Yo La Tengo – Fade Yo La Tengo – Fade

Yo La Tengo - Fade

Yo La Tengo – Fade

“Sometimes the bad guys come out on top. Sometimes the good guys lose,“ goes the first line off of the first song of Yo La Tengo’s 13th studio album to date. Yo La Tengo are the good guys, and they never lose. Indie rock’s ‘critics’ darlings’ are back at it with Fade; a 10-song, 45-minute evening road trip down the desert interstate highway.

At least that’s what it sounds like to me. Fade may have been recorded in Chicago by a Hoboken, New Jersey band, with an album image taken from Portland, Oregon – yet all I imagine when listening to it is a flat, nighttime drive through the dry, Arizona desert. There are no turns, no exits, no bumps. No roadside attractions or distractions. Just a cruise-control, window-down, radio-up fade into the horizon.

Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew have been making music together for just about as long as I’ve been alive. Needless to say, they know what they’re doing. And this album is nothing out of the ordinary for the trio – minus one detail: they’ve moved on from long-time collaborating producer Roger Moutenot, and this time teamed up with Chicago multi-instrumentalist John McEntire (Tortoise / The Sea and the Cake) to produce. But it still sounds like Yo La Tengo.

Like exactly like Yo La Tengo. Which, as a fan of the band, is great, don’t get me wrong. There just seems to be something left to be desired – perhaps a slight omission in diversity and overall kitsch. I mean, there’s no “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” or “Autumn Sweater” or “Let’s Be Still” on Fade. There’s no one song that I really, really love or that I really, really don’t like on this album. That’s not exactly a criticism. I mean it’s Yo La Tengo – the music is good. I just imagine this piece of work sitting somewhere right in the middle of their discography when it’s all said and done. The best song is probably the aforementioned, seven-minute, chugging, opening track “Ohm,” but then the rest of the material sorta just fades from there.

The luminous cover photo depicts a humongous tree in Portland’s Overlook Park. I didn’t recognize what I was looking at or think much of it when I first saw the image. It wasn’t until a closer look that I noticed the band standing comparably miniature underneath it. And maybe like that image, there is more to the music on Fade than what initially meets the eyes/ears. Maybe there’s another layer to it that is revealed after the 8th listen, and another layer revealed after the 15th listen. I’d buy into that. Fade is comfortable in it’s own skin. It knows what it is. It’s simple and soft. There are no highs or lows. It’s flat and consistently the same speed. It has one singular pattern to which it doesn’t stray from, like a fully gassed, reliable automobile staying in its lane.

Every time I revisit Fade I like it more and more. It’s good, there’s no getting around that. I’d like to go sit underneath that tree and listen to this album. Or better yet, jump in my car and head east. Yo La Tengo will always win.

Yo La Tengo Fade Tracklist

Is That Enough
Well You Better
Paddle Forward
Stupid Things
I’ll Be Around
Cornelia and Jane
Two Trains
The Point Of It
Before We Run

Yo La Tengo - Fade, reviewed by Bryce on 2013-02-01T09:21:16-08:00 rating 3.5 out of 5

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