Yo La Tengo

Few bands warrant as much scrutiny as Yo La Tengo, which has been making artful, inventive, and adventurous music since 1984. It's because the Hoboken, New Jersey trio have consistently released beautiful and sophisticated offerings, from noisy guitar rock and sunny melodic pop to avant-garde instrumentals. And along the way, their sound has informed countless indie-rock bands, from Belle and Sebastian to Grandaddy.

With that in mind, Summer Sun was considered a disappointment -- at best mediocre -- by many a fan and critic when it was released last April. Bollocks. Yo La Tengo continues its artistic growth on Summer Sun as it evolves from guitar-based pop toward a softer, more jazz-influenced sound. Singer/guitarist Ira Kaplan offers tender whispers as drummer Georgia Hubley and bassist James McNew play with the lightest of touches on the mellow "Little Eyes." And Hubley follows Kaplan's airy vocal lead when she sings on the delicate and pretty "Today is the Day." The album isn't without its indulgences (ten minutes of jammy and dreamy noodlings on "Let's Be Still"), but that doesn't make it just an "okay" Yo La Tengo record in light of the admittedly high standards the band has set. Whether compared with its catalogue or standing alone, Summer Sun wins with its warmth and brilliance.