EDITOR’S NOTE: In December, we like to take a look back at albums we didn’t get around to reviewing earlier in the year. Caretakers was released in August.
When Pete Yorn first broke out with 2001’s brilliant musicforthemorningafter, the New Jersey native earned Springsteen comparisons left and right. The straightforward barroom tunes and geographic origins might have created early touchpoints, but in the nearly 20 years since, Yorn has injected a West Coast nonchalance into the mix that’s kept his catalog as impressive as ever.
Yorn’s mastery of the casual melody is the backbone of every release, but 2019’s Caretakers shines the spotlight on this ability more than other albums have. “I Wanna Be the One,” “Can’t Stop You,” “POV,” and “Do You Want to Love Again?” all feel effortless as they float along in sequence. On songs such as these, the tools of the trade are the same belonging to so many others, but in Yorn’s hands, something familiar yet new is born. These are songs that sound at home upon first listen.
Caretakers does bring the added influence of co-writer and co-producer Jackson Phillips, who is the man behind the melodramatic pop of Day Wave. Yorn’s emotional spectrum is stretched by the partnership and the results are beautiful on “ECT,” “A Fire in the Sun,” and “Friends.”
Lyrically, the songs on Caretakers remain as ambiguous as Yorn’s previous releases. It’s one reason why the Springsteen connection could/would never stick — Yorn has never been mistaken for a storyteller. Instead, songs are filled with cryptic fragments and bits of conversations. Connection is made possible but the context is up to the listener.
On “ECT,” perhaps the ideal example of Yorn’s distant resonance, he sings, “Is it a mistake, is it a mistake? Don’t tell me, no … Are we out of time, are we out of time? Don’t tell me, no.” The sentiment is universal but no real context clues are given. The scenario is unknown. The players are invisible. Even Yorn’s side is indistinguishable.
In the end, Caretakers is everything you’ve come to love from Pete Yorn. These are laid-back pop-rock tunes that go down easy if that’s how you like them. For those willing to dig deeper, repeated listens give way to even more interesting musical and emotional layers.