Yo La Tengo- This Stupid World

Yo La Tengo- This Stupid World

Yo La Tengo This Stupid World 


Each Yo La Tengo album is like a visit from an old friend. They’re typically amicable and interesting, but also a little guarded and a little mysterious. Their most recent visit, though—This Stupid World—is heavy. Our friends are world weary, a little exasperated, and maybe a bit ornery. It’s not often they speak so directly about the state of the world (though, admittedly, I didn’t dive deep into 2018’s There’s a Riot Going On). They’re usually quite polite, mostly ignoring the controversial topics of money, religion, and politics in favor of ruminations on relationships or narratives from their own little corners of the world. The tribulations we all face today are impossible to ignore, though.


Album opener “Sinatra Drive Breakdown” sets the course, with some familiar themes: a krautrock bounce from drummer Georgia Hubley; an infectious, pulsing bassline from James McNew; and the melodic buzzsaw of Ira Kaplan’s guitar. But the heaviness is present from the jump. The reference to their the old Hoboken haunts in the title offers little levity. The outbursts from Kaplan’s guitar are neither exuberant nor cathartic; they’re searching, questioning, occasionally yelping. Kaplan and Hubley barely seem to be holding on as they sing the mournful refrain, “Until we all break, until we all break.”


Yo La Tengo performing

Yo La Tengo (photo by Kate Hoos)


The terrific first single, “Fallout,” is classic Yo La Tengo, but lyrically, you can’t help but ache right along with Kaplan: “Every day it hurts to look/I’d turn away if only I could/I wanna fall out of time/Hold back, unwind.” Even with the familiar driving rhythm and fuzzy guitar strumming, there’s still a pall over the proceedings. We’ll get no respite yet.



McNew offers a Motown-esque bass hook for “Tonight’s Episode,” but it’s the only light amid the swirling guitar noise and motorik rhythm. His voice cuts through, clear and deep, and a slight, wry smile appears as he intones, “Ask me nice, whatever you like, I’ll show you a yo-yo trick/I can Walk the Dog/I can Around the World/I can rock that cradle, too.” But, somehow even the imagery of various yo-yo configurations feels ominous within the context of the music and the record as a whole. What’s he talking about? Kaplan enters with beautifully picked acoustic guitar that, even its melodiousness, somehow adds to it to the anxiety.


The clouds start to part a bit with a slight chuckle from Hubley before she brings her soothing, spectral voice to “Aselestine.” At home as one of the great ballads in the Yo La Tengo canon, her voice seems to surround your head and ears. Lyrically, we step away a bit from the outside world, addressing a more insular relationship. It is a much-needed break, even in its sadness.


The record settles in a bit from here, with the ever-so-slight Latin touches of “Until it Happens” and the watery atmosphere of “Apology Letter,” featuring Kaplan’s voice at the fore, always a welcome sound—a little hiccupy, surprisingly rich, and distinctly heartfelt whenever he sings about relationships as he does here. He is charmingly self deprecating: “Then, I got mad ’cause you got mad/Another one of my delightful quirks/What a jerk.” But, given the perspectives on the outside world that make up a lot of This Stupid World, it’s hard not to wonder if these words can also apply to our societal relationships, particularly when he sings, “If I were to smile at you/would you smile at me?”


Yo La Tengo performing

Yo La Tengo (photo by Kate Hoos)


We slide back into the darkness with the positively stellar title track. The rhythm section provide a relentless, trancelike thump under the guitar drone. “This stupid world is killing me/this stupid world is all we have,” Kaplan and Hubley sing high above, not evoking a dreamlike quality but an untethered distance from the chaos below. The words are a lament, a reminder, a caution. The band begins recede further into the ether on the final track, “Miles Away.” Processed drums groove warmly, washes of guitar create an ambient landscape as the mood shifts slightly; it’s still dark, it’s still tense, but Hubley offers a balm: “Ease your mind/bide your time/hold your thoughts for now.” Another couple short verses, and she’s gone. The drums drop out soon, too. A few notes via guitar or keyboard effects and now everyone is gone. Miles away. Just like we’d like to be sometimes in this stupid world.


This Stupid World is out now via Matador.






Valentina Magaletti- Permanent Draft

Valentina Magaletti- Permanent Draft

Valentina MagalettiPermanent Draft


London based drummer/experimental composer Valentina Magaletti’s prolific 2022 has seen her tackle a range of projects and ends (maybe??) with one more, the two-song, compact, flexidisc release called Permanent Draft. Magaletti says on her Bandcamp page:

“Conceived as a manifesto for eponymous all-female label Permanent Draft, this limited flexi comes with a booklet of poetry and pictures based on the prime number 13.

Permanent Draft aims to highlight works showing a certain taste for fragmentary, irrepressible creative eruption and lo-fi experiments. Leaving the grandiose apart to pay and bring attention to the sounds, details and anecdotes of everyday life, picking up raw material from the ordinary.

Bitter truths, migrainous fulfilments, dead clowns, broken gods, taffeta fairies, fruit foxes and non-binary empty frames outline these very aesthetics.”


Working with French author Fanny Chiarello, Magaletti composed and performed the musical portions of the two works while Chiarello wrote and voiced the texts. In the first composition, “Migraine,” Chiarello is heard repeating English phrases such as “Make it special” as Magaletti plays intense and musical tom-tom patterns overlaid with dexterous brass touches on the ride cymbal and hi-hat. Other spoken phrases from Chiarello repeat and weave throughout. Magaletti adds programmed sound-effect elements that add depth and color to her percussion. This is followed by “the Bitter Truth,” a brief and sparse piano melody over which Chiarello speaks in French.



More inscrutable and tantalizing brief compared with her other works from this year, Permanent Draft nonetheless shows Magaletti to be a restless and unstoppable creative force. Whether solo or in collaboration, she is a relentless artist, seemingly finding inspiration all around her. Permanent Draft is the definition of leaving the audience wanting more, despite her prolificness this year. Stay tuned to what she has in store in 2023.




TS Tadin- Pretty Boring

TS Tadin- Pretty Boring

T.S. Tadin Pretty Boring (art by Ethan Tadin)


Pretty Boring is at times pretty, but never boring. T.S. Tadin’s latest record is a collection of smart and subtle indie pop, with laconic, dry vocals that evoke the everyday-life musings of Jonathan Richman or Courtney Barnett. Tadin does it all on Pretty Boring, adding just the right amount of fuzz, guitar flourishes, and keyboard touches to the otherwise uncluttered song arrangements. He makes all the right aesthetic choices over and within the hazy production and lazing vocals.


The Richman influence is apparent straight off in the first song “Clown From a Dystopian Town.” It’s a countrified groover, showcasing Tadin’s tasty guitar skills and evocative lyrics describing life in a downtrodden town.


The title track is Barnett-esque in its delivery and lyrics, filled with delightful turns of phrase that detail the ennui associated with our otherwise chaotic modern lives: “Try hard to live in the moment/but sometimes it gets pretty boring”; “My calendar’s filled with disappointment/each day is a dentist appointment.”



“Like a Flower” jars us out of our relaxed state with an arpeggiated piano introduction. No choruses here; a subtle shift in rhythm helps deliver Tadin’s thesis on falling in love:

Cuts through concrete
like a flower.
Cracking pavement
to devour
this desire
for self destruction,
is only vanity in vain.


A nice bit of fuzz guitar to starts off lead single “It’s a Drag.” It soon transitions into a bouncy Beatle rhythm mixed with just a little James Gang snarl. Here, Tadin’s piano playing is more of an insistent pounding, adding infectious heft to the solid groove he’s laying down on drums and bass.


“Better Cry Yourself to Sleep” takes a bit of a turn in a new direction. Tadin emerges from his chilled-out state to reach higher vocally and produce maybe the strongest melodies on the record. It’s an excursion into dreampop, but without the genre’s hallmarks of heavily reverbed vocals and overdriven guitars. “You can count on me/to take things too far,” Tadin begins the first verse, before rising to a worldless chorus that floats into the clouds. The simple strumming of acoustic and electric guitars, an ascending bassline, and washy cymbal crashes create an airy backdrop. Tadin sings a new verse from these heights before landing back on solid ground, returning to the initial verse. A gem of a tune.



There are more engaging moments on Pretty Boring. Tadin once again invokes the old Modern Lover, Jonathan Richman, on “I’ll Be Your Umbrella,” with the choice line, “It’s OK, I’ll be your umbrella, baby/I’ll keep you dry—that’s a lie.” On “Killin’ Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Tadin earnestly sings “Disinfect my soul/killin’ rock ‘n’ roll” over possibly the most rock ‘n’ roll beat of all time, the Bo Diddley Beat. (Think “I Want Candy.”)



Pretty Boring is charming, engaging, and cohesive, and showcases Tadin’s sharp songwriting talent, imaginative lyrics, and artful musical choices. He wears his influences on his sleeve, but is able to create his own inventive pop style. You’ll hear him lazily singing in your head long after the record is over.


Pretty Boring was self released and is available on all major streamers.




Premiere- Jordan/Martin Hell- Psychosocialite

Premiere- Jordan/Martin Hell- Psychosocialite

Jordan/Martin Hell Psychosocialite


What a ride. Jordan/Martin Hell’s wide-ranging new record, Psychosocialite, comes across as both tossed-off and well thought-out, somehow embodying the immediacy of a first take/best take philosophy while also being studiously crafted. The lo-fi, bedroom-pop production belies a colorful soundscape that defies categorization. Jordan/Martin Hell either consumes tons of music or ignored it entirely while holing himself up to create this insular soundworld. Genre boundaries are decimated, vocal stylings vary wildly, songs range from deeply emotional to charming and carefree—Psychosocialite is, by far, one of the most engrossing and original records of the year. We are happy to premiere it here for you today on FTA!


Hell’s label, Insecurity Hits, elaborates on this via a press release saying: “The intention was to create a genre-full album of hybrids that also involved the emotional intimacies of Jordan/Martin’s early 20’s. At the time Jordan/Martin thought he was compiling songs in the order they came out of him but songs know more about you than you know about yourself sometimes. Now that Psychosocialite is being released, when Jordan/Martin listens to it now he hears the pain and the love and longing that was always there and maybe always will be. Plus, Jordan/Martin got to make it with like a million friends so that always a good sign. Jordan/Martin now understands that he wasn’t making music for a label or anything but just making it to survive as a Black trans schizophrenic person in a world that wants him dead.”  They also add that Psychosocialite was made over the period of 2015-2020 and includes songs recorded all over the world (including but not limited to Montreal, Argentina, Berlin and New York.)


The journey begins with “2 1/2 MIN.” Angular guitar strums stab over top a mellow yet insistent synth hook. Hell’s vocals are soulful, at times hushed and distant. The track ends with some backwards guitar touches before we’re jarred out of the clouds and back to the ground with the mathy riffing of “ACTOR.” There are some Ryley Walker/’80s Trey Anastasio elements to the dexterous guitar playing. Above the fray, Hell repeats, “You are never going home,” seemingly from a far-off distance. A stringed melody (violin, perhaps?) weaves throughout, soothing some of the anxiousness of the intricate guitar lines.



The strings are present again in the next tune, this time adding pathos to the disco-stomp of “BABYGIRL.” Once again, the guitar playing is sublime—gritty and a little nervous while also supporting the melody of Hell’s vocals and the strings. The vocals come down from the sky a bit to deliver the line “I don’t love nobody.” A simple line but delivered with a complex combination of earnestness and coldness, as if he’s defiantly convincing himself.


Another left turn follows on “BLONDE AMBITION (feat. Kid Naps).” It kicks off with Kid Naps rapping over…no beat! Nothing behind them but haunting string ambience for half the track. Midway, a simple hip-hop beat kicks in and Kid Naps flows anew before their vocals get subsumed by strings and high-pitched, full-throated vocalizations.


Four songs, four completely different sounds, and we’re only a quarter of the way through. Other standout cuts include “DEMETER,” featuring elements of math rock underneath Hell’s soulful, yearning vocals, and ever-shifting rhythms; “ESTER,” with its straightforward (sort of) guitar line and vocal melody that collapse into noise at various intervals; “FUCK.ME,” an excursion into video-game music, with all the wonderful synth sounds and programmed beats that go with it—but from a distance, Hell screams, grunts, and screeches; “GOD HATE” is Lou Reedesque in its simplicity and ominousness; “PRISCILLA” demonstrates the full ability of Hell’s voice in a plaintive, psych-folk ballad.



Perhaps contributing the chaotic and far-flung nature of the record is the wide array of musicians who contributed to the record, geographical boundaries being ignored alongside genre ones. While he plays something on every song on the record, Hell also enlisted help from Sheena McGrath (drums), Carlos Hernandez (engineering; organ/piano), Renata Zeiguer, Emily Cline (violin), Keba Robinson (bass/drums), Raz Robinson (guitar/drums), Noah Demland (drums/percussion), as well as members of Drama Section on drums, guitar, vocals, bass, and sax, and members of Didi on cello and flute. 


Hell says the final product is also the result of using whatever free recording and mixing programs he could find. Surprisingly, there is a consistent sonic quality to the record for the most part. It’s an interesting experiment in what a record should sound like and how it should be recorded. Many musicians during lockdown found themselves scrambling for ways to achieve consistent recordings compiled from their socially distanced bandmates, seeking the same cohesion that they’d previously achieved in person. But maybe it’s OK for the listener to hear some of the stitchwork involved in the process. And like many great records, you’ll find yourself hearing cool bits on a second and third listen that you may have missed initially. 


Psychosocialite plays like being inside a restlessly and infinitely creative mind, a person getting down all their ideas as they come and honing them into individual tunes that are enigmatic, delightful, and unpredictable. It is a freewheeling collection that also boasts depth of musicality and feeling. There is, quite simply, more here than initially meets the ear. It’s an engaging and essential listen.



Psychosocialite is available now on Bandcamp via Insecurity Hits and on all major streamers.




Boris- “Heavy Rocks”

Boris- “Heavy Rocks”

 BorisHeavy Rocks 


Boris play a lot of styles: noise, stoner rock, shoegaze, industrial, ambient, punk, metal. Their Heavy Rocks series of albums tend to focus on the latter two. This latest installment is in the same mold, but the band showcases almost all of these influences as well, sometimes within the same tune.


Though not as focused as 2020’s full-on metal assault, No, or as transcendent as W from earlier this year (read our review), Heavy Rocks has a lot of killer tracks. From the jump, the band hits on a couple different heavy styles: the lead track “She is burning” is fast-paced metal with saxophone echoing the vocal melodies to exhilarating effect. This is followed by the Faith No More-esque flavor of “Cramper” and the crossover thrash of “My name is blank.”



Suddenly, we’re full-on skronking: “Blah Blah Blah” blares with saxophone cacophony before transitioning into an industrial groove, Takeshi’s fuzz bass rumbling under Atsuo’s steady drum pattern while guitar wizard Wata stabs and pierces sporadically with her angular, noisy axe work. Quite a left-turn from the first three straight-ahead rockers. This is followed by the fantastic “Question 1,” a trad metal–type offering with galloping rhythms, Wata’s shredding leads, and strong, soaring vocal melodies. Before you can get too comfortable, the song breaks down entirely, guitar noise leading to a goth-metal middle of big vocals and synth touches before returning to a faster pace.


“Ruins” is another standout cut, an under-three-minutes thrasher featuring Wata’s fast-picked chugging (reminiscent of 80s thrash guitar heroes like Hetfield or Mustaine) but with more punk rock attitude in the mix. “Ghostly imagination” brings the heavy and the speed but in a completely different way. Atsuo’s robotic stomping drumbeat is somehow danceable even at its breakneck pace.


The album is full of twists and turns that are trademark Boris, all the while showcasing the many influences. The band effortlessly steer their way through various sonic landscapes and continue to solidify themselves as one of the all-time brilliant and mind-bending guitar bands.



Boris will play NYC at Webster Hall on 9/2.