Yo La Tengo continue indie romantic trends with ‘Fade’
For nearly hitting the three-decade mark, Yo La Tengo stands as a relevant rarity. While the last few years have been fraught with musical dissolution — Sonic Youth on hiatus due to the unfathomable Kim-Thurston split, R.E.M. calling it quits after fifteen years of mediocre output — the indie rock ensemble continues to bathe itself in superstardom while also living the life of influence. Their latest release, “Fade,” continues the trend of showing growth and experimentation while also adding a tighter grip on consistency to the band’s catalogue.
2009’s “Popular Songs” saw incohesive and ambitious ventures into drone, free jazz, ‘60s pop and post-rock territories. But while “Fade” possesses many of the same structural characters, there appears to be a definitive focus and less of an attempt to mirror Apple’s shuffle function. The path from opener to conclusion is more logical, centering itself around an accessible blend of indie pop and art rock that still excites and keeps critics at bay. It’s also worth noting the album’s time, which clocks in around the 45-minute mark, is a subtle move in a different direction, considering Yo La Tengo has releases that extend well beyond the average album length.
While the radio-friendly half of “Fade” entices listeners with clap-worthy grooves and drone descents, the album continues in the same fashion as “Popular Songs” with a thoughtful, wistful side B. “Stupid Things” and “Before We Run”’ contain an uncomfortable ambiguity that addresses age and love in an era of uncertainty, drawing upon half-familiar themes all-but-true for Ira and Georgia’s creative and romantic partnership. If there’s any consistency to the band’s history, it’s the startling degree of intimacy that both individuals, with the help of James McNew, manage to convey through song.
But it is “The Point of It” a gem obscured by a batch of deep tracks, that serves as the album’s magnum opus. The lonesome lilt revolves around worry, insecurity and passion that accompanies a long-lasting commitment. Those keeping up with the band may heed this as a nod to the uncertainty of Ira’s health scare, which prompted the band to reschedule their traditional batch of Hanukkah shows in 2011. But despite its depressing state, the track is worth a few schoolgirl swoons — sweet, sensible and serving as an ode to mortality and what-ifs that linger with time.
Like “Popular Songs,” “Fade” is a testament to relatable romanticism. It strips away the pretension and cheese of mainstream pop by offering bare-bones, real-world honesty that could only be written by a group that’s endured the ups and downs of a decades-long career. And if there’s any fact Yo La Tengo’s output can account for, it’s that being in love is not only okay but also a beautiful experience.