As thousands have gracelessly proved in the past, the hardest trick for a rock band is to continue to explore new territory without losing its identity. And once again, Hoboken’s Yo La Tengo has pulled it off: the band’s eighth album, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One (Matador), is its best yet. When bassist James McNew joined guitarist Ira Kaplan and drummer Georgia Hubley for May I Sing With Me (1992), Yo La Tengo set a course that veers excitingly between ferocious extroversion and beautifully hushed introversion, a dichotomy that has become its signature (and that thrives in a live setting). All three band members are unabashed music nuts (Kaplan’s a published rock writer), and so that foundation has always supported a rotating examination of pop music’s evolving currents. But whether toying with the gentle neo-bossa nova lilt of “Center of Gravity,” the monster hooks of “Sugarcube,” or the trancey groove of “Autumn Sweater” (the CD-single version of which includes forward-looking remixes by My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, m-ziq’s Mike Paradinas, and past and present members of Tortoise), Yo La Tengo never sounds like anyone so much as Yo La Tengo. The Magnetic Fields (see separate Critic’s Choice) and Lambchop open. Saturday, 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by James Crump-RSP.