Yo La Tengo are a sanctuary when the universe is shouting

When you’ve had to listen to Let It Go in 41 different languages, Return to Hot Chicken will return you to sanity

Not so long ago, my husband discovered Let it Go: the Complete Set on the Japanese iTunes site and proceeded to listen to each track. His methodical, quasi-scientific approach would have made this an interesting exercise in pretty much any other discipline, but in song – in pop – it’s a sure route to incurable madness. In Thai, in Latvian, in Bulgarian, in Malay, in Catalan and Castilian … the vertiginous, gung-ho notes of the original Frozen song sung 41 times in 41 languages by 41 different-but-identical voices. I just wanted to die. Even as I type the title now, the chorus shrieks into my brain and lodges itself there, like the world’s worst wedgie. My mind drifts, I have a sip of tea and suddenly I realise I’m humming “… go let it GO-OH”. To quote Toby Ziegler, I have hatred in my heart.

So when the universe is shouting at me or when I’m in the grips of a bonafide earworm that will not be drowned out, I turn to the songs that have changed my life. It’s not so much that they changed my life once, but that they do so, without fail, every time I listen to them. They are my straight line, my starry starry night. Return to Hot Chicken by Yo La Tengo is one – a modest intro of a track, the first on the album I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One. It starts with a slight echo and a simple, steady beat, gentle brushes on the side of a drum, and then the faraway guitars and bass come in with all the space and calm of nightfall on a desert road. It holds the promise Yo La Tengo make and fulfil across their catalogue: Green Arrow and Autumn Sweater and Last Days of Disco and More Stars Than There Are in Heaven and Ohm and Stupid Things and I’ll Be Round – a lifetime of songs from a band that consistently seem to be the musical embodiment of that ever hopeful line in TS Elliot’s Little Gidding, “And all will be well and all manner of things will be well.” Breathe. Be still. Listen. I have others, these foils to the mayhem – Raphael Saadiq’s The Answer, Cat Power’s Cross-Bone Style, Mos Def singing “Shine your light for the world to see,” and Black Thought intoning “Who’s worrying ’bout you babe … out here on these streets” on the Roots’ How I Got Over. My musical portends of all that is good in the world make up a long list – and how grateful am I for that.

Contributor

Dale Berning Sawa

The GuardianTramp

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