New Jersey indie rockers Yo La Tengo had already been slowly growing into their sound for over a decade by the 1997 release of their revelational eighth album, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. Their guitar-based pop was steadily finding its legs before this, as the band moved toward increasingly dreamy productions on albums like Painful and Electr-O-Pura. The 16 tracks that made up the ambitious and epic I Can Hear the Heart found the group stretching out their whispery vocals and deceptively straightforward pop approach to encompass a variety of unexpected styles. This meant softly wandering guitars and steadfast drums twisted out of their indie rock trappings and morphed into adventurous Krautrock jams like "Spec Bebop," haunting, harmony-driven psych-folk like "We're an American Band," and even a playfully naive take on bossa nova with "Center of Gravity." As for the blissed-out melodic noise pop Yo La Tengo had been working on for the majority of their existence, this was one of the band's finest hours.
After the elegant, introspective romantic narratives of And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out and the beautifully crafted but restrained pop textures of Summer Sun, it was hard not to wonder if Yo La Tengo was ever going to turn up the amps and let Ira Kaplan go nuts on guitar again. For more than a few fans "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind," the opening cut from YLT's 2006 album I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, will feel like the reassuring sound of a homecoming – ten minutes of noisy six-string freak-out, with James McNew's thick, malleable basslines and Georgia Hubley's simple but subtly funky drumming providing a rock-solid framework for Kaplan's enthusiastic fret abuse.
At album number 13, Yo La Tengo are an institution unto themselves, having perfected their craft of slow-burning, unassumingly insular indie rock in incremental baby steps since their formation in 1984. Almost three decades of building a language of wistfully melodic guitar rock without becoming redundant is no small feat, and Fade rises to the unique challenge by striking a middle ground between new territory and recalling YLT's finest hours. Fade is the first album for the band not recorded with producer Roger Moutenot, who had worked with the group on everything they put to tape since their 1993 breakthrough, Painful.