guitar and strings make it beautiful and life-affirming, while the mechanical, motorik beat seeks to remove the emotion from the otherwise impassioned melody. It’s working on that subtle pattern of purposeful sabotage that helps separate Yo La Tengo from any similar-sounding peers and provokes an unintended reaction that keeps the active listener on their toes.

If you’re the sort of person that has to figure out exactly where Fade fits among Yo La Tengo’s storied and rather excellent catalogue, perhaps you’re thinking a bit too hard about a band that likes to play with and confound expectations. They’ve explored such a wide variety of sounds and themes over the last 20+ years that it’s become less about one album or song being better than the others and more about whether or not they’ve hit the creative wall. Are they still making interesting, exciting and good music worth listening to and buying? Absolutely. That’s more than can be said about 95% of artists with similar longevity and discography. The new album may be the most serene and relaxed of their career thus far, but by no means should you interpret these slower and shorter tracks as a sign of aging nor the album title as a suggestion that they should slowly drift off into the ether of history. It is instead at once reflective and reflexive, pondering life’s big questions while also keeping the proverbial wolves at bay. They may not be getting any better, which is all but impossible with the lengthy passage of space and time, but they’re definitely not getting any worse. Such consistency is more of a comfort than anything else, the knowledge that no matter what angle they approach each new record with, there’s some assurance the songs will still be good. Based on what they’ve presented with this album, one can only hope they’re willing to keep this wild ride going for another 20+ years.

Buy Fade from Amazon

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén