Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One 2LPMatador Records
New Jersey indie rockers Yo La Tengo had already been slowly growing into their sound for over a decade by the 1997 release of their revelational eighth album, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. Their guitar-based pop was steadily finding its legs before this, as the band moved toward increasingly dreamy productions on albums like Painful and Electr-O-Pura. The 16 tracks that made up the ambitious and epic I Can Hear the Heart found the group stretching out their whispery vocals and deceptively straightforward pop approach to encompass a variety of unexpected styles. This meant softly wandering guitars and steadfast drums twisted out of their indie rock trappings and morphed into adventurous Krautrock jams like "Spec Bebop," haunting, harmony-driven psych-folk like "We're an American Band," and even a playfully naive take on bossa nova with "Center of Gravity." As for the blissed-out melodic noise pop Yo La Tengo had been working on for the majority of their existence, this was one of the band's finest hours. Propulsive rockers like "Sugarcube" and a particularly feedback-laden reading of the Beach Boys' "Little Honda" offered Ira Kaplan a fantastic platform for his often dialed-down guitar playing to break into the manic territory he would explore in live settings. These more unhinged moments were counterpointed with hypnotic electronic grooves like "Autumn Sweater" and glowing instrumentals like the Santo & Johnny-channeling "Green Arrow." The album ends with its only other cover tune, a head-clearingly simple take on Anita Bryant's singsongy bubblegum tune "My Little Corner of the World." Sung by drummer Georgia Hubley in her most Moe Tucker-esque performance, the song gently sets the album back down to earth following the dizzying detours and shifts of the last hour. While the band turned in standout albums before and after, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One announced itself as a definitive master statement. The subtly shifting moods and wide, curious palette of stylistic exploration resulted in a lasting indie rock classic, essential listening and also something of a blueprint for much of what followed from like-minded bands for years to come.