This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #372: “Autumn Sweater” by Yo La Tengo.
So far in our countdown, we have covered a variety of music genres such as Hip Hop, Pop, Rock, Folk, Blues, Country, Instrumental, Alternative and now, a new one to add to the list, Coffee House. What is “Coffee House”, you ask? Picture yourself, pre-pandemic, in a cozy little cafe or bistro. The ambience is warm. The decor is artistic and worldly. An aroma of roasted coffee and baked goods fills the air. And, while you sip your warm drink and let your mind drift away from your troubles and toils, sitting off to the side, over in a corner, is a musician or duo playing softly and sweetly. Their music can be the soundtrack to your daydreams or, it can, also, be something that captures your attention and holds it steady because of the intimacy of the venue. Singers such as Buffy St. Marie, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan all honed their songwriting craft in coffeehouses before moving on to bigger stages and brighter lights. In her biography that I am currently reading, Buffy St. Marie states that her days performing in coffee houses near Boston, while in university, were her favourite times to perform because of how close she was able to be to her audience. She always felt like the messages she was embedding into her songs were able to reach listeners better in that type of relaxed, informal setting.
Being adept at creating the meaningful music that goes over well in small venues is what the trio, “Yo La Tengo” have been known for for almost three decades now. They are an American group consisting of Ira Kaplan (lead singer), Georgia Hubley (drums and backing vocals) and James McNew (bass guitar and backing vocals). The name of this group means, “I Have It!” in Spanish and is not meant to sound as self-assured as it may come off as. It is actually a baseball reference that is used to help English and Spanish-speaking players communicate with each other when it comes time to try and catch a ball that has been hit in the air so as to avoid collisions. Baseball lingo aside, “Yo La Tengo” have been making Coffee House calibre music for many years and have become the darlings of music critics for the intricacy and lushness of their quiet sound. If you are a fan of this band then, chances are, you are a huge fan, an absolute devotee. Their fanbase, along with the critics of the world, are known for their devotion. If this is the first time you are hearing about this band then, you are in for a treat.
I am going to post a video below for a song called, “Autumn Sweater” that just shows the lyrics so that you can understand the live performance better when you see that below, as well. That live video is amazing because the band is performing in a record shop, making small talk with the crowd and then, just like that, they burst into this beautiful song, creating something lovely where, only moments before, there was only silence.
The question that some of you might ask, after having listened to this song is, is this really one of the best songs of all time? Well, I think the answer to that question is a personal one but, in general, I have always believed that our world is comprised of all sorts of different but, beautiful people. Well, so too is music. There is no one song that is the “right type of song”. If you are at all like me then, you will like all types of music depending on your mood or the setting you find yourself in. The same is true of “Yo La Tengo”. I am willing to place a very large wager that some folks have fallen in love while this song was playing or that babies have been made with “Autumn Sweater” as a soundtrack. There must be a place in the musical universe for small gems that uplift us and fill our souls. That’s what “Yo La Tengo” contributes to the world. So, prepare to listen to a small, perfect gem of a song this day. “Autumn Sweater” is a lovely sounding song and, as I said above, I really admire how effortlessly they create something wonderful out of nothing in the live video below. Have a soulful, relaxing day, everyone. Bye for now.
The link to the video for “Autumn Sweater” by Yo La Tengo”, can be found here.
The link to the video of the live performance of “Autumn Sweater” by Yo La Tengo, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Yo La Tengo, can be found here.
The link to the official website for KEXP, who are known for playing small, perfect gems of songs, can be found here.