Yo La Tengo press shot © Carlie Armstrong

A Touch of Class

Yo La Tengo – Fade (Matador Records)
January 14, 2013
5.2/6.0

Somewhat appropriately - well on UK shores anyway, as freezing temperatures and blizzards sweep the country - our indie music fraternity have the veritable comfort blanket of a new Yo La Tengo album to wrap themselves up in, providing yet another set of reassuringly familiar yet wholly innovative and expertly crafted songs to light up these winter months.

Easing us in with opener 'Ohm', the record moves into its stride from its first moments as within twenty seconds Ira Kaplin’s simple, clear vocals meander over a chugging electric guitar rhythm. Then, Georgina Hubly gets some time in the limelight, followed by a typically scuzzy lead guitar section from Kaplin. It’s a great way to begin a record that shows expert songcraft at every turn.

What follows shows the extent of the variety of a Yo La Tengo record. For 'Is That Enough', Kaplin goes all Lou Reed on us until the introduction of strings softens the mood and turns the piece into a gorgeous pop tinged lament. With the top order rounded off by the lo–fi, unassuming organ-led 'Well You Better' and the much less restrained thrash of 'Paddle Forward' - putting together a pair of sub three minute, potential singles - the scale of the band’s repertoire is there for all to see.

Side two seems intent on turning out a series of songs that would perfectly soundtrack your favourite modern arthouse flick, further showing us just how much thought and attention to detail is being bought to the table. 'I’ll Be Around' is the musical equivalent of a seat at a blazing fireside, its guitar picking and whispered vocals full of soul and emotion. 'Cornelia and Jane', which comes next, stands out from even this quality field. Hubly’s one lead vocal appearance trails in and out like a feather in the wind, while the accompaniment of lazy paced, deep guitar lines and brooding horns create a real masterpiece. The dream-like state it induces is maintained beautifully by the reverb heavy 'Two Trains', as Kaplin shows he can croon with the best of them.

'Fade' is another example of how, having been left to do their own thing for so many years, the band have maintained impressively high standards of production, songwriting and musicianship and are able to keep producing albums that will inevitably bring critical acclaim. As an up-tempo horn section closes the record in grand fashion during 'Before We Run', listeners will be left hoping there'll be many more such records.

words: Steve Welch

Yo La Tengo tour the UK in March, calling in at Barbican, London (March 20), The Ritz, Manchester (21) and ABC, Glasgow (22).

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