Weekend Recovery: The Sensual Drift Of Ikebana

Mysterious Tokyo shoegaze duo Ikebana have unconventionality built right into their name: it refers to a Japanese art of flower arranging that is not so focused on the blooms as it is on the stems and leaves, minimalist lines, and spaces. Their gentle aural equivalent is just what you need after that weekend debauch in the Hamptons. 

Ikebana’s next album, When You Arrive There, arrives on July 8th, along with a remix from Yo La Tengo’s James McNew, which sounds very promising indeed. For right now, though, try “Kiss,” beggining with slow, deliberate chord-plucking and the intimate sensation of fingers sliding up and down a guitar neck. The second half opens up with a dreamy strum, filling in the anxious emptiness with reverb.

Then we have the barely-there video for "Alone," which operates on more of a minor, dissonant plane. The visuals are grainy shots of light and shadow, a city at night viewed from a copse of trees, and an insistent brightness not unlike what we imagine when thinking of alien abduction. Overall, a great way to ease into the madness of the work week—or stay cocooned in bed, whichever.

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Merry Early Christmas, Here’s A New Yo La Tengo Song

You’re probably on your way out the office door by now, ready to go home for the holidays or work through them or drink yourself into oblivion, whichever. But before you do, here’s one last little musical stocking stuffer to nurse your hangover or lull you into your food coma, a new track from Yo La Tengo’s upcoming Fade, out January 15th. "Ohm," a delightful, fuzzy sort of number with plenty of "doot doot doots" at the end, is accompanied by a time-lapse video of a tree in Portland’s Overlook Park. Spoiler alert: The tree doesn’t move much, to which someone who doesn’t like Yo La Tengo would probably be like, "Guess that tree is bored listening to Yo La Tengo too! Hey-o!"

Says YLT’s Ira Kaplan in the YouTube Description:

"I am reminded of the oddball great Beach Boys song ‘A Day in the Life of a Tree,’ from Surf’s Up and sung on that record by their manager at the time Jack Rieley (adequate vocalists obviously being hard to come by in the Beach Boys proper), covered once and only once by YLT—Sept. 17, 1998, at Maxwell’s."

Yeah, I guess I could see the resemblance. Anyway, Yo La Tengo. Happy holidays, everyone! 

Yo La Tengo’s Mercilessly Pretty ‘Fade’

I’m as militant a Yo La Tengo fan as you’ll ever find—which is to say not militant in the slightest. But I adore them. So it never really made sense that someone else might not. There’s just so much to love. But on a first listen of Fadeout January 15, I think I’ve begun to comprehend this prejudice. It’s because the band sounds so damn pretty.

Especially once you get past the crunchier first half, with jams like “Ohm” and the locomotive “Paddle Forward,” it’s just an oasis of seemingly effortless pleasures. “Stupid Things” marks the midpoint, and, as we noted a few weeks back, it could well be the most Yo La Tengo track Yo La Tengo has ever done. I believe, if you are an angry or depressed person, all this casually heartbreaking beauty could get under your skin.

What other explanation is there for a human being who isn’t soothed by “Before We Run,” the song that ends Fade on an intimately orchestral note, with warm brass and zippy strings and magnificent slurred guitar? I understand the haters now: they consider themselves unworthy of this relentless, consistent perfection. Don’t be so hard on yourself, guys—the rest of us are unworthy too.  

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“Stupid Things”: Yo La Tengo Releases The Most Yo La Tengo Song

Yep, that’s a song by Yo La Tengo. Yo La Tengo has been recording songs since 1984, and this song—“Stupid Things”—is assuredly one of them. Yes sir. It’s dreamy, with a hint of sadness that melts into surprising little eddies and sunspots of sound: just the sort of stuff you should hear in a Yo La Tengo song.

They’ve released “Stupid Things,” which could easily fit on Painful or And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, as a 12” single; that also seems like a pretty Yo La Tengo move. The other tracks are a remix and the original 12-minute instrumental (I’d say the latter is more classic Yo La Tengo than the former). We can expect a new full album in 2013 and, according to Stereogum, there’ll be a version of “Stupid Things” featuring completely different vocals. Expressing the multivalence of a piece of art—that is so Yo La Tengo.

Why can’t more bands be like Yo La Tengo? Just hit that sweet spot early on and never leave it, while never resting on their laurels, either; talented enough to interpret more or less any song or write the ones that are missing; historically mindful yet open to experimentation; always playing the small, cozy venues? Oh, and with a bottomless well of bass hooks and guitar melodies? Is that asking too much? Shhhh, Yo La Tengo is on.

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Here’s Your Very Literal Shark Week Playlist

Whether you live every week like it’s Shark Week or dread the hype around the thing, or just couldn’t care either way, here are some shark-centric tracks for your listening pleasure. 

Great White – “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”

It wouldn’t be a shark playlist without this late-‘80s metal hit, now, would it? Start Shark Week off with some gnawing riffs.

Beastie Boys – “Egg Man”

One of quite a few choice jams from Paul’s Boutique, the funky “Egg Man” sports an impressive load of samples, including, very briefly, John Williams’ unmistakable theme music from Jaws.

Gruff Rhys – “Shark Ridden Waters”

No actual sharks appear in the Godard-saluting music video for Gruff Rhys’ “Shark Ridden Waters,” but one human is very committed to the role.

Blondie – “A Shark In Jets Clothing”

Not gonna lie, we wish Shark Week involved more references to the rival gangs from West Side Story. We also wish it involved more Blondie. We wish everything involved more Blondie.

Yo La Tengo – “Season of the Shark”

Nothing says a good Great White mauling like Yo La Tengo, right? At least this ditty is there to comfort you after you’ve relived one too many traumatic memories of watching Jaws as a kid and being afraid of all large bodies of water for six months.

Frank Zappa – “The Mud Shark”

The Mothers of Invention salute one of rock’s most memorable (and thoroughly nasty) urban legends with a spoken-word and swamp-funk freakout.

Sigur Ros – "Staralfur"

One of Wes Anderson’s most iconic and touching cinematic moments—Steve Zissou and crew’s encounter with the Jaguar Shark at the end of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou—is given extra emotional weight thanks to the gorgeous Sigur Ros track serving as its undercurrent.

The Not-So-Scary Sharks – “Bohemian Rhapsody”

This was a skit from the BBC comedy series Walk on the Wild Side, in which comedians dub over nature-show footage for some hilarious and some eye-rolling results. The “Not-So-Scary” Sharks were among the show’s most beloved characters for their chuckle-inducing, goofy lipdubs of the Jaws theme tune, Blur’s “Parklife” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Yo La Tengo Performs Entire ‘Seinfeld’ Episode

Yo La Tengo have always pulled weird stunts — an eight nights of Chanukah concert run, a radio call-in show in which the band played any song requested live on air — but this is by for the weirdest. At a show in Chicago over the weekend, Yo La Tengo did a staged reading of an entire episode of Seinfeld.

Leader Ira Kaplan played Jerry, and dressed for the part. A fan captured most of the performance on video. It’s not terrible — Ira as Jerry is especially good — but I’d be kind of pissed if I’d shelled out to see the band and ended up watching a poorly rendered episode of an old sitcom. Judging from the howling laughter of the crowd, though, I think it went over pretty well. Plus they played a sixteen song set after the performance. Andy Kaufman would be proud.