Review Summary: Pete Yorn's debut album proves to be his most appetizing.
Music can be compared to food in a lot of ways. Some bands and artists make great music that isn’t immediately enjoyable but is very rewarding over time, like caviar and champagne. Sometimes, however, a listener just wants a plate of musical comfort food --something that goes down easy and leaves him or her satisfied. Pete Yorn’s music falls into the latter category, and it’s no wonder. He carries the likeable persona of that regular guy you work with who sings and plays guitar in his spare time. But unlike most of those guys, Yorn happens to be an excellent songwriter, cranking out one great song after another about broken relationships and everyday struggles set to guitar-driven backdrops with a dusty summertime feel. His influences are eclectic and fairly obvious (Bruce Springsteen anyone"), but he isn’t ashamed to admit it when he borrows from here or there. He is honest and straightforward, and ends up channeling his influences and blending them together to create a sound all his own. What’s more is that he came right out of the gate with his best example of this sound: Musicforthemorningafter.
Musicforthemorningafter has a rough, dusty texture that is evident from the opener “Life On a Chain”, one of the strongest cuts on an album full of strong cuts. Beneath that rugged exterior, Yorn pens some very fine lyrics, most of which deal with troubled relationships. There are a few tracks which explore darker lyrical territory (“Closet” and “Simonize” for example), and Yorn does a fantastic job of disguising these dark themes with a sunny musical canvas.
Yorn’s songwriting is ultimately what makes this album such a success. The music sounds great and is very accessible, but it is nothing particularly groundbreaking. Yorn’s great sense of melody, distinctive vocals, and aforementioned lyrical skill save this from being a dull, run-of-the-mill album. He uses the simplicity of the musical background to his advantage, giving the album a warm and intimate feel and providing a nice, fitting backdrop for his words.
Despite containing 14 tracks and a bonus, this album doesn’t feel bloated. Every track is enjoyable in its own way, and Yorn doesn’t waste space with filler tracks. Some might say the latter half of the album drags a bit compared with the first, but since the overall quality of the songs remains solid throughout the album, it becomes difficult to see where this argument comes from. All of the songs here feel like they deserve to be on the album, from the sunny “Strange Condition” to the rocking buildup of “For Nancy (‘Cos it Already Is)” to the gorgeous “On Your Side” and the chilling “Simonize”. Hidden track “A Girl Like You”, which is a nice surprise but very elementary both musically and lyrically, is best left as a bonus…a little slice of apple pie after a very enjoyable 14-course meal. Bon appetit.