Release Date: Jan 15, 2013
Record label: Matador
"Sometimes the good guys lose/We try not to lose our hearts" begins the 13th LP by the sublimely hangdog indie-rock forebears. On an album about staying the course as time passes and things fall apart, producer John McEntire hones arrangements that are more layered than usual. Guitar noise dazzles; "Is That Enough" and "Before We Run" even have strings.
What a gross prospect that a 30-years-going (and at least 20-years-miraculous) band like Hoboken’s finest have to contend with critical acclaim, that tempestuous thing that doubts itself every so often when a band simmers for too long. Yo La Tengo does nothing but simmer, and their excellent records are proof that a band need not boil over to consistently make the best American music in the universe. Yes, 2009’s Popular Songs was close as they get to repeating themselves, generic title intact, triple-boring endless coda devastating (“The Fireside” was, sure, the worst thing they’ve ever recorded).
Their distortion knobs may sometimes be turned down to zero and they have been known to cast the occasional gaze down at their shoes from time to time, but with their 13th album, Fade, Yo La Tengo are looking us straight in the eye. The most direct album the band has ever assembled, Fade functions like one of the darker, LOL-averse episodes of comedian Louis C.K.’s eponymous show: It’s upfront, straight from the heart and intrinsically metropolitan. And yet, it’s also a heady stew that, at various intervals, takes a psych-rock detour (“Here to Fall”) and invokes the spirit of Nick Drake (“Is That Enough”).
For over two decades, Yo La Tengo have made music that is intimate and sprawling. Though they may lack the immediately obvious influential weight of bands that boast similar longevity, this may simply be for the fact that they don’t so much wear their influences on their sleeve as make cardboard placards that say “We like The Velvet Underground”. In a sense, they are the modest guardians of indie-rock, nervously poking their head round the corner to see how that nice band Radiohead are getting on.
Yo La Tengo’s thirteenth album kicks off with an expansive meditation, both literal and figurative. “Ohm” is an ode to “nothing ever stay[ing] the same” and the beauty of change, yet over the course of nearly thirty years, the Hoboken indie vets have been remarkable in their consistency. They’ve maintained the same trio of principals since 1992, and the marriage between Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley has only solidified the band’s steady-as-she-goes demeanor.
Review Summary: Sounds like something somebody with a large portion of alt/indie in their piechart would like.There’s a great line in the tragically defunct Starz! comedy series Party Down, when the cast of catering irregulars is working the funeral for a well-respected businessman and receive some matronly advice about love from the man’s widow. In the best Aged-African-American-Fount-of-Wisdom tradition (cue Spike Lee howling), the lady warns: “Forget fireworks, you don’t want something that blows all bright then fades. You know what love is? It’s a crockpot - not flashy, not exciting - but cooks at a low heat - day in and day out, and won’t fade.
Yo La Tengo's classic mid-1990s run (Painful, Electr-o-Pura, and I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One) perfectly embodied the era's collective embrace of the mix-tape-as-courtship-device. These records were sprawling yet intimate, stylistically all over the map yet purposefully constructed. And whether they took the form of earwax-melting noise freakouts or bossa nova lullabies, they always projected the unmistakable, endearing personalities of their makers.
Yo La Tengo has never been an easily predictable band, and that’s saying quite a bit for a band closing in on 30 years of activity. While most new releases by such multigenerational artists are usually left as after-thoughts in the minds of most music fans (comments such as “Oh, I didn’t think they still made music” are often thrown around with only mild enthusiasm), Yo La Tengo has been an interesting exception to this rule, as they consistently garner attention from both new and old fans every 3-4 years without any reunions or “comeback album” hype to back them. This is largely due to their ability to keep people guessing with their eclectic taste for songwriting, as albums ranging from the classic I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One to their most recent, 2009’s Popular Songs, could abruptly change styles at the drop of a hat, with harrowing, feedback-drenched sprawls sitting not too far from a Beach Boys cover.
At album number 13, Yo La Tengo are an institution unto themselves, having perfected their craft of slow-burning, unassumingly insular indie rock in incremental baby steps since their formation in 1984. Almost three decades of building a language of wistfully melodic guitar rock without becoming redundant is no small feat, and Fade rises to the unique challenge by striking a middle ground between new territory and recalling YLT's finest hours. Fade is the first album for the band not recorded with producer Roger Moutenot, who had worked with the group on everything they put to tape since their 1993 breakthrough, Painful.
The first lines Ira Kaplan sings on Yo La Tengo’s 13th album Fade may be, “Sometimes the bad guys come out on top / Sometimes the good guys lose,” but the arc of his band’s career proves that nothing could be further from the truth, at least in its own one case. While rock has always propped up self-destructive drama queens—and even the contrarian indie scene has often preferred hyping up ill-tempered high-maintenance types—the downright normal Hoboken trio proves that the good guys sometimes win, as the husband-and-wife team of Kaplan and Georgia Hubley are at the height of their popularity after almost three decades playing together as a band. In this case, the nicest, most grounded indie act probably ever has outlasted its more vaunted and dysfunctional peers like Pavement, Sebadoh, and even Sonic Youth, emerging as the unlikely last band standing from the scene’s ‘90s halcyon days.
Yo La Tengo's encyclopaedic knowledge of music worked against them on their last record, 2009's Popular Songs; its genre experiments were neatly crafted but sounded contrived. Fade, by contrast, returns to familiar territory so intuitively that it feels less like a return to form than a homecoming. It hardly matters that its core elements – half-whispered vocals, gently distorted garage riffs or drowsy, jazz-tinged guitars – are parts of a well-established signature sound, they yield new shades of feeling and pockets of warmth with every listen.
I’ve always thought of the early music of Yo La Tengo as the sonic equivalent of comfort food. “Crispy Duck,” “Hot Chicken,” New Wave Hot Dogs — if the band wasn’t actually singing about greasy roadside dining, they were always at least making music about the cheap pleasures of pop. Pummeled drums, fuzzed-out guitars, ethereal pop harmonics, with a sound so deeply ingrained in the sonic imaginary of a slack generation that each new anti-anthem felt like coming home again.
You couldn't exactly accuse Yo La Tengo of being as single-minded as the Ramones – for all that the bedrock of their signature sound is what singer-guitarist Ira Kaplan calls "the suburbanisation of the underground", over the last quarter-century they have incorporated free jazz, soft pop, garage rock, surf pop, folk rock and pretty much everything you can do with an electric guitar alongside their default post-Velvets drone-rock. Still, they're pretty much instantly recognisable, and their 13th studio album could fit anywhere into their post-1990 discography, acting as a guided tour through their styles, via the fuzzy rock of Ohm, the brisk, understated pop of Well You Better, the feedback squall of Paddle Forward, the folky reverie of Cornelia and Jane. The biggest point of difference from their past – and it's a welcome one, given that Yo La Tengo can become too much of a good thing – is in the album's length.
In a couple of months no-one is going to remember that the new Yo La Tengo album came out just after Christmas, but right now it feels pertinent. What better antidote to the bloatings of the festive season with its sentimental and sensual overload? After weeks soundtracked by sleigh bells, the beefy forced laughter of panel show contestants and the nattering of relations you don’t really like going on about things you don’t care about, so many bright lights, so much gaudiness, so much stuff you're left feeling a bit sick and a bit dazed. And then you press play on the the new Yo La Tengo record, this lovely, unfussy, uncluttered and warm 45 minutes of clarity and light and it makes everything better.
YO LA TENGO play the Phoenix February 9. See listing. Rating: NNNN "Nothing ever stays the same/Nothing's explained," sing the three members of Yo La Tengo in unison on expansive opening track Ohm. That thought rings true for the beloved indie rock darlings, whose career has spanned nearly three decades.
After more than a quarter-century and 14 albums, the core members of Yo La Tengo have assumed the role of elder statesmen in the indie-rock universe, and fans who have stuck with them since 1986’s Ride the Tiger—or even since their 1997 masterpiece I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One—will find few surprises on the band’s new album, Fade. Like 2009’s Popular Songs, Fade combines bite-sized, tuneful numbers that foreground Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley’s vocals with a handful of near-symphonic compositions that push the 10-minute mark. The difference here is concision and cohesion: While stopping short of the expansive, 15-minute instrumental that closed out Popular Songs, the album’s bookends, “Ohm” and “Before We Run,” give the band a chance to stretch their legs.
Despite Yo La Tengo?s consistent avowal to not go into albums with a preconceived thread in mind, each of the few previews released into the band?s new album Fade ? three songs, cover art, and one very chromatic music video ? already suggested grander reflections. Even the cropping of the photograph from the album cover, featuring the band looking like a speck beneath the gigantic crown of a tree in Portland?s Overlook Park, frames a fresh and zoomed-out worldview — a feeling of being a minuscule part of something much larger. Whatever their intentions may have been going in, Yo La Tengo has undeniably come out this time with an effort greater than the sum of its parts ? and that?s not to say that any of its 10 tracks fails to live up to or exceed their lofty standards individually.
Having spent nearly 30 years in a self-sufficient well-liked band is probably fair compensation, but you do wonder if New Jersey indie vets Yo La Tengo are vexed by everyone considering their best albums to have been made in the previous century. Perhaps the answer is in the specifics of ‘Fade’, their 13th album: it finds them in quietly romantic mode, with no epic song lengths or vicar-worrying feedback. Save perhaps for an unusual dalliance with folk (‘I’ll Be Around’), little new personal ground is broken, but their songwriting chops and sound design remain cherishable.Noel Gardner .
Even a band as restlessly experimental as Yo La Tengo has to reach a plateau at some point. By now, fans of the quintessential "indie" band know what to expect on their albums: a pretty, string-assisted, mid-tempo pop song here, a quietly up-tempo, gentle, drum-driven ditty there and at least one elegant, groove-laden epic that surpasses the five-minute mark. However, despite the fact that "Is That Enough," "Stupid Things" and "Before We Run" fit these archetypes perfectly, Fade is anything but a retread.
If fuzzy, languid pop with unrelentingly pretty melodies are your thing, you’ve come to the right place. Yo La Tengo’s 13th album proper is more or less business as usual from the indie veterans. Opener Ohm sets the scene nicely, sounding like a zippy Magical Mystery Tour outtake, while Is That Enough marries an infectious tune with an almost bashful vocal and a blue-eyed soul string section.
It might seem harsh, but it’s debatable whether we actually need any more Yo La Tengo albums. The trio from Hoboken, New Jersey have achieved a remarkable longevity (a little like Sonic Youth until their recent demise), and a dependable consistency in terms of quality. Yet there can be little doubt that the group achieved its career peak with contrasting masterpieces I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One and And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out.
After thirty years of making music, it’s safe to say that a band like Yo La Tengo has nothing left to prove. They’ve already been able to create the indisputable classics, they’ve been able to showcase a litany of covers that is without a doubt unmatched, they’ve been able to explore each new release as a challenge to create something fresh and terrific; and they’ve done all of this throughout their career with impressive results. On that last point, the New Jersey trio treats each new release as a challenge to create new brilliant music and with their thirteenth album, Fade, it’s another undeniable triumph.
Yo La Tengo recently completed their “Eight Nights of Hannukah” showcase at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey, an indie rock holiday tradition that’s been going on in some form or another since 2001 (though they’ve sat out a year or two). These are not garden variety Yo La Tengo shows, instead taking on the feel of vinyl-nerd potluck dinners; the mystery opening acts range from highly obscure to bands capable of drawing larger crowds than YLT themselves (e.g. Jeff Tweedy, the National), there’s always a stand-up comedy interlude, and the hosts play drawn out sets with plenty of sit in guests and cover tunes, often from Jewish songwriters.
YO LA TENGO “Fade” (Matador) Even when feedback is screeching at the fringes, a certain serenity prevails throughout “Fade,” the 13th album by the long-running Hoboken band Yo La Tengo. Time, mortality and lifelong companionship are very much on the minds of Yo La Tengo’s husband-and-wife songwriters, the guitarist Ira Kaplan and the drummer Georgia Hubley, who started the band in 1984 and are now in their 50s. “Days just fade away, slide into gray,” Mr.
Several sounds turned into a single gorgeous one, Fade is YLT’s most settled LP for years. Daniel Ross 2013 Perennially entertaining rock trio Yo La Tengo are nothing if not reliable. Traditionally their trump card is versatility; their ability to slide with no apparent hardship between styles inconceivable to lesser mortal rock groups. A light jazz swing, a pop vignette with radio-friendly buzz and bite, a pervading psychedelic odyssey of giant length but somehow bolted together with Ira Kaplan’s uncanny balancing of heart and heft (and that’s just his guitar)… They are, undoubtedly, one of the more remarkable American groups to have emerged in the last 20 years.
Fade, the title of Yo La Tengo’s 13th album, suggests a type of planned obsolescence that doesn’t really jibe with the ethos of consistency the band has established over almost 30 years. In the span of time where countless other bands followed a patented model of toiling in obscurity, making it big, breaking up and then getting back together to cash in on the reunion circuit, Yo La Tengo has walked a steadier, less sensational path of careful refinement, subtle experimentation and steely determination. With the marriage of Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley serving as both a backbone and a metaphor for the band’s unwavering commitment to itself, they’ve shown no signs of even slowing down, much less fading away.
Such has been the lengthy trajectory of Yo La Tengo that it beggars belief that they haven't succumbed to the law of diminishing returns. The recent brouhaha surrounding David Bowie's return from the artistic wilderness shrouded a period of his life when his artistic output flew by on autopilot with scant regard for quality control. The inescapable fact is that pretty much most artists of a certain vintage will eventually take an artistic dip where certain albums, looks and over-cooked tours will be swept under the carpet or tucked behind the sofa like so much bad porn before the arrival of one's parents for lunch.
“Sometimes the bad guys come out on top /Sometimes the good guys lose” goes the first line of Yo La Tengo’s first album in three years (the band’s standard lag time since 1997). But even without the words that follow — “We try not to lose our hearts / Not to lose our minds” — Yo La Tengo eases the sting of one-chord opener “Ohm” with Georgia Hubley’s steady, uncomplicated drumbeat, Ira Kaplan’s groaning and joyous guitar solo, and a comforting murmur shared by both. Most of “Fade” is characterized by the warmth of modesty that has been Yo La Tengo’s stock in trade for two decades now, with soft atmospherics giving songs like “Is That Enough” and “I’ll Be Around” (with its easy, percolating bass) a quiet, deadpan grace reminiscent of “The Velvet Underground.