Saturday, March 16, 2013

Not Fade Away: Yo La Tengo

According to Wikipedia, Yo La Tengo formed in 1984, and has been recording albums under that moniker with the same personnel since 1992.  Nearly all of their albums have been critical hits, but for some reason the band has never  penetrated my consciousness with any regularity.  The first album of theirs that I bought was 1990's "Fakebook," an acoustic outing that turned out to be almost entirely different than the rest of their catalog.  I've bought one or two others, including their anthology, but for the most part they've been a band that I respected more than actively enjoyed.

I'm not even sure what possessed me to buy "Fade," their new album released in January.  It may have been some enthusiastic tweets from Michele Catalano, or the A- that Christgau awarded the album on his Expert Witness blog.  But whatever the reason, I'm glad that I did because "Fade" is clearly the record to beat for 2013 album of the year, a consistently strong work that strikes a perfect tone from its very first chords and maintains that tone throughout, when the album fades out behind a "joyful cacophony" of guitar, bass, drums, strings, and horns.

It's a very modest album, reminiscent of Jack White's "Blunderbuss" in that guitarist Ira Kaplan never feels the need to show off his chops in a "listen at me, I'm an underappreciated guitar genius!" kind of way.  The music is beautiful, an atmospheric mix that bands like Grizzly Bear (and even, forgive me, Bon Iver) could only hope to approach on their best days.  The highlights for me are "Ohm," the album's loudest tune that evokes a bit of Arcade Fire, "I'll Be Around" (not the Spinners classic hit, although there is a great video on YouTube of the band covering that song), "Before We Run," the closing song, and most of all "The Point of It," which simply is a gorgeous song.

If there is a better album released this year, that would be a great thing, because the bar set by "Fade" is so high that it would need to be really good.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


As annoying as pets can be - especially cats who insist on being fed and watered at the first hints of sunrise - it's not until something unexpected happens to one that you realize what an integral part of the family they are.

We've had Sophie for 18 years now, which means that Son #1 (now 22) was 4, and Son #2 (now 18) was just a baby.  It's not likely that either one of them remembers a time when we did not have her.  She's slowed down over the years, to the point where she sometimes needs help jumping up onto the bed or the couch, and to the point where the days of doing things like jumping up on the counter are long gone.  She's had some health issues in recent months, and even though those issues didn't approach the level of life-threatening, we had begun to mentally prepare ourselves for the inevitable.

When we got home the night of the Academy Awards, she somehow slipped out the front door when we were taking the garbage out, and we didn't notice she was gone until we woke up the next morning.  By then she was long gone, or at least gone.  To say that we felt horrible was an understatement - even though she was old, this was certainly not the way we wanted to lose her, and since she rarely went outside for more than a few minutes at a time (in our backyard, usually to nosh on a little grass), our confidence in her ability to survive in the big bad outdoors was not very high.

Fortunately, the story has a happy ending.  After 9 days of putting up signs, visiting vets, walking, running and driving all over the neighborhood, she was found near our local supermarket, and dropped off at the local vet, where Debra was able to pick her up.  I was on a work trip out of town, and was frankly amazed at the outcome - it just didn't seem possible after all that time that we'd see her again.

So now she is back, a little lighter and a little more tired than normal (although with a cat, can you really tell?).  The picture above was taken on Saturday morning, in her favorite place - a place where she is spending a lot of time right now.  We know that she won't last forever, but we're glad to have her back home where she can go back to being her old, annoying normal self.  In other words, part of the family.