Yo La Tengo impress as usual with their new album and my first listen of 2013. "Fade" is their fifteenth album and first with producer John McEntire who has worked previously with the groups Tortoise and Sea and Cake just to name a couple. While all of the hallmarks of a classic Yo La Tengo album are present here, the band takes new risks and makes a few mistakes resulting in an album that is, while certainly not the finest this group has produced, a worthy entry into their catalog and a fabulous way to start off a new year in music.
The album opens with a bang on the peppy opener "Ohm" which features a strong vocal melody and driving distortion; while not the greatest first track in the world, it serves its purpose and does not fail to entertain. However, the shot of adrenaline quickly goes away when track 2, "Is That Enough", rolls around. "Is That Enough" is a slow drag of a song that does very little to stand out or leave much of an impression at all and is a worrisome way to start out an album. Fortunately, the situation is quickly remedied by "Well You Better", a pleasant little low-key groove with an infectious bass line and driving beat. The tender vocals complement the downplaying rhythm section superbly and create one of the album's finest moments.
After a few more pleasantly upbeat tracks, the band then delves into its softer side as explored on 2000's "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out". The gorgeous "Cornelia and Jane" features an excellent vocal from drummer Georgia Hubley that is perfectly supplemented by the band's hypnotic progression. It is easily identifiable as the album's highlight as its perfect blend of old and new sounds is the most clear and concise definition of who Yo La Tengo are in 2013.
The album's closer, "Before We Run" features another great Hubley vocal and a super-fun drum beat, but is overlong and weighed down by a lengthy outro jam. Still it works as a creative way to end the album as Hubley's loud drums ironically lead "Fade" into a small, yet powerful close.
Elsewhere, the songs range anywhere from strong indie gem to forgettable deep track. "I'll Be Around" has an annoying buzz that prevents it from being as beautiful as it might have otherwise been and "The Point of It" largely slips my mind after the album has come to a close, but other than these small issues, "Fade" serves as a testament to Yo La Tengo's continuous ability to make sonically intriguing and sheepishly catchy music. While not the most essential entry in their discography, "Fade" will certainly get many more plays in the weeks to come.