If you’ve heard any of Yo La Tengo’s now thirteen studio recordings, you probably couldn’t find the proper way to classify them. Indie rock? A bit too vague. Experimental rock? Even more vague. No matter how you look at it, you aren’t going to find the solution to this quandary in this review. Any classification you’re willing to credit them with is probably the most justifiable because, really, Yo La Tengo is a brand unto themselves.
With that said, Fade, their first album in close to four years, sees the Hoboken band at the most “Yo La Tengo” they’ve ever been, reaching into different levels of the same well to produce ten tracks that recall the many stylings and sounds that marked their most significant material in the ’90s and ’00s. It’s just about the best thing anyone could have ever asked for from a band whose lengthy and consistent career has been so solid, so fruitful, and so immaculately conceived.
The album was produced by Chicago-based John McEntire instead of Roger Moutenot, who had produced every album of Yo La Tengo’s since 1993’s Painful. Listening to the new record, however, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. McEntire lets Yo La Tengo loose to explore their orchestrations the way they know best, resulting in the insulating, lingering guitars and hush-hush vocals of “Stupid Things” that remind me of any track found on I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One, and the foggy atmospherics and calming bassline of “Two Trains” that are reminiscent of tracks from And Then Nothing Just Turned Itself Inside-Out.
That’s really what Fade ultimately comes down to: a collection of new material recalling the best that Yo La Tengo has to offer, though that isn’t to say that the album is merely ten points of reference. They’ve simply established such a unique brand of layered rock that it quite literally branches out into a variety of styles that we’ve come to love and associate with the band.
When I hear the colorful and throughly upbeat “Ohm,” the dream-pop bliss of “The Point Of It,” or the carefully-constructed wash of effected chords during “Paddle Forward,” I’m compelled to dig deeper to locate their roots — to go from simply sitting in my chair as a listener to swimming through an ocean of textures as a diver. The greatest aspect of Fade is its ability to allow a listener to discover the band through the band, as they choose to magnify smaller details in lieu of bulking up as a way to demand notice.
Comparable to the way in which Wes Anderson produced the recently released Moonrise Kingdom, Yo La Tengo’s Fade isn’t flashy and doesn’t try to employ anything more than its creator’s established methods. If anything, it reinforces them to a level of self-reference (as well as self-reverence). The album hearkens back to an already solid line of highly-regarded work, and to see Yo La Tengo continue their stride into the next decade with material this distinct and diverse is beyond wonderfully refreshing. Fade begs for closer inspection, and those willing to give it that precious time are sure to find hidden gems.
Yo La Tengo’s Fade is now available on various formats via longtime label Matador Records, and be sure to catch them for a FREE set at Amoeba Records in Hollywood on Thursday, January 17th! The rest of Yo La Tengo’s U.S. tour dates are listed below, as well as an animated video for the track “Before We Run.”
Yo La Tengo U.S. Tour Dates:
01/16 – Fingerprints Music, Long Beach, CA
01/17 – Amoeba Records, Los Angeles, CA
01/18 – Easy Street Records, Seattle, WA
01/19 – Amoeba Records, San Francisco, CA
01/23 – Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC
01/24 – Jefferson Theater, Charlottesville, VA
01/25 – The Buckhead Theatre, Atlanta, GA
01/26 – Mercy Lounge, Nashville, TN
01/27 – WorkPlay, Birmingham, AL
01/29 – Brown Theatre (at Kentucky Center), Louisville, KY
01/31 – The Pageant, St. Louis, MO
02/01 – Vic Theater, Chicago, IL
02/02 – Turner Hall, Milwaukee, WI
02/04 – First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
02/05 – Barrymore Theatre, Madison, WI
02/07 – Beachland, Cleveland, OH
02/08 – Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor, MI
02/09 – The Phoenix, Toronto, ON
02/11 – The Corona, Montreal, QB
02/12 – Higher Ground, Burlington, VT
02/13 – Paradise, Boston, MA
02/15 – 9:30, Washington DC
02/16 – Town Hall, New York City, NY
More info: Yo La Tengo’s Website