Yo La Tengo – Fade

written by: January 15, 2013
Album-Art-for-Fade-by-Yo-La-Tengo Release Date: January 15th, 2013


Seizing a hard fought break from recording since 2009’s Popular Songs, Yo La Tengo is ready to break the frames of indie-rock that they built themselves. The Hoboken-based indie rock trio has kicked out a thirteenth studio album after a staggering thirty years together. Harkening back to the thematically tragic I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, YLT is channeling their ‘90s doom-ridden selves for a new reckoning.

The 10-track album is taking full advantage of the group’s dabbling in soundtrack composition and rings with instrumental drive. Leaning toward the bare bones and shoegaze aspects of their sound, the trio treads on some uncommon ground in this clock-kicking release.

“Ohm” wheels in at nearly eight minutes and serves as a laboring opener. Melodic guitars chirp through a jungle of shakers and walloping percussion. Ira Kaplan’s rich vocals smatter over the trademark YLT composition and stirs a thick brew of plateaued—albeit catchy—hooks and a muscled-up, vibrato-smacked guitar solo. While the song itself is perfectly passable, it becomes trapped in an atonal roundabout, leaving listeners eyeing the exit halfway in.

Fade continues its eddying journey with “Is That Enough,” which begins with a chirpy piano intro and woolly guitars slicing right through any slap cheek optimism. The likely couple of Kaplan and Georgia Hubley’s harmonies and soaring strings completely offsets the harshness of the lo-fi guitar lingering in the background. You’d almost want to sing along with the alt-rock couple if the song wasn’t so unsettlingly delicate. This is just one of many instances that enforces the nearly unsettling juxtaposition that YLT has trademarked—it’s startling and discomforting and completely unprecedented.

“Paddle Forward” kicks off with some prog-rock guitar squeals and basic roars, but then launches into head rocking splendor with a fluttery riff and vocals that are more sing-song than a high school glee choir. The song has a dreary bite, though, with Hubley’s browbeaten harmonies anchoring any runaway glee. The candid cut settles at the perfect moment, at just under four minutes—one of the briefest songs of the album.

The halfway point is flagged with “Stupid Things,” which begins with a hauntingly spare guitar intro but picks up some sonic cargo on the way with thumping backbeats and a climaxing guitar. The intricate layers that at first seem doubtfully cohesive, but meld into an ebbing swell embrace Ira Kaplan’s distant drone.

The album strips down and finds surer fitting in the second half, working toward a strong finish. “I’ll Be Around” is a linear, pseudo-folk ditty that adopts some Alex Ebert vocals, with a messianic tone and campfire camaraderie feel. “Cornelia and Jane” continues down the ambient route with Hubley’s vocals thieving the spotlight with her casual smoker’s row vocals. The song flirtatiously teases peaks  and crescendos, bundling the track into a shivering coil.

After downturned strummer “The Point Of It,” Fade winds to a close with “Before We Run.” Hubley flirts with a hefty Kim Gordon husk in her voice in the 6-minute wrap-up. The time flees with the quick addition of rigid strings and belching horns. The song is grand without becoming fussy, instead mounting the drama with sonic tension and anxious trills.

Despite clocking a total of 46 minutes, Fade seems to overstay its welcome with hard-fought endings and tiresome riff raff. The album is not unlike an obligatory family vacation. No matter its duration, it’s always a day too long and the destination—however awe-inspiring—is taken for granted. Fade does prove, however, that Yo La Tengo can putty up some old tricks and tweak them into a new approach. It’s the same skeleton of shoegaze rock with some fancy frills and a smooth exterior, making it clear that the trio is ready to attack some hefty topics, like maturity and age, in a tranquil aural slush—drink up.

Yo La Tengo – Fade tracklist:

  1. “Ohm”
  2. “Is That Enough”
  3. “Well You Better”
  4. “Paddle Forward”
  5. “Stupid Things”
  6. “I’ll Be Around”
  7. “Cornelia and Jane”
  8. “Two Trains”
  9. “The Point Of It”
  10. “Before We Run”