Yo La Tengo
***and1/2 out of *****
Relaxed. Layered. Mellow. these are the words I wrote quite a few times during my first few spins of Yo La Tengo's 13th studio album Fade. The band has always been more of a laid back version of noiserock long running compatriots Sonic Youth, but this time they have down shifted even further creating a Sunday Morning album for aging hipsters.
"I'll Be Around" adds to the simple morning sunshine feel with it's acoustic guitars and rising background. "Two Trains" is another example of the ease this band can put forth gorgeous tracks with its languid bubbling and mixing of elegant sounds that could go on forever. That is one change about this disk, there isn't the standard 10+ minute workout that has been a hallmark of Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew's career. The tracks are certainly more meditative without pushing any real boundaries.
"Ohm" opens things as the most upbeat track here with swirling background pulses before a infectious drum beat. While Vocals have never been a focus of the band, they usually pair up the sounds with the tone of voice very well, "Is It Enough" is a rare miss in that department for the group.
"Cornelia and Jane" is a really intriguing track that melds ghostly vocals with a soothing french horn over repetitive ticking of cymbals. A rich song that seems both delicate and solid, a neat trick. There is a bit of grooving soul splashed on "Well You Better" which keeps the band's patented genre shifting active, but there is no doubt they seemed more reigned in on Fade.
Working with new producer John McEntire for the first time, longtime fans may have been worried, but there isn't much noticeable difference, perhaps some more orchestration and programming behind the scenes, but very little to get worked up over. In fact the overall audial experience is incredibly pleasant, even with switching up styles there is a sonic thread that links these tracks together.
The danger with dropping the tempo down this much is that boredom could seep in, thankfully the perfectly titled disk has enough nuances to keep the listener engaged, adding just another solid release to this fine American bands back catalog.
Yo La Tengo may have hit their personal highpoint with me on their last release Popular Songs, so I had high hopes for this disk. It isn't much of a let down, in fact this is exactly the sort of album that will certainly grow with repeated listens, but the mellow nature of the whole thing just doesn't knock you out. That said there are some really cool laid back things here to explore if that is your sort of thing.
Buy the album here, Catch the band live here and peep some samples below: