The title of the indie-rock forebears' 12th album seems to advertise a selection of cover tunes or a greatest-hits compilation. In actuality, Popular Songs meets these expectations only in terms of its eclecticism. The dozen tunes it contains are classic originals that prove to devoted fans that, yes, Yo La Tengo have still got it, just as their name suggests. And while these songs may not be popular yet, at least a few of them are bound to be in the near future.
A love affair with organs is at the heart of several of Popular Songs' most memorable tracks, including opener "Here to Fall" (which harks back to AIR's Moon Safari) and the twee-meets-Motown gem "If It's True." The funky, mod-meets-soul groove of "Periodically Double or Triple" sounds like an invitation to collaborate with Clyde Stubblefield (or perhaps the Kinks), while Georgia Hubley's airy vocals steal the show even more than her drumming on "Avalon or Someone Very Similar." James McNew's bass drives the catchy garage rock of "Nothing to Hide," as Ira Kaplan reminds us that "harder not faster" is the mantra of champions, especially if you're in a rock band that's been around for a quarter century.