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Friday, March 01, 2024

Record Routine: Deluxe edition improves Yo La Tengo's latest

Three decades into playing a significant role in the rise of experimental indie rock, Yo La Tengo has still not tired of making good music. The trio of Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew have found success once again on their 13th album, Fade, out this past January, with a deluxe version released in November.

The band’s lengthy journey has a clear presence on the album. As Hubley said in a Pitchfork interview last year when Fade was still in the works, “we’re not young.” This is reflects heavily in the tone of the album, which is quite somber with regard to the future and the passage of time. But as lyrics acknowledge there is an end in sight, the accompanying instruments suggest it may not be necessary to weep over it.

The first track “Ohm” is a perfect example, which features Kaplan and Hubley crooning lines like the opening “Sometimes the bad guys come out on top/Sometimes the good guys lose/We try not to lose our hearts, not to lose our minds,” melded to an up-beat tempo and lengthy guitar solo.

Although the group may be aging, their music feels as crisp as ever. Perhaps that’s why in the interview Kaplan quickly followed up Hubley’s comment with “we’re not unhealthy, either.” This statement is proven all the more true with the additional tracks offered in the record’s expansion.

Two live versions of “Ohm” appear on the deluxe version, each showcasing a different side of the track. Few bands can make one version of a song worth a listen, let alone three plays in one album.

However, a few aspects of past Yo La Tengo magic did feel absent in the initial ten tracks released earlier this year, including the bursts of unique composition and experiments with noise that have earned them comparison to The Velvet Underground in the past.

It’s possible the band felt held back when trying to create the structural fluidity that pulses through each of the original tracks. However, the seven entirely new listens offered on the deluxe edition show the band is still willing to take risks. The noise rock and electronic influence was certainly not left out on new tracks like “Note to Self” or “Super Kiwi.”

While the original tracks all held weight, the new additions make the record feel more authentic, more like a Yo La Tengo album.

Rating: A-

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