Hoboken's finest at the top of their game
It's become easy to take Yo La Tengo for granted. Ever since they perfected their mature sound on 1992's May I Sing With Me and then promptly turned out a string of masterpieces from 1993's Painful through 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out, they've released three subsequent albums (2006's I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass being both the best and the most excellently-titled), done a lot of never less than interesting soundtrack work and released a fun album of bash-it-out garage and punk covers as the Condo Fucks. For all that activity, Fade is the first YLT album in the last dozen years that belongs alongside those great '90s albums.
The most obvious change is in the producer's chair: since Painful, the band have worked exclusively with Nashville producer Roger Moutenot, but Fade was recorded in Chicago with Tortoise's John McEntire. It's a collaboration that makes so much sense it's surprising that it hasn't happened before: McEntire's trademark sense of space meshes perfectly with YLT's "patterns of sound" aesthetic, and the subtle but perfect addition of strings and horns to the core lineup of Ira Kaplan's guitar, James McNew's bass and keyboards and Georgia Hubley's drums fleshes out the songs without overweighing them. Indeed, this is YLT's most evanescent record since 1997's I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One; as he did there, Kaplan favors a hushed, almost whispered vocal tone that adds greatly to the emotional intimacy of the album. As always with Yo La Tengo, the hooks reveal themselves slowly over multiple listens, but it doesn't take long to register the charms of songs like the playful R&B-tinged shuffle "Well You Better" or the gently hypnotic "I'll Be Around," the track that most clearly leans toward the band's career-long devotion to the third Velvet Underground album. Long before the gorgeously epic "Before We Run" closes the album with its strings and horns cresting underneath Hubley's endearingly conversational vocals, Fade cements itself as one of Yo La Tengo's top-shelf albums.
|Before We Run|