Fade is a Yo La Tengo lover’s Yo La album. The tracks run together like satisfied breaths that sound at once muddy and precise. It is shoegazing but accessible, rejecting the cliches that dominate so much of indie-rock today.
The record feels slow and lazy like a perfect Sunday afternoon, when the sun is dancing in and out of the clouds and there’s nothing to do but stave off Monday. At times it almost becomes boring, but the deliberate choice of instruments, lyrics and effects makes the motivation of the album clear.
The strings on “Is That Enough” make that track feel like a pop song. The horns on “Before We Run” lend gravitas to the album’s closer. And the lyrics, oh goodness the lyrics — about aging, hope, romantic love and deep friendship. Yo La Tengo has never shied away from getting personal, and these songs elevate the honesty that fans expect to a new level.
And rightly so. Ira Kaplan and wife Georgia Hubley formed the band in 1984, and bassist James McNew joined them in 1992. During more than two decades of playing together, they have seen the world as well as their own relationships change around them in profound ways. With this latest effort, Yo La Tengo takes the time to reflect on its experiences and the future.
Kaplan and Hubley remain a beacon of indie-rock love after the heartbreaking split of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore. In album highlight “I’ll Be Around,” Kaplan sings the slow steady promise to stay even as the world changes.
Fade feels like a promise to fans, too, that Yo La isn’t going anywhere even as the rest of the bands we grew up on break up in a heaving morass of half-hearted side projects and acoustic covers of top 40 songs.
Fade veers from 2009’s infectiously poppy Popular Songs, echoing instead the sounds that make And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out a perennial favorite. The album lacks the long rambling jams that stood out on previous records (for example Painful’s “I Heard You Looking”). Instead, opener “Ohm” clocks in at 6:50. It’s the longest song on the record and worth every second with its rich use of percussion and perfect opening lines — “Sometimes the bad guys go out on top, sometimes the good guys lose. We try not to lose our hearts, not to lose our minds.”
Fans of Hubley’s vocals will find a treat in “Cornelia and Jane,” one of the few songs in the band’s catalog that she sings alone (although she shares the track with perfectly subtle distortion and a great horn line).
Fade fits perfectly into Yo La Tengo’s catalog. In iTunes, when “Before We Run” slips to a close, the first track on Fakebook effortlessly follows. It looks like 2013 will be a great year for music (did someone say Destiny’s Child?) and it feels comforting to start things off with a great record from a band that has been playing exactly the music it’s wanted to since before most of us were born.