Several sounds turned into a single gorgeous one, Fade is YLT’s most settled LP for years.
Daniel Ross 2013-01-08
Perennially entertaining rock trio Yo La Tengo are nothing if not reliable. Traditionally their trump card is versatility; their ability to slide with no apparent hardship between styles inconceivable to lesser mortal rock groups.
A light jazz swing, a pop vignette with radio-friendly buzz and bite, a pervading psychedelic odyssey of giant length but somehow bolted together with Ira Kaplan’s uncanny balancing of heart and heft (and that’s just his guitar)… They are, undoubtedly, one of the more remarkable American groups to have emerged in the last 20 years. And with Fade, it seems they’ve settled for one sound.
Anyone familiar with Yo La Tengo’s catalogue will know that they’ve done this before. 2003’s Summer Sun is the closest bedfellow to Fade in that it shares a peculiar wooziness and hushed delivery. Here, songs like Two Trains, The Point of It and much of the latter half of the LP are dominated by those inimitable driftwood jams.
Early reports have also drawn links between Fade and earlier landmarks LPs: 1997’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One and 2000’s And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out. But there’s a more complex progression happening here, the band assembling a larger range of musical tools than they’ve ever had.
Their most recent albums have introduced a curiously indulgent series of pop templates – bluesy novelties and Motown strings are all over their last two LPs – so it’s nice that they’ve now become completely comfortable elements of their sound.
Rather than those influences becoming a marked stylistic shift, they’ve simply become different notches on the same bedpost, interchangeable and seamless. Saxophone pomp on Before We Run, for example, doesn’t sound like a novelty, just the right noise at the right time.
Purists intrigued by the band enlisting John McEntire (of Tortoise and innumerable notable indie releases) as producer instead of Roger Moutenot, who has worked on every Yo La Tengo record since 1993, will find little to gripe about. Fade sounds irreversibly like it’s their record, and nobody else’s.
The real revelation about Fade is that it is the most settled album they’ve recorded in years. Curiously, Yo La Tengo’s versatility has allowed them to turn a million different sounds into a single gorgeous and unfailingly interesting one.