Most looks out the window are reasonably disheartening of late; the weather’s shite and show’s no signs of un-shitening, everyone’s trudges to work like they’re in some sort of bleak Orwellian nightmare and the post-Christmas ‘I’m skint’-spell certainly doesn’t help matters, even if Santa’s arrival was almost a month ago. Well, guess what? The ever-reliable Yo La Tengo’s latest record is about to make it all better with a big, fuzzy, indie hug.
Fade, the indie stalwarts 13th LP, may be somewhat reminiscent of their 1996 and 2000 classics I Can Hear The Hear Beating As One and …And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out, but it bares witness to more concise fare, with the vast psychedelic jams of said earlier material largely replaced for introspective folk and a generally more serene musical landscape. This is not always a positive- in fact this effort doesn’t quite match the aforementioned two in its standard- but it is nonetheless a truly excellent record; their best since the millennium and arguably third best overall. As rousing and uplifting as it is quietly sad, it is a testament to Yo La Tengo’s commercially unsung but critically applauded prowess.
The joyous, psychedelic loops of opener ‘Ohm’ get the ball rolling with spectacular style; uplifiting vocals, fuzzy, overdriven guitar riffs and the solos that make you remember why you got into guitar music in the first place. If 1996’s ‘Autumn Sweater’ is the indie kid’s ‘Let’s Get It On’, then ‘Ohm’ could well be ‘Wonderful World’ (note: Sam Cooke, not Louis Armstrong). Following this is the equally beautiful ‘Is That Enough’, in which the overdriven guitar is largely replaced for lush strings. The optimism is by no means lost though, musically if perhaps not lyrically…for now. ‘Cornelia and Jane’ takes the Black-Belt of quiet, mournful beauty on Fade, in which co-founding member Georgia Hubley takes to the mic, her sad vocal souring over its backing of slide-guitar; her own acoustic guitar adopting an almost purely percussive role. Subsequent track ‘Two Trains’ is a slight low point, but only due to the fact that it sounds far too similar to any track featured on the latter half of I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One; hardly a heinous crime and one that is pardoned immediately upon hearing the enchanting, whispered harmonies during the refrain.
This is the moment to declare an amnesty on non-Yo La Tengo fans, a Get Out Of Jail Free Card; if you listen to this record you will both hear an absolute gem of a record, a work that is largely representative of the band’s ‘classic’ late nineties heyday and people need never know of your ignorance. If the only problem with the record is that it sounds too Yo La Tengo-ish (i.e Fucking Amazing), then Fade is very much in contention for a record of the year.
Released on 14th January 2013 by Matador Records