Fade, Yo La Tengo’s thirteenth full-length album, opens with a repeating, clicking rhythm that immediately invites foot-tapping. This beat is shortly joined by an otherworldly sound, like the croon of some mystical beast. The tension rises as the drum and shaker come in. This beat is contrasted with the floating harmony, which together evoke separate inclinations in the mind and body, one to the dance floor and the other to the skies.
Supported by a classic Yo La Tengo guitar jangle melody and fuzzy bass line, the opener creates a sense of tantric bliss reminiscent of the track’s name, “Ohm.”
The song’s lyrics paint a darker picture, however, as the sullen monologue of a misanthrope who feels his love “slipping, slipping away.”
As the melody reaches the height of its euphoria, and all you want to do is slip away into the music, the sexless vocals begin their chant of “resisting the flow.” The unison drone of the lyrics contributes to the jam’s effortless tranquility, while the mantra itself subverts a state of nirvana, reflecting the paradoxes of emotion the two sounds create.
A feeling of uneasy hope runs throughout the album as the lyrics deal with the loss and pain of failed relationships (“It’s sad / but not untrue / what can’t come back’s what we bear to lose” in “Is That Enough”) through the perspective of a pensive romantic character. This emotional turmoil is voiced by either the wearied drawl of Ira Kaplan or the soulful husk of Georgia Hubley.
Though a real-life couple (indie rock’s couple-in-chief, after the breakup of SonicYouth’s Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon), the two rarely exchange words in the same song.
The story not told by the lyrics hides in the instrumental aspects of the songs. String instruments punctuate “Is That Enough” and serve as counterpoints to a more somber lyric.
Yo La Tengo have spent almost thirty years perfecting their unique style and this album is the result. It is as lush as the tree on its cover, dense with layers of complexity and a diversity of sounds and influences.
The group has pared down their style for this album—their shortest in decades—resulting in tighter jams and more focused songs. From the ebullience of “Ohm” to the spare tenderness of “I’ll Be Around,” Fade succeeds as a soundtrack of adult love and maturing relationships.
The album’s quiet grace and undeniable grooves prove why Yo La Tengo are described as one of music’s most consistent bands.