What to expect from indie rock stalwarts YO LA TENGO? They have been a band since 1984, you know the new album from this Hoboken, New Jersey trio is going to be good. The question is how good.
Fade, YO LA TENGO’s fifteenth album, is airier, with signature guitar hooks that layer over keyboards and percussion, held together by Ira’s dreamy and pensive spoken/sung style. What is impressive is that this band can be together so long and produce music so prolifically, yet manage to provide something new to fans. Ira Kaplan, wife Georgia Hubley and bassist James McNew craft luscious introspective dream pop that, in their long history, has referenced everything from the Velvet Underground, to British Invasion, to a collaboration with tragic outsider artist music genius Daniel Johnston. They even portrayed the Velvet Underground in a film, I Shot Andy Warhol.
Less noise and more pop, the album opens with Ohm, similar to previous YO LA TENGO songs only in length (over seven minutes). This song caused a double take, the vocals sounded farther from the Ira/Georgia everyman/breathy woman harmonizing we hear on earlier songs like Summer Sun. They’ve checked some of the feedback to invite session musicians to provide gorgeous strings, brass, and percussion to the tracks. Fade is a lush album that belies the ear bleeding fifteen minute plus versions of noise and drone they can brandish at live shows. “Stupid Things” is a classic jam reminiscent of “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House,” with Ira’s modified voice singing about “Every stupid thing that happens to you/every stupid thing I say” but with such sweetness and yearning, emphasized by the viola (Robert Fisher) and violin (Todd Matthews), it sounds like a compliment.
I’ll Be Around is stripped down tune (acoustic guitar and keyboards) with just Ira professing his reliability. This whole album is mellow and soft, with none of the gristling garage references that populated 2006’s I’m Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. Some other fresh departures from the norm include Cornelia and Jane features Georgia singing alone, with a cornet (a smaller trumpet) and a trombone, provided by Brian Drye and Rob Mazurek, and Two Trains has John McEntire on a vibraphone.
The last song, Before We Run is more meandering, six plus minutes that include bells, various horns, and strings over drums that can only be described as gentle. With minimal vocals, it is the near all instrumental jam that seems to be a standard on all YO LA TENGO albums. Long time fans will not be disappointed, and newbies will enjoy the spacey, bittersweet and laid back odes to topics like relationships, crushes, school and public transportation. So if you feel like curling up with your sixties garage rock and shoegaze records and writing in your journal while wearing your autumn sweater, add Fade to your collection. Make sure to see them on their European tour this winter.
You can stream YO LA TENGO‘s entire album, Fade, here.