Music Review: Yo La Tengo’s ‘Fade’

yolatengoNo, I don’t know alternative darlings Yo La Tengo because of their massive (and I do mean MASSIVE) back catalog. No, I know Yo La Tengo for because of their music being featured in independent movie soundtracks, including Juno and Adventureland. I know that sounds awful, especially since the band has put out twelve albums before Fade – their newest in four years – feels incredibly warm and familiar.

Fade opens with its longest track, “Ohm,” a beautifully crafted piece of alt-pop, mixing in tribal drums and a great theme of nothing ever staying the same. “I’ll Be Around” is a gorgeous break up song of sorts which seems poised to make it into another independent romantic comedy movie. The symplistic lyrics and overall message makes for a complete mixtape song. “Cornelia and Jane” is a heartbreak of a song, with lyrics describing a relationship that is being scrutinized by strangers’ eyes, and that judgement is getting to be to big for one of the members of the relationship. In my opinion, it’s probably the most beautiful track I’ve heard off of this album. The lyrical delivery from Georgia Hubley is what drives it home – it’s soft and fragile, while the lyrics themselves sound a need to be strong.

Although wholistically Fade is rather solid, there were a couple of songs that didn’t quite sit too well with me. The closer “Before We Run” sounds nice with the added instrumentation, but if overstays it’s welcome (just over six minutes). “The Point Of It” is a rather boring relationship song, as lead singer Ira Kaplan kind of goes on and describes what the point of being a couple is. And songs “Well You Better” and “Paddle Forward” are the loudest and least form fitting songs on the album, as their speed and lack or praise-worthy lyrics makes these two songs rather skipable. And, for the sake of nitpicking, I wish YLT would’ve explored that sexy guitar solo opening to “Stupid Things,” instead of fitting it with the rest of what the song is. Much like Fiona Apple’s latest, the back end of the album rather trumps the front.

Again, Fade‘s wholisticness is what makes it such a good listen. Yo La Tengo doesn’t explore too much out of their comfort zone – one that they developed years ago mind you – but that’s fine. They refined their craft, making for some unforgettable pieces of alt-pop you’ll hear this year. Although there is a level of shine plastered onto Fade, it’s not glaring. In fact, it feels welcoming.

Like I said earlier, this is my first true listening to Yo La Tengo, and it’s safe to say that I like what I heard. Fade is a rather relaxing album, but not so much that it will put me to sleep. In fact, it’s lyrics and instrumentation creates a rather rewarding experience if you decided to listen to it. It’s not perfect by any means, but it is a perfect entry point for new fans to get into their earlier stuff. And there is plenty of it.

Final Grade: B
Go Download: “Cornelia and Jane”

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