As a band mostly known for the stylistic variety of their albums (codified on the essential I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One), it was a bit of a surprise when Yo La Tengo released And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out in early 2000. The band had done incredible things with mellow/slow songs, nearly ambient instrumentals, and dream-pop on previous albums, but they were usually juxtaposed with bracing noise-pop or playful forays into other genres. Somehow it all held together as a brilliant whole, leaving one to wonder if an album mainly focused on one style would work.
The main thing to understand about And Then Nothing... is that it's an album that goes for a very consistent mood even if it actually does a lot within this framework. I'm trying to think of examples of similar works but the only thing that comes to mind is the dark, gothic, and funereal The Marble Index by Nico. You either have to be in a specific mood to want to listen to that album or you have to want to be in one. In the case of And Then Nothing..., the album has always felt perfect for lazy summer nights. I mentioned in a review of Summer Sun that a girlfriend and I used to listen to it and And Then Nothing... during the early part of our relationship at her parent's house in the country. As it so happens, this was during that particular summer, and the vibe has always persisted whenever I listen to both albums now. Writing this review during an early Fall afternoon, it's just not quite right somehow.
I'll skip to the chase: And Then Nothing... is one of my favorite albums of this decade. I would agree that I'm Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass is a more accomplished and accessible album, but just as I find myself personally preferring Sung Tongs to Animal Collective's similarly more accomplished and accessible Merriweather Post Pavilion, sometimes you have to go with your gut. And Then Nothing... is a very special and unique album, from the druggy, languid opener 'Everyday' to the lengthy closer 'Night Falls On Hoboken', which stretches to the horizon with its spacious stoned jam section. In between are songs fit for relaxing alone or cuddling with a loved one: lovely ballads ('Our Way To Fall'), organ driven pop ('Let's Save Tony Orlando's House'), and even a somehow-appropriate noise-pop energy boost ('Cherry Chapstick'). This latter song initially struck me as out of place, but it perfectly fits the atmosphere of the album and is expertly placed to keep the listener just on this side of sleep, refreshing one for the rest of the music to come.
And Then Nothing... is not for everyone due to the very specific atmosphere it creates/evokes. But those who are looking for this sort of thing will find it an incredibly effective mood piece, one that proves Yo La Tengo don't need to switch styles every few minutes to produce a classic.