album reviews

Yo La Tengo
Matador (2013)

Kindred spirits: Galaxie 500, Bedhead, the Velvet Underground.

As album titles go, "Fade" is both a surprising and an appropriate choice for longtime indie rockers Yo La Tengo. The title is a bit unexpected, because the prolific Hoboken band shows no sign of slipping, with 13 studio albums in its nearly 30-year career. But "Fade" is an apt description of the trio's music, as the hazy tones slide into each other like a sonic watercolor.

The band adds to its palette with the subtle accents of a mellow horn section on "Cornelia and Jane" and "Before We Run". Chipper string accents on "Is That Enough" contrast with frontman Ira Kaplan's dry, somber lyrics and hazy guitar drone, while "Stupid Things" mixes up those same elements, meshing noodling guitar lines with blurry vocals and strings.

The album's most memorable moments are when drummer Georgia Hubley sings. Her soft whisper dances beautifully around the horns on "Cornelia and Jane", making the song feel like a duet, and her harmonies on the fuzzy pop tune "Paddle Forward" soar over the song's distortion. She closes the album with the lush "Before We Run", her modest vocals trading the spotlight with brass and string flourishes that make the song feel understatedly triumphant.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 15 February 2013.
.: Fade on