The day after the Jan. 15 release of “Fade,” Yo La Tengo’s 13th studio album, oddball comedian Tim Heidecker, most famously of the Adult Swim sketch show “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!,” started tweeting about the album, promoting it and calling it “a MASTERPIECE!” Two days later, he tweeted, “I’m telling you again: If you have working ears and a brain, you deserve to OWN Yo La Tengo’s Fade.”
Fans of “Awesome Show” know that Heidecker’s comedic style is alternative, to put it extremely lightly, so is that what can be expected from his taste in music as well? Real fans of Heidecker also know that he released an album of ’70s-inspired soft rock as part of Heidecker & Wood in 2011. One half of Tim and Eric might seem like a weird source for music recommendations, but Heidecker seems to be backing a solid album here.
Yo La Tengo is an easy cart to hitch your horse onto. The group has been revered in the indie music community since the late ’80s, and their 2009 album, “Popular Songs,” reached No. 58 on the U.S. charts — a sign of their longevity. Fans have not become bored with them yet. “Fade,” while not the “MASTERPIECE” that Heidecker claims, is an extremely enjoyable record.
The Hoboken-based band has managed to compile a genre-spanning catalogue, dipping their toes in shoegaze, alternative rock, dream pop and folk. They have managed to get most of those vibes in here, although they may not realize it.
“I’ll Be Around” is a gentle, minimalistic folky tune with somewhat sparse instrumentation and sleepy vocals, but the repetition of the main acoustic guitar riff and the gentle drone of the backing keyboard creates a shoegaze-like hazy atmosphere that is easy to get lost in.
The album opens with its longest track, “Ohm,” which is the sound Beck might have strived for if he wasn’t so intent on going against the grain of the mainstream. There’s no question that Beck’s ways have served him well — even after 2012’s “Song Reader,” a 20-track album that was only released as sheet music — but Yo La Tengo borrows some guitar sounds and uses a similar vocal style, but they utilize these tools to a less in-your-face effect.
That’s the spirit of this album: Even at its most stirring, it is an undeniably mellow album, which can be a good or a bad thing. “Fade” is a mood-dependent album. Listeners looking for something intense and exciting will find this album’s version of a hard-edge to be dull, but that’s not to say it’s uninteresting.
First impressions are huge on an overall opinion of an album. If you’re ready to relax, “Fade” is a fantastic record. “Cornelia and Jane” is cut from the same chilled-out cloth as “I’ll Be Around,” while “Two Trains” could have been on a Pink Floyd of The Clientele release, and “Well You Better” is a gorgeous slice of soulful relaxation.
As far as moments that make adrenaline ooze from your pores, those don’t happen here. It’s unfair to ask an album to be ready to fulfill every type of musical need, but great records come very close to doing that, even when they’re fixed in a constant mood.
While this album isn’t great for everything, it is perfect for some things. This isn’t intense workout music, but it might be great for a long jog. It has its shortcomings, but when you’re sitting by a crackling campfire or taking a late-night drive, “Fade” is ideal. It wouldn’t fit in with the weird tunes from “Awesome Show,” but Heidecker would probably love to use the songs, and it would be a pleasant surprise to hear them in the background of a sketch about the newest nonsensical device from Cinco.