There’s so much to love about Pete Yorn's latest release. Take, for instance, the play on words in the album's title, Back & Fourth. It's his fourth release–get it? Or the fact that this album features a more mature, mellow Yorn, as well as a departure from his previous rock and roll-ish albums.
Singer-songwriter Yorn recorded Back & Fourth in Omaha, Nebraska, as opposed to Los Angeles, where musicforthemorningafter, Day I Forgot and Nightcrawler were recorded. He also strayed from his modus operandi, instead writing lyrics before composing the melodies (which gives depth to his lyrics and makes for a more contemplative album–give "Social Development Dance" a listen and you'll see what I mean).
On this go-round, Yorn even went so far as to handpick the musicians he worked with, rounding up drummer Joey Waronker (Beck); pianist/arranger Nate Wolcott (Bright Eyes, The Faint, Rilo Kiley); guitarist Jonny Polonsky; bassist Joe Karnes (John Cale); backing vocalist Orenda Fink (Azure Ray); producer Rick Rubin, (co-chairman of Yorn’s Columbia label and the man behind the boards for Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash, Metallica, Beastie Boys, and others); and producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley).
Back & Fourth opens with the first single off the album, “Don't Wanna Cry,” a mid-tempo pop, radio-friendly tune surprisingly reminiscent of Dr. Hook, Rod Stewart, and a little bit of Elliott Smith. The contemplative mid-tempo “Social Development Dance” is a haunting look at long-lost friends, and although it isn't very catchy in melody, it has powerful lyrics. Die-hard Yorn fans will enjoy the midtempo “Country,” which, in the last lines references “Just Another Girl” (off musicforthemorningafter).
A handful of Back & Fourth tracks have a more traditional Yorn rock edge, including the upbeat, slightly Rilo Kiley-ish “Paradise Cove,” which showcases nice guitar work and has a great summer vibe; “Shotgun,” which has an alternative rock feel; and the catchy, upbeat “Last Summer.”
On the mellow side, four tracks fall into the quiet and reflective category–“Close,” “Thinking of You,” “Four Years,” and the Ryam Adams-ish “Long Time Nothing New.”
My first listen to Back & Fourth left me feeling nostalgic for previous Yorn works, but after a second listen, I was hooked. There are no bad songs on this album, and although I’m hard-pressed to choose favorites, I will say that “Close,” “Thinking of You,” “Country,” and “Four Years” are my top picks.
Yorn fans new and old should find much to like about Back & Fourth. And if it’s true that things only get better with age, Yorn (35) is proving that point.