The Undertow: When dream pop drifted into the new millenium 


Yo La Tengo performing in 2010.   Photo in the    public domain

Yo La Tengo performing in 2010.

Photo in the public domain

“February music” isn’t a thing. It’s about as real and nonsensical a phrase as “fish arms” or “let’s get Husky Pizza for dinner.” 

Yo La Tengo’s “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out” might fit this elusive term. The prolific New Jersey indie rockers’ ninth project feels like where we’re at right now. Maybe this is coming strictly from a collegiate sense, but February to me feels like you’re floating from place to place, lecture to lecture, cold, wet, dreary, etc. It’s the only academic month that doesn’t seem to have an extracurricular purpose. Valentine’s Day isn’t universal. If you know George Washington’s birthday without looking it up, you’re a nerd. Your friend’s birthday doesn’t count. We’re all buckled in this, looking upwards for snow and forwards for spring.  

It makes sense that Yo La Tengo decided to drop this masterpiece when they did. February is infamously known as the month when movie studios slate films expected to bomb. It’s 28 (sometimes 29) days of laziness and cold, but this album exudes that energy. Dream pop in general feels like hazy memories. I don’t mean hazy in the drunk sense, like Roddy Ricch might conjure – no, this feels like things from long ago that you can piece together partially but never all the way. Every track on “Nothing” is layered with these fuzzy, almost ambient soundscapes that feel just like how those memories reveal themselves. I know my column is about describing music, but sometimes how music feels isn’t describable. Not a good thing for a music journalist to admit, but keep reading. 

Even with its incredibly consistent track listing, some stand out above others. The quirkily titled “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” shakes away the blurry aesthetic of the album for an uptempo jam laced with organ and bass drones that force you to rock your neck. “Tears Are in Your Eyes” is a stunning, emotive work and perhaps my favorite cut on this entire thing. It’s weird to say that about a song evidently about clinical depression. “You tell me that you haven’t/Slept in days/You tell me sleeping only makes you tired/Anyway” is an uncomfortable truth about depression that rarely gets put that plainly into a song, let alone a song in a major key. “Although you don’t believe me, you are strong/Darkness always turns into the dawn” sometimes makes me smile, sometimes, well, puts tears in my eyes. That’s the sign of a powerful lyric. This album isn’t afraid to peel back its guise of haziness to punch you in the gut.  

Next time you wake up, look at your schedule and see nothing but classes and space, throw this on your morning commute. It will mesh with said nothing like it was supposed to be there the whole time. “And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out” is the impossible soundtrack to where our campus is at right now, and I can only imagine the smiles on the class of 2000’s faces when they played it on repeat two decades prior. 

Daniel Cohn is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at

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