“Sometimes the bad guys come out on top/ Sometimes the good guys lose/ We try not to lose our hearts/ Not to lose our minds”
The first lines of opening track “Ohm,” off Yo La Tengo’s latest album Fade, seem to encapsulate the last decade of American life. Both personal and political, the sentiment sets the tone for a record steeped in and of its own history. Against the backdrop of a Velvets-y stomp and a subdued undercurrent of noise, “Ohm” kicks off another nearly perfect YLT offering.
“Is That Enough” is a sweet garage ballad that borrows from French-pop convention, with strings amplifying the melody of the chorus. “Paddle Forward” is a classic Yo La Tengo rocker, all Danelectro fuzz set against the whispered harmonies. “Stupid Things” sounds like a lost Tago Mago-era Can track, filtered through the speakers of the Brill Building. And while the second half of the record sometimes suffers from a monotone pacing, closer track “Before We Run” wraps up beautifully, a churning number that takes its disparate parts from arpeggiated melodies, tight rhythms, Moog synths, percussive plinks and brass and strings accompaniments to blossom as the credits roll.
In some respects, Fade feels like a culmination of the many ideas and thoughts expressed throughout YLT’s illustrious career, now fully formed into a whole. Throughout the album’s ten tracks and 46 minutes, one hears the sugar rush and delicate scuzz of I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, the majestic experimentation of And Then Everything Turned Itself Inside Out and the smooth and mellow pop of the underrated Summer Sun. Put into context within the band’s catalog, Fade wonderfully bookends 1993’s Painful.
Whereas Painful seemed to truly cement Yo La Tengo as a band coming into their own, foreshadowing the many facets they would incorporate, Fade represents a band completely comfortable in its own skin, capable of layering and texturing sound into a perfect package. Thirteen albums and nearly 30 years into their career, Yo La Tengo is crafting albums as effervescent and energetic as ever. No other American rock band can state such a claim.