Pete Yorn throws open the studio doors with Back & Fourth, his first album to feature heavy contributions from a backing band. Drummer Joey Waronker, guitarist Jonny Polonsky, and former Azure Ray vocalist Orenda Fink are among those featured, and the presence of producer Mike Mogis -- chief architect of the Saddle Creek sound -- gives the material a tasteful gloss. Traces of Californian folk-rock can be found throughout these ten tracks, particularly in the jangle of "Last Summer" and the breezy, coastal sway of "Paradise Cove." Nonetheless, Yorn's fourth album is a fairly depressed affair, eschewing the West Coast's sunny weather for the lonely, windswept vistas of Nebraska, where the album was recorded in early 2008. There's beauty here, but it's more melancholic than buoyant, with Yorn giving the most screen time to his failed relationships and various personal missteps. "Same old town, loose ends surround me, always drags you down," he sings on the album's final track, an elegiac piano ballad filled with vibraphone, upright bass, and understated guitar. Songwriters don't have to be happy to deliver a good hook, of course, and tunes like "Close," "Last Summer," and "Shotgun" balance Yorn's temporary gloom with tight pop/rock flourishes. The bulk of Back & Fourth is more insular, though, and the album winds up serving as Pete Yorn's personal therapy rather than his audience's ear candy.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey