FADE, Yo La Tengo, Matador
Even when feedback is screeching at the fringes, a certain serenity prevails throughout Fade, the 13th album by the long-running Hoboken, New Jersey, band Yo La Tengo. Time, mortality and lifelong companionship are very much on the minds of Yo La Tengo’s husband-and-wife songwriters, the guitarist Ira Kaplan and the drummer Georgia Hubley, who started the band in 1984 and are now in their 50s. “Days just fade away, slide into gray,” Kaplan sings in “Stupid Things,” continuing, “Where does that time go before our eyes?”
Stability isn’t a prime topic for rock songs; there’s more drama in crushes and breakups, revenge and self-pity. But through the years Yo La Tengo has, both quietly and noisily, chronicled the decades as a couple, as a rock band and as ordinary people maturing. As singers Kaplan and Hubley have each leveraged vocal limitations into a heartfelt yet undemonstrative style; as songwriters they allude to sounds and approaches from a broad, record-connoisseur’s canon, from 1960s-rooted pop-rock to new wave concision to extended guitar freakouts, though “Fade” keeps its songs under seven minutes.
For Fade, Yo La Tengo has found a new producer, switching from its longtime collaborator Roger Moutenot to John McEntire, the drummer for the instrumental band Tortoise and a master of subtly layered sounds and meditative, evolving arrangements. The songs on Fade often well up out of studio ambience, as if forming themselves on the spot; Close listening reveals sounds tucked almost subliminally into the mix.
Together McEntire and Yo La Tengo have calmed and thickened the band’s music — revisiting, in some ways, the approach Yo La Tengo took on its 2000 album, And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out. On its most recent previous album, Popular Songs from 2009, Yo La Tengo was joshing and sardonic at times, but Fade stays serious and pensive, unafraid to whisper through most of the songs.
For songs about constancy, Yo La Tengo finds musical metaphors in drones and unswerving drumbeats. Ohm, which starts the album, is a one-chord song, strummed steadily amid gusts of percussion and guitar distortion; Stupid Things uses the motoric beat and repeating motifs of Kraut-rock. Behind the folky guitar and cozy horns of Cornelia and Jane is a nonstop metronomic tapping, as Hubley sings, perhaps to someone desperately ill, “How can we hold on to you?”
Yo La Tengo hasn’t abandoned rock; Paddle Forward has the surge and crunch of a Replacements song. But Fade prizes thoughtfulness and acceptance, not aggression; it finds solace in simple, shared comforts. In the album’s concluding song, Before We Run, Hubley sings, “Hold me in your arms, be still/I’ll hold you in mine.”
— Jon Pareles, NY Times News Service
MIGRATIONS,Cristina Pato, Sunnyside
Cristina Pato reaches what sounds like full steam only a handful of times on her perfectly titled new album, Migrations, and that touch of restraint feels strategic and knowing. Pato is a pianist of percussive clarity, and a flutist and singer of warmer, softer effect. But the instrument on which she slays is the gaita, a bagpipe of traditional use in her homeland of Galicia, in the northwest corner of Spain. She’s a virtuoso, and when she opens the floodgates of her technique, as she does on an Emilio Solla tune called Remain Alert, the force can knock you back a few steps. She knows to use it sparingly.