House and Home

Album Review: Yo La Tengo, 'Fade'


If fans worried Yo La Tengo’s 13th album would be jinxed, one listen will immediately put minds to rest.

Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew are back doing what they do best, with ten new tracks that come together to form a totally immersive listening experience. These are songs to get lost in, packing an emotional punch wrapped inside the band’s signature layers of sound—but now with strings and horns breaking out of the guitar/bass/drums mix.

The cohesiveness of “Fade” is no doubt in part due to a new man behind the decks, producer John McEntire. But while he’s influenced the sound, he’s kept what makes Yo La Tengo so unmistakable.

Album opener “Ohm” is yet another of their great shoegazing songs. But “Is That Enough” does a 180 from there, adding keys and strings to the fuzz guitars and Kaplan’s solo voice. The effects-heavy “Well You Better” then buries his voice under layers of ‘60’s surf-rock, while “Paddle Forward” features full-on feedback and distortion.

Of course Yo La Tengo is as much about the impact of their lyrics, and a pair of back-to-back tracks, one sung by Kaplan and the other by wife Hubley, communicate directly and form the heart of the album. Kaplan’s “I’ll Be Around” finds strength in simplicity, with an acoustic guitar and pulsing bass as a backdrop for his tender ballad. Hubley’s follow-up, “Cornelia and Jane,” plays her delicate harmonies against folk guitars and gentle horns, her words haunting and stark.

After nearly thirty years, Yo La Tengo still has the power to entrance. Contrary to its title, “Fade” resonates more with each listen.