It Was 20 Years Ago Today…April 1997

Yo La Tengo:  I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One

Yo La Tengo are one of those bands who continually release solid bodies of work, but are just underground enough to seem to never break into a larger scene.  I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One was their third release on Matador records, after a run of albums on smaller labels, and their second album after their breakthrough album, Painful.

Three singles were released from this album, each will be discussed in the order they appeared on the album.  First up is “Sugarcube”, and features a distorted guitar groove and manic drum beat with vocals that seem to focus on trying to convince a partner that they will do anything to keep things together, including squeezing a drop of blood form the aforementioned sugarcube.  In other words, even if what is requested is impossible, they will attempt it just to keep the other person around.  This song is emblematic of the type of vocals for which Yo La Tengo are known, with distortion hiding twee vocals.

Next up is the first single released from the album, titled “Autumn Sweater”, another song with a frenetic drum beat, but this time it is accompanied by an organ and maracas/tambourine.  Autumn Weather tells the story of the internal struggle of a boy debating whether or not he should call of a date and a relationship as a whole because he just doesn’t feel the same joy as he did at the beginning.

The final single, both within the track listing and in the order released from the album, was “Little Honda”, a cover of a Beach Boys song.  The song was apparently originally recorded by Yo La Tengo as part of a soundcheck to make sure the equipment was picking up the instruments properly, but ended up making the album because the band thought that it turned out pretty well.  It takes a surf rock song and turns it in to a laid back vocal delivery with distorted, but not heavy, guitar.

I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is widely considered to be Yo La Tengo’s best work (though I would rank I’m Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass higher).  It has appeared on many “best of the 90s” lists.  Yo La Tengo are still releasing music and performing together.  Their most recent album was Stuff Like That There, released in 2015.  For a band that has been together nearly 35 years, they have kept their sound remarkably consistent, a remarkable feat for any band, regardless of their level of notoriety or popularity.


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