“Fade” Yo La Tengo | Beat Grade: A-
A little something happens in each song of New Jersey’s veteran indie rockers’ latest effort, “Fade.” That something is explained in the album’s title — listeners hear one aspect or another fade away throughout the course of the track.
Take the first song, “Ohm.” A greeting yet drowned out percussion line presents itself at the forefront, only to take a backseat a few seconds later to the Hoboken trio’s signature swirling, repetitive aura of guitar riffs.
The synchronized vocals of guitarist and piano player Ira Kaplan and his wife, drummer and vocalist Georgia Hubley, almost render the song unidentifiable. The 6-minute-long “Ohm” feels decidedly like Yo La Tengo though, if only through the soft yet upbeat timbre of the guitar.
The rest of the album bears more of a likeness to the band’s low-key and eclectic style, but still manages to stray away from its hits from the '90s. Many of the songs are quiet, but still contain a semblance of catchiness.
Standouts like “Well You Better” fall in line with the fading theme, as sounds in the beginning of the track are hard to find upon further listening. Unorganized hints of a keyboard start off the track, but are realized more fully through Kaplan’s catchy organ-esque keys that become the heart of the song.
The added orchestral accompaniment brings an element of dynamism to Yo La Tengo’s formula. Tracks where Hubley takes the microphone are always the most enticing, and at times haunting, to which “Cornelia and Jane” is a testament. She serves up chills when her voice slides to hit a high note at the end of her question — “How can we care for you?”
“Before We Run” is a near-perfect closer. It features Hubley’s soothing vocals and brings in other influences. There’s a hint of rumba with the clave-like percussion beneath the wandering guitar accompaniment. The horns and strings that underscore each statement are extremely enchanting, and elevate the song to ballad status.
“Fade” tops off the band’s impressive discography and assures listeners that Hubley, Kaplan and loyal bassist James McNew have still got it after nearly 30 years since forming Yo La Tengo.