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Album Review

At album number 13, Yo La Tengo are an institution unto themselves, having perfected their craft of slow-burning, unassumingly insular indie rock in incremental baby steps since their formation in 1984. Almost three decades of building a language of wistfully melodic guitar rock without becoming redundant is no small feat, and Fade rises to the unique challenge by striking a middle ground between new territory and recalling YLT's finest hours. Fade is the first album for the band not recorded with producer Roger Moutenot, who had worked with the group on everything they put to tape since their 1993 breakthrough, Painful. The ten songs here were recorded instead with Chicago scene veteran John McEntire (Tortoise, Sea and Cake, Gastr del Sol, etc.) at his Soma studios, and while his influence on the album isn't overwhelming, there are touches of his affinity for orchestration, such as the gleaming strings and horn arrangements on album closer "Before We Run" and the distant trombone on "Cornelia and Jane." Mostly, regardless of production, Fade comes across as almost self-referential before it recalls other reference points, coming closest to the sound and overall feel of their 1997 masterpiece, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. The whispery vocals and bed of guitar textures on "Stupid Things" and the extended percussive jamming of "Ohm" definitely seem informed by territory the band was exploring around that era, though the album as a whole lacks any of the spiky rockers that broke up the lush softness on ICHTHBAO. The gentle and romantic wash of sounds that characterizes much of Fade is more in keeping with the band's chilled-out 2003 album Summer Sun, with graceful exploration of different sounds all reined in before they spin into distortion or clamor. Even the slinky groove and weird wah-wah tones of "Well You Better" are subdued, offering a relatively mellow peak in energy. The album's lazy, sunshiny demeanor borders on sleepy at times, but those listening closely will pick up on the subtle shifts in instrumentation and colorful production shifts that the band has grown to excel at over the years. The fingerpicked acoustic guitar and harmonium drones of "I'll Be Around" fade into the spaced-out drum machine pulse of "Two Trains" without spectacle, and the entire album blends in a similar, pleasant way. This fluidity and cohesion are what drives the songs on Fade to stand stronger as a unified mood, and one that grows more satisfying with repeat listens. By this point, Yo La Tengo have developed not just a style, but a voice of their own so distinct that the deeper the details go determines how strong the album can be. Fade is rich with details and grows richer the closer one looks. [The Deluxe Edition added a second disc entitled Fade Out made up of demos, live versions, instrumentals, remixes, and outtakes of material from Fade, for a total of 25 tracks.]

Customer Reviews

Fantastic

I remember seeing Yo La Tengo at a small club in nyc following the release of "Electropura" -- that night at the end of a very long set they played an electrifying version of "Blue Line Swinger". Absent from this album is their often album-closing 10+ minute song, which is fine in that there's such incredible beauty to these songs. It's been a reward to age as YLT has aged; they're doing it a bit more gracefully than me. Buy this album and be rewarded with one of the best bands around today.

Stunning

"Fade" is the most direct, personal and cohesive album of Yo La Tengo's career. It recalls the sonic innovation of 1997‘s "I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One" and the lush cohesion of 2000’s "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out." The album is a tapestry of fine melody and elegant noise coupled with rhythmic shadowplay and soft-spoken orchestral beauty. Fade's emotional core sits at its very center in "I'll Be Around." The song's simplicity and starkness stand like a beacon against the emptiness. Fade is both heartbreaking and reassuring all at the same time.

20 years of listening to YLT

20 years of listening to YLT and this is the best yet.

Biography

Formed: 1984 in Hoboken, NJ

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Yo La Tengo are in many respects the quintessential critics' band: in addition to their adventurous eclecticism, defiant independence, and restless creative ambition — three qualities that virtually guarantee music press acclaim — the group's frontman, Ira Kaplan, even tenured as a rock scribe prior to finding success as a performer. So frequently compared to the Velvet Underground that they even portrayed the legendary group in the 1996 film I Shot Andy Warhol, the Hoboken, New Jersey-based...
Full Bio