[21 September 2006]
To get this out of the way, Pete Yorn is a talented songwriter of both infectious pop songs and melancholic ditties of love. This is without question. It is a simple formula, Yorn’s music, large choruses and songs of heartbreak. But it is one that has worked for ages and only a few people can really do it well. He is a consistent and solid songwriter His new album, Nightcrawler, reaffirms this fact. The lovely songs that were on his previous albums musicforthemorningafter and Day I Forgot are still here. Nightcrawler incidentally, finishes off the trilogy that the early albums started with its “night” theme.
One example of such a standard Pete Yorn song is “For Us”, the first single. Its propelling chorus and its rock-infused sound create one of the better rock songs of the year. Yorn’s voice, usually alternately soothing and vociferous, is here strong and powerful. Another is “Ice Age”, a soft acoustic number that is reminiscent of “Just Another”, one of his biggest hits. His voice here is soft and melodic, and in the direct singer-songwriter mode. These are songs that remain firmly entrenched in Yorn’s abilities. They are songs he could write in his sleep. This is not to say they are not carefully written and intricate, just that they are examples of the formula that Yorn has cultivated.
Yet the interesting thing about Yorn’s new album is the ambition he shows. The harmonies are more sophisticated, the sounds more complex, the music more fully realized. “Georgie Boy” is one such example. Starting off with beeps and blips and other assorted audio oddities, it feels like a lost New Order song. Even Yorn’s voice feels distorted. This is not a Pete Yorn song, by any definition of what that term meant to you. Yet it is a delightful track, and one of the album’s highlights
Another interesting highlight is the track “The Man”, featuring Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. The harmony between the two is exquisite, not unlike like Emmylous Harris with Ryan Adams on “My Sweet Carolina”. Maines is so passive, so subdued, and blends in so well in the harmony that it is hard to know it is even her. “How Do You Go On” has a full wall of sound, and Yorn’s vocal is wavers between robotic and gorgeously melodic. These are other examples of the new levels of complexity of this album.
Pete Yorn is a growing, maturing artist of great talent. Because he is from New Jersey, the Springsteen comparison invariably comes, and it is invariably unfair because he certainly does not have the presence of Bruce, at least yet. But if he continues to mature, continues to explore new directions in his music, then perhaps one day the comparison won’t be so ridiculous.