We see it from Tony’s perspective every time. The bell rings as the door at Holsten’s opens, and Tony looks up to see the next person coming into the diner. The bell rings one, last time. We should see Meadow coming through the door. Black. “You probably don’t even hear it when it happens.”
Tony Soprano chose a line of work in which making lots of enemies and a possible jump cut to black were occupational hazards. It’s not like that for most of us. Most of us, if we’re lucky, end up with a fade. Either way, though, as time marches forward, we accumulate a series of moments that add up to a life. As we get closer to that fade, it’s important that we don’t ignore those moments. What else have we got really?
That’s what I thought about as I listened to Yo La Tengo’s latest LP, Fade, on my run this afternoon. It’s a “quiet” album by the standards of Yo La Tengo in the vein of an album like Summer Sun or songs like “Autumn Sweater” and “Our Way to Fall.” The common thread running through most of the songs is the march of time and that accumulation of moments.
Ira Kaplan sings, “’Cause this is it for all we know. / So say, ‘Good night,’ to me / and lose no more time,” on album-opener “Ohm.” “Ohm” comes closest to a “noisy” Yo La Tengo track as it layers guitars and fuzz over the course of its almost seven-minute running time. “Is That Enough” brings in keyboards and strings and answers the title question with, “No, if it’s unclear / the way I feel for you.” Life’s “Stupid Things” are just that because, as Kaplan sings, “I always know that when we wake up / you’re mine.” On “The Point of It,” being afraid sometimes or just getting old doesn’t matter “if our story’s told.”
Yo La Tengo’s husband and wife founders, Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley, have been together since the mid 1980’s. The band has been together in its current incarnation – with James McNew on bass – for over twenty years. They’ve accumulated a lot of moments together. On Fade they’re telling us, through a sonically brilliant record, about the ones they find most important.
As the horns and strings begin to swell on album closer “Before We Run,” I can’t help but see some of the moments from my own life spool out in front of me like home movies, complete with the sound of the reels and the flickering of the projector. I see myself watching CoolMom watching Ira Kaplan, bent over at the waist, playing his guitar at Maxwell’s sometime around 1993. I see CoolDaughter #1 behind the netting, in the stands at Keyspan Park in Coney Island as she watches Yo La Tengo open for Wilco at her first-ever rock concert in 2009. There are plenty of non-Yo La Tengo-related moments as well, and there will be many more. The trick is to notice them and to enjoy them before the fade.
Fade comes out on Matador Records on January 15th.