Yo La Tengo: Fade (Matador) 

Yo La Tengo's endurance undoubtedly earns them the euphemistic label of "veterans." The problem with Fade, however, is that it truly is an album only a veteran (i.e., old) group could release: accomplished, smart, unfussy and assured. Guided by no concessions and no attempts at misguided reinvention, Fade is often excellent.

Opener "Ohm" is a sprawling track that envelops a sinister organ drone in a tranquil but cacophonous pileup of fuzzy guitars and shaking percussion. Bacharachian strings infuse the low-fever buzz of "Is That Enough," while closer "Before We Run" is a slow-burner dotted by militant, symphonic brass and swooping strings.

Replacing longtime producer Roger Moutenot with John McEntire of Tortoise fame has spawned much discussion, and Fade certainly is a sumptuous album best heard through headphones. There are no weak tracks here as, again, the group is too "seasoned" for that, but "Well You Better," a midtempo number with quirky squiggles of texture, is slight and forgettable.

Fade, befitting late-era reflection, is a decidedly serene affair that at times feels like a confluence of shoegaze and country. "Cornelia and Jane," with its moaning slide guitar washing over Georgia Hubley's distant vocals, is beautifully wistful. Elsewhere, the ragged "Paddle Forward" and the noodling, radiant "Stupid Things" are YLT at their most recognizable and glorious.

Yo La Tengo is one of the rare acts whose lengthy tenure has not, when it comes to proper releases, resulted in anything regrettable, with Fade continuing the trend.

More by Michael Petitti


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