Over the last 15-odd years, it almost seemed unfathomable to think of a new Yo La Tengo album without the incorporation of a track that surpasses the 10 minute mark.
In fact, some of their best material over the course of their last five LPs have been the epics: “Spec Bebop” from I Can Heart the Heart Beating As One. “Night Falls on Hoboken” off …And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out. I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass’s bookends “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind” and “The Story of Yo La Tango”. The massive noise rock jam “And the Glitter is Gone” from their last long player, 2009’s Popular Songs.
So for those YLT fans conditioned to expect a sonic marathon on the trio’s latest work Fade, you’ve already set yourself up for disappointment. In fact, lucky number thirteen in their legendary discography is the band’s shortest since Fakebook (that is, of course, if you discount their ravenous 2008 covers album under the alias Condo Fucks).
But where Fade is short on time, it is indeed long on melody and charm, seemingly expanding upon their roots in dream pop, perhaps more so than anything they’ve crafted since Painful exactly twenty years ago. It is also their most personal work yet. These guys are no spring chickens, and you can definitely get a sense of mortality reflection on tracks like “Paddle Forward”, “I’ll Be Around” and “The Point of It”, a notion de-fogged by frontman Ira Kaplan’s recent health scare that has since seen him seated at just about every YLT show over the last year or so. Such lyrical forthcoming marks a major break- through for a group as staunchly private as Kaplan, his wife Georgia Hubley and their longtime partner James McNew.
In addition, this marks the first time in who knows how long they aren’t working with longtime producer Roger Moutenot, opting instead to work alongside fellow indie veteran John McEntire of Bastro/Tortoise/Sea and Cake fame at his renowned Chicago space Soma Studios. Naturally, if you are fan of the Mc, you know he’s gonna go all out behind that mixing board. And does he ever for his Ira, Georgia and James, not only by playing percussion on opening track “Ohm” and vibes on “Two Trains” but recruiting such Windy City mainstays as Chicago Underground’s Rob Mazurek and Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker to participate as well.
Call Fade the Yo La Tengo equivalent to fellow Hoboken hero Frank Sinatra’s middle age masterpiece September of My Years, with less schmaltzy strings.