Thursday, April 24, 2014 · 1:08 p.m.

Let's Talk Music!: A weekly album breakdown from Sean Phipps

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Every week, I’ll share an album I’ve been listening to. Feel free to list your favorite recent releases in the comments below. 

Tweet your current favorite albums to @SeanMPhipps or email them to seanphippster@gmail.com.

Yo La Tengo, "Fade" (releases Jan. 15 on Matador)
Listen to the full album here.

In brief:
“Fade” marks the 13th studio album from Yo La Tengo, of Hoboken, N.J. Their last release was "Popular Songs" in 2009. Dubbed a “critic’s band,” Yo La Tengo defines what it means to have a cult following. Notably, “Fade” was produced by John McEntire. 

"Ohm"

What the critics think: 
“Fade” is receiving generally favorable reviews across the board from most major critics. Slant says Yo La Tengo has officially “assumed the role of elder statesmen in the indie-rock universe.” They go on to say that the band “has found a format that accommodates their ever-adventurous musical excursions while beckoning new listeners unaccustomed to 15-minute instrumental soundscapes. That's not just good business; it's good rock.” Drowned in Sound liken the new album as “an antidote to the bloating of the festive season ...” with a release date so close to the holidays. “It’s 2013, there’s a new Yo La Tengo album and everything’s going to be OK,” the reviewer writes, saying also that we already have a contender for Album of the Year just a few weeks in. “There’s nothing showy here, nothing flashy, just an understated, immaculately put together collection of happy and sad, yearning and sweet songs,” he says. The Guardian says the album is “great” but “could fit anywhere into their post-1990 discography.” He then apologizes for “not really reviewing the album,” saying, “ I listened to it a lot, and I love them to bits. But they're at the point where there is nothing new to say about them. I really struggled to think of anything beyond: It's lovely! Which is entirely my failing.” Fair enough! Now Toronto says, “'Fade' isn’t a drastic departure, but when you’ve polished your eclectic sound as well as Yo La Tengo has, that’s not always necessary.” Clash calls the album “wistfully contemplative, a thought only softened by the paradox that this might just be one of their best yet,” and the BBC says the band’s “versatility has allowed them to turn a million different sounds into a single gorgeous and unfailingly interesting one.” The critics love "Fade" across the board. 

"Before We Run"

What I think:
I’m not the type of person that needs my music to knock down racial barriers or send a radical message; in fact, I prefer if it doesn’t. There is something very inviting about Yo La Tengo’s new album, like floating in a sensory deprivation chamber for 45 minutes. The album starts with “Ohm,” a track with enough hooks for an entire album alone. “Ohm” seems to be a play on the sacred symbol “om” found in many Eastern religions. And the lyrics follow along the same line: “... But nothing ever stays the same/Nothing's explained/'Cause this isn't the road we know/Lose no more time/No time.” The album settles after another mid-tempo song called “Is That Enough,” a song anyone who’s ever been in a relationship can relate to. “I’ll Be Around” is another a beautiful song with, again, Eastern religious lyrics and beautiful uses of both the acoustic guitar and a gong in the distant background. “I’ll Be Around” is a highlight track for me, just because it invokes such a sense of peace and embracing comfort. Although James McNew sings most of the songs, Georgia Hubley serves as lead vocalist for one of albums best tracks: the finale, “Before We Run”—a song filled with swelling horns and a driving, almost triumphant rhythm. Of course, it fades away at the end and closes an amazing and inspiring album from one of the most influential/interesting bands of our lifetime. Highly recommended.

You can contact Sean Phipps via email and Twitter with comments and questions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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