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Summer Sun

3.8 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 8, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Yo La Tengo Summer Sun UK CD album


Any album with Summer Sun as its title and "Beach Party Tonight" as the opening track has to be the soundtrack of tanned flesh, cold beer, and killer waves, right? Not if it’s the product of three New Jersey bohos who know, from personal experience or their record collections, that summer is also the place to find surfers afraid of the water and sun-poisoned girls afraid of going home alone, again. Although not quite as cohesive or instantly captivating as the band’s 2000 breakthrough, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, Summer Sun is crafted from a similar hushed and hypnotic mold. Most of the 13 songs are built on a simple foundation of lo-fi guitar, bass, and brushed drums, then finished off with swirling horns, insistent piano figures, or organ. Especially good are the Pet Sounds-like pocket symphony "Tiny Birds," the beat-groove-powered "Moonrock Mambo," and the album-closing cover of Big Star’s "Take Care." This last song is re-imagined as a country lament with pleading pedal-steel guitar and singer Georgia Hubley sounding like Nico fronting a lounge band on the boardwalk of a beach town headed toward post-Labor Day oblivion. Ah, summer. --Keith Moerer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 8, 2003)
  • Original Release Date: 2000
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Matador Records
  • ASIN: B00008GEKS
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,945 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I gotta confess that it doesn't surprise me people have decided this is The Decline of Yo La Tengo since it rolls back the guitars and the lyrics are more direct. I saw the same exact thing happen with the last two R.E.M. albums. The common logic seems to be that neither band is being true to its original eclectic vision (not that R.E.M. was ever half as eclectic as YLT, wonderful as both bands may be).
My answer is -- what vision? If we're going to hurl these accusations, what is it exactly that we're expecting? If "Let's Be Still" and "Today is the Day" and "Nothing But You and Me" are being seen as steps backward, and a return to feedback-laden pop bliss wouldn't be, then I'd better just give up on understanding popular music right now.
By the way, this album IS pop bliss, start to finish. I loved the band's older records too, every one of 'em, although May I Sing with Me is my least favorite by quite a margin, but if you want to hear that stuff, it's not like they're confiscating your copies. I wouldn't necessarily recommend "Summer Sun" as a first purchase - go with "Fakebook," "I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One," or their masterpiece IMO, "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out" - but it does show off the fact that intricate, warm pop music didn't die with the Beach Boys.
In a sense, of course, whether or not you may like this could have something to do with your usual taste in music. It really does lack any rock & roll intensity, making it unique in that regard aside from "Fakebook," and the reason "May I Sing with Me" didn't appeal to me was the fact that it was basically one raveup after another. So if you don't run off in terror at the notion of quiet music, "Summer Sun" may well be the best album since... well, the last Yo La Tengo record.
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Format: Audio CD
Yo La Tengo were forced to rush the sequencing and mixing of this record in order to make a production deadline. Although the rush job shows, the strengths of Summer Sun's songs work hard to overcome what's missing otherwise.
This is a band that would have a hard time making a bad album. Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew have always made music with an intuitive sense that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 1997's I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One summed up the band's approach perfectly.
The band's instrumental score to the nature films by Jean Painleve, collected on last year's The Sounds of the Sounds of Science filled the gap between 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out and this new album. And Then Nothing... was mellow compared to prior outings, yet anything but easy-going, with the calmness of the songs crossed with emotionally frank lyrics about the ups and downs of marriage, personal anxieties and depression. The less-is-more approach looms large in Yo La Tengo's legend. Referencing an old KISS t-shirt that reads "If it's too loud, you're too old," Kaplan once chastised a raucous, inattentive audience: "If it's too quiet, you're too young."
YLT's best music is often in its longer numbers, in which the band takes time to stretch out and let simple sounds establish great power. "Let's Be Still" is Summer Sun's best track, and its longest, at over ten minutes. The song is based on a beautiful groove built from a piano sample and Hubley's magnificently understated drumming. A cover of Big Star's "Take Care" -- a melancholy Alex Chilton ballad that YLT has played live for years -- rounds out the album.
Summer Sun doesn't have the collective impact of its predecessors, a problem typically attributable to song selection, sequencing and mixing. The songs here are good, but even when the heart beats as one, it's a bit too faint to hear.
Ric Dube
Junkmedia.org Review
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Format: Audio CD
(three and a half stars, rounded up because Yo La Tengo deserve every benefit of the doubt.)

Yo La Tengo are back with their proper follow-up to their 2000 masterpiece "And then nothing turned itself inside-out," and I'll warn you now: if that one was too soft for you, don't dare waste your money on Summer Sun.

Instead of returning to the eclectic sound of their earlier records, the Hoboken trio have carved another record of tender subtly and grace. The problem here is that the sweetness is not anchored by anything darker and more brooding, which is what made "And then Nothing..." succeed so completely.

This record sacrifices the cerebral to maintain a constant mood, and the result, though utterly grogeous in moments, does not better Yo La Tengo's previous ground. Both "And then nothing..." and 1997's brilliant "I can feel the heart beating as one" NEVER had washover moments. Though rarely keeping a completely consistant mood, I would argue that every single song on those records was a winner.

This is simply not true of "Summer Sun"- the meandering 10 minute+ "Let's be Still" has yet to keep my attention, and I am a patient music listener. I love Ira, but "Nothing but you and Me" has to be one of his worst vocal performances in recent history- it feels like re-hashed, b-side "And then nothing" material, as he pleads to try again at a failed relationship. "Don't have to be so sad," as well, is a bit too sparse to not become simple background noise, if lovely background noise.

And NO rock at all?? I understand evolution for bands, but "Cherry Chapstick" was GLORIOUS drone, and that was only a few years ago! We have absolutely nothing of remotely upbeat nature here. That gets me down, I hate to say.
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