Pete Yorn

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Caretakers Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Easing away from major labels, Pete Yorn goes independent with Caretakers, his first solo full-length album since 2016's ArrangingTime. Caretakers arrives a year after Apart, Yorn's second collaboration with Scarlett Johansson, and it retains some of that EP's stylish melancholy, thanks in large part to the singer/songwriter's decision to hire Jackson Phillips as his co-producer. Phillips is best-known as the driving force behind the dreamy indie band Day Wave, and he helps Yorn accentuate the bittersweet undertow within his tunes. With its delicately interlaced synths and strums, Caretakers does indeed sound reminiscent of 21st century indie pop, but its bones belong to the kind of sturdy classicist rock that's been Yorn's stock in trade since Musicforthemorningafter. After nearly two decades, he's become a quietly assured songwriter, stripping excesses away from his lyrics and melody while leaving defined hooks and themes. Working with Phillips helps accentuate these strengths, unearthing alternative rock dimensions to Yorn that have been previously disguised. Sometimes, Caretakers feels like a throwback to an early '90s unspoiled by grunge, but that delicate, floating quality doesn't feel nostalgic so much as a conscious evocation of a time suspended between the underground and the mainstream. It's music that's lush yet spare, tuneful but not forceful, cinematic yet small scale. Those ambiguous contradictions give the album emotional undercurrents both sweet and sad, an appealing blend that sets it apart from most other albums in 2019, along with most of Yorn's catalog.

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