|Yo La Tengo get comfortable on their thirteenth album. Or maybe they just tuned into a songwriting wavelength that sidesteps negative aspects of modern life, opting for music that suggests a happy marriage and long-lasting friendships continuing on past middle-age. The band's new album, Fade, is a summer's breeze...kinda Seals & Crofts meets the VU...know what I mean? YLT sound like, shockingly, YLT. Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew haven't ever delivered a downright terrible record. Sometimes the guitars are more no-wave, sometimes the harmonies are a little softer, but for the most part Yo La Tengo are smart, talented, and self-aware rockers, who have about as good a grasp on music making as anyone of their generation.
Fade is a "pretty" album. The melodies emulate that feeling one has after a glass of wine, sitting across from a significant other at a nicely lit dining table. There's a certain tenderness I hear here, something that is often present on softer Yo La Tengo songs, and pleasing if that is the mood...kinda annoying if energy music is on the menu. The opening cut, "Ohm," is killer however as it is a rocker through and through and the easy favorite immediately. Like many of YLT's straight ahead rock jams, "Ohm" is an intelligent blending of White Light/White Heat, Neu!, and American-pop/punk/indie/whathaveyou. The arty (pseudo-Wilco) opening keyboards and percussion rumbles gradually build into a great distortion frenzy that supports the harmony vocals so well, you don't want the rush to end. After riding this tune for seven minutes the albums slows down a pace and settles in for a gentle jaunt that remind me of the band's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out. Songs like "Two Trains" and "I'll Be Around" resemble the sort of quiet art-pop the band is quite good at, even if it bores me a little if I'm not in the mood for their non-threatening type o' jam.
Yo La Tengo's new album isn't likely to disappoint longtime fans, but it isn't the type of record that will excite too many critics or casual streamers. When it comes down to it, I love the first song and tolerate the rest. YLT is such a good, solid band however that is always tough to find anything wrong with their tunes. Ultimately its good to have bands like YLT out there plugging in and rockin'.