Pete Yorn’s New Self-Titled Album

Pete Yorn’s sixth album in nine years is, fittingly enough, self-titled, implicitly promising to live up to the name on the cover and give us a straightforward look into the songwriter’s inner self. However, straightforward doesn’t always prove to be groundbreaking, and Yorn’s latest album, while naturally enjoyable, is nothing to write home about.

Yorn gathers up the expected handclaps and bluesy pop from his 2009 collaboration with Scarlett Johansson, Break Up, and blends them with his natural folk sensibility in Pete Yorn. Granted, the songwriter always had folk leanings, but the rock influences in this album are unmistakable (especially since it was produced by Frank Black, lead singer of the Pixies). He wails earnestly — fully committing to every note (even the bad ones) — whether it’s over a mellow road-trip ballad like “Paradise Cove” or the more upbeat, guitar-driven opener “Precious Stone.”

Yorn has a gift for taking everyday, pseudo-introspective lyrics and committing to them so seriously that they seem much more profound. In “Precious Stone,” Yorn sings, “We gotta be somewhere at seven/ I know you have a dress to wear/ I found a way to live forever/ I found a place where no one cares.” On another pop record, the simple lyrics might have fallen flat, but Yorn’s warbling voice and bluesy sensibility give it an almost Bruce Springsteen feel.

Other songs, like “Velcro Shoes,” display gritty, unpolished vocals, but the country twang of the guitar makes the rock ballad a perfect accompaniment to a windows-down, radio-blasting road trip. “Sans Fear” is a wonderful ’80s prom throwback (you can almost imagine the Molly Ringwald look-alikes dancing along) and an example of what Muse could accomplish if they slowed down the tempo and ditched the overblown stadium choruses.

Like the album’s title, Yorn’s unadorned black cover seems to be a reflection of the easy sincerity of his music. With his simple melodies and unembellished rock songs, Yorn begs for honesty. However, Pete Yorn fails to make a lasting impact with this album. Perhaps a few lies could have taken him a long way.

-Neelab Nasraty