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At Once Antiquated and Weirdly Modern

Pete Yorn's music suggests the end result of a mating ritual between Ryan Adams and The Cars.
Pete Yorn's music suggests the end result of a mating ritual between Ryan Adams and The Cars.

Pete Yorn makes beefy, hooky, Springsteenian rock records during an era in which beefy, hooky, Springsteenian rock records have fallen out of favor. In recent years, audiences have come to prefer their singer-songwriters cast as genteel folkies like David Gray or neutered pop stars like James Blunt. Which means that Yorn — whose guitar- and synthesizer-heavy, distinctly American-sounding albums suggest the end result of a mating ritual between Ryan Adams and The Cars — sounds at once antiquated and weirdly modern.

Musicforthemorningafter, Yorn's cheerfully derivative debut, was one of 2001's finest, but its follow-up, Day I Forgot, was so dull, even Yorn seemed to lose interest halfway through. The new Nightcrawler, thankfully, is a career-redeemer: a terrific mix of brisk, Strokes-like rock and the jangly, mid-tempo pop at which Yorn excels.

A warm, modest alt-country ballad with harmony vocals by Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines, "The Man" serves as Nightcrawler's centerpiece. Vague and occasionally indecipherable — Yorn, like the characters in a Guy Ritchie film, is no fan of enunciation — "The Man" may be his finest moment, and it certainly sounds like the best song The Wallflowers never recorded.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Allison L. Stewart
Allison Stewart is a writer living in New York. It's entirely possible to see her work in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, No Depression, Rolling Stone or any number of other places. Or to miss it entirely, which is just as likely.