Musings, Nits, and Praises: Pete Yorn's Nightcrawler

Musings, Nits, and Praises

A farrago of all things deemed blog-worthy by a music-loving, poetry-writing, humor-seeking English teacher

Pete Yorn's Nightcrawler

Pete Yorn could've just as easily entitled his remarkable 2001 debut musicformelancholytwentysomethingswholiketheirsingersongwriterswithsomeoomph. Well, maybe musicforthemorningafter is a better title after all. Yorn's fusion of rock, folk, and synth pop set him apart from many of his singer-songwriter contemporaries, whose spare acoustic musings sounded lovely in a living room, but lacked the power to keep a crowd on their feet. Unfortunately, Yorn couldn't conjure the same verve for 2003's Day I Forgot. He showed himself once again to be a more than competent songwriter, but much of the album felt uninspired. On his latest album, Nightcrawler, Yorn recaptures much of the vitality of his debut while expanding his musical boundaries.

With the album's opening track, "Vampyre," Yorn makes it clear that he intends to expand his sonic palette. Backed by only an acoustic guitar, he barely rises above a whisper as he sings the opening lines, "In the beginning they had positive traits." By the end of the song, the soft tones have given way to distorted guitars and throbbing drums, as Yorn delivers the closing lines with a tremulous wail. On the riff-driven "Policies" he utilizes an eclectic blend of instrumentation, including clips of distorted trumpet, and proves a political song can, in fact, be fun.

Yorn doesn't abandon more straightforward pop songcraft, though. Songs like "For Us" (the album's first single), "Undercover," and "Maybe I'm Right" demonstrate his knack for memorable hooks and powerful choruses. The man knows his way around an acoustic song, too. On what is possibly the album's finest song, the folk-tinged ballad "The Man," Yorn enlists the help of Natalie Maines, whose harmonies beautifully complement Yorn's plaintive vocals.

Nightcrawler has some missteps, though. Yorn's experimentation sometimes yields skip button-worthy results, particularly on "Same Thing," which sounds like a Depeche Mode B-side, and the insipid "Georgie Boy." The second half of the album lags a bit at times, too, with a couple of songs retreading earlier ground, most notably the washed-out "How Do You Go On?" which recalls the superior "Maybe I'm Right."

Yet, when Yorn is at his best, which is the case on the bulk of the album, he crafts songs that feel fresh each time you hear them. Whether Nightcrawler is Yorn's best work is debatable, but it's undeniably good.

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