Saturday, January 19, 2013
2013 has, for the most part, picked up right where 2012 left off... sucktastic. One of the bright spots of the year thus far has been hearing a somewhat surprising bit of sonic wonderment from indie rock's most adorable and seasoned veterans. I'm talking, of course, about Yo La Tengo and their fabulous new album Fade, which is easily the first great rekkid of the year.
When I first heard that Yo La Tengo was putting out a new album, I gave my customary smile and shrug of the shoulders and thought, "well, I'll have to get that" and didn't give it much more thought than that. Interested, mildly enthused, but not overly excited. Then, a couple of weeks before its release date, I had a chance to hear an advance copy at work. My ears pricked up about halfway through and I thought, "now this IS something". After a couple of listens the January 15th release date absolutely could not come soon enough for me.
Don't get me wrong. Yo La Tengo's last few albums have all been quality affairs, well worth your time and interest. It's just that their 21st century works have all seemed to have that feel of a veteran band still doing high quality work without quite reaching the pinnacle of their glory days. Let's face it, there was a five album stretch from 1992's May I Sing with Me through 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out where each YLT release was something almost transcendent; a shimmering jewel whose every facet and tiny flaw only served to enhance its brilliance. Fade is a similar gemstone.
Clocking in at about 46 minutes, Fade is their most concise musical statement since 1993's Painful. In fact it may be their most magnificently minimal outing to date. It is easily their most cohesive and intimate rekkid since And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out. From its essentially one chord opening mantra "Ohm"(title and lyrics playing nicely with the connection between physics and Eastern philosophy), through the horn and string sprinkled swell of closer "Before We Run", Fade is a sonorous exercise in delicious atmosphere. Much of YLT's past can be heard throughout the rekkid. The deliciously languid "Two Trains" cops the casio hi hat beat from ATNTIIO's "Saturday". The fabulous "Stupid Things" would not be out of place on Painful or 1995's Electr-O-Pura. Yet these nods to the past seem less like recycling or self-homage, than a band learning from its past to create its present. At the center (or the beginning of side B, as it were) is the marvelously restrained "I'll Be Around", whose character sort of sums up my feelings about Fade as a whole: It's as if Yo La Tengo said to themselves, "We'd like to decorate a small section of time with music, but we don't want to do so much that we distract from the beauty of the silence".
Fade is gorgeous.