Yo La Tengo – Fade

Yo La Tengo have now released an incredible 13 studio albums over a period of nearly 30 years. The versatile New Jersey group have taken on board just about every rock and pop style possible and have had consistent critical acclaim throughout.  Now we have album number 13, Fade – it’s one of their most gentle and suitably consistent efforts yet.

The genre-defying trio have amassed so many different pop and rock styles over their career that it’s no surprise that Fade thematically is yet again different to the extensive back catalogue.  Comparisons can be made to the 2009 record Popular Songs, which is altogether a more poppy affair, but also to some of the louder, more noise driven efforts evident in 1997 record I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One.  This record fits that aesthetic perfectly – 45 minutes of dreamy soft rock.

Opener ‘Ohm’ is a repetitive psychedelic number – a jangly catchy guitar rhythm and loping percussion featuring all 3 members’ vocals, definitely one of the highlights of the album. Some string arrangements can be heard in ‘Is That Enough’ which actually add to the mellowness of the song; a moodily concise number, giving a very underground feel with a sort of alt-country bass line.  Immediately standing out from the quieter songs on the album, ‘Paddle Forward’ sees the band letting loose with the noise-pop influences into a catchy number with lo-fi guitars and a much more rhythmic, louder drumming style.

One of the few criticisms one could make of the album is that the way the songs have been made can make some tracks either really pretty… or really dull. The songs ‘I’ll Be Around’ and ‘Two Trains’ are full of niceties and at first listen sound intensely warm and welcoming, but after a while the immediate appeal strips off to sound just a little boring.

Fade is nonetheless a solid and dependable album. While picking on ideas and previous ventures, it does still sound contemporary and consistent, a testament to the trajectory of this band’s career. Still sounding fresh, still sounding beautiful, Yo La Tengo aren’t going anywhere soon.

Francis Woodcock