Fade is only 45 minutes long, which might blow the mind of Yo La Tengo fans. The two last songs on their previous album, 2009’s Popular Songs, added up to half an hour on their own. This is shorter than we’re used to, getting rid of some of their lengthy guitar jam skronk-outs, but without playing up their hooky bubblegum pop side either.
Fade opens with one of its highlights, Ohm, which layers a simple guitar rhythm with drums, claps, squealing and repeated lyrics that sound like an agnostic mantra, like religious music for people who aren’t very religious: “This is it for all we know/Nothing ever changes/Nothing’s explained.” Well You Better is so quiet it sounds shy, but at the same time it’s a jaunty tambourine-shaker of a song where Ira Kaplan calls you “baby”. Before We Run climaxes with sleigh bells and a horn section rather than guitar solos.
Sometimes Yo La Tengo albums sound indecisive, like they’re a band who know every genre has the potential to be great and so try a bit of everything. But Fade doesn’t have any of their country songs, instrumentals, bossa nova experiments or even the ones where they sound like Neil Young (although it does have a couple of the ones where they sound like the Velvet Underground). Instead, it’s focussed on songs that sound mellow, that hum along gently and make you feel like you’re slowly sinking into a bathtub full of cotton wool.
It might seem slight by their standards, but this gauzy introspection is still plenty enjoyable. Yo La Tengo just want to give you a hug.
B JODY MACGREGOR
Best Track: Before We Run
If You Like These, You’ll Like This: PAVEMENT, GALAZIE 500, GUIDED BY VOICES
In A Word: Warm