Pete Yorn’s music has been an integral part of my life since the early aughts. 2001. musicforthemorningafter. I was 32 years old. And now, sitting here reflecting, it’s been 18 years of my life that’s been soundtracked, in part, by Pete’s music. The significance it has hard on me and my life is, at times, hard to articulate, but its palpable and very real. Even my first post on this blog came from a song of his. I’ve revisited how his music came into my life, waxed nostalgic on songs and the memories they hold for me, and I’ve shared countless reviews, lists, songs of the days, and playlists featuring tracks from Pete’s albums and incarnations both here, and in my life, over these thirty-plus years. His music has been a soundtrack, a companion, a confidante, a comfort, an inspiration, and a part of my sonically-infused, music-obsessed personality since I first heard “Life On a Chain”. And this week, I’ve had the musically-divine pleasure of taking in twelve new songs by Pete Yorn, on his new album Caretakers, quite possibly his best album yet.
I am overwhelmed by emotion and a bit awestruck by this new album. Even on the first listen, I felt the hinges creak and split inside me as both feelings and ideas fought their way out of me. I had to take a day to take it all in. I’m still taking it in as I write this, as the songs play, as the notes and lyrics pulse through my insides, taking me on a road trip of memories, hopes and dreams, losses and heartbreaks, and a whole lot of everything that words don’t always describe – but music like this sure does.
Caretakers released on Friday, August 9, 2019. Late summer, the weather in Los Angeles the hottest of this year’s season (so far), more humid than most, heat waves dancing on the pavement as I drive around with these twelve songs introducing themselves to me. I know I’ve been in a particularly bad rough patch emotionally. This late summer has been a tough one to navigate and I’ve been in a desperate need for the kind of healing that only music provides. I’ve really needed someone, or something, to take care of me, for just a little bit. Someone, or something, to wrap around me and tell me to “Calm Down”. To assure me that everything is going to be okay.
This new album. These twelve tracks. They couldn’t have come around at a better time. That said, Caretakers collection of songs, they are more than a temporary comfort, they are more than a summer fling. These songs feel more like a culmination of a life (so far), full of inspirations (both musical, and otherwise), losses and loves, and an evolution of an artist (so far) that has gotten to somewhere magical, and oh so real.
But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s take a listen to each new track on Caretakers together, unpacking this new release one song at a time.
Caretakers (2019) by Pete Yorn
Available to order here
Produced by Jackson Phillips and Pete Yorn
Recorded and Mixed at Jackson’s house in Echo Park, CA in 2018 and 2019
Mastered by Shawn Everett
Cover Photo: Beth Yorn
Art Direction and Layout: Allen Alcantara
Shelly Music 2019
Song by Song Review
1. “Calm Down”
“All is well in your world now.
People dreaming thru the daylight.
All the melodies come back.
I wish I knew then what I know now.”
Reflections on love lost, maybe for the best, maybe still tinged with regret. Regardless, we all go on. This was the first single, early-released before the album. It is pop-infused, for sure. It has that summer in the city feel to it. The kind you play while driving in the middle of the day (oh the joys of summer vacations), listen on headphones while lying on the beach, or as you sit and wonder where all the time has gone. There’s feelings of melancholy tucked in the melody. It feels effortless, yet maybe not so effortless at all. The looking back while moving forward, as we all try to “Calm Down”.
2. “I Wanna Be the One”
“Holding on to innocence embalmed.
We’ll be leaving here before too long.”
Innocence embalmed? Damn. That’s an image right there. More than an image really. The constant looking back and trying to understand. Trying to hang on to a time we deem better, easier, more innocent. Do we embalm the past, keeping it from rotting away, or fading into the places maybe it really should belong? Do we fetishize it, the glorious nostalgia of before? Does it keep us from cherishing the here and now?
“Different labels on the bottles.
Different ways to pass the time.
I’ll tell you in my dreams we made it.”
This part slays me. The desire to go back and save someone, to make it all work out right this time. Embalm the innocence. Or resurrect it. Regret is such a waste of time, but we linger in it, don’t we? We dream of making it all okay.
3. “Can’t Stop You”
“Can’t stop you.
Oh, I was wrong (always something off).
Knowing things won’t change (always something off).
Can’t stop you,
from hurting yourself.”
The second pre-album single. This was my initial favorite of the two early releases. It resonated in that way of “yeah, I know that feeling” kind of way. A lifetime of trying to help people, heal people, fix people, stop people from self-destructing, from hurting themselves, from pushing me so far away. All the while hurting myself, losing myself, self-destructing. No one there to stop me. Everyone just seeing the strong one in the room, in the relationship, in the picture, in the song. But no one could have stopped me, just like I can never stop anyone else, fix anyone else, make anyone else better.
I dig the juxtaposition of uptempo beats, wistful wonderings, and a sadness that is undeniable. But in the good feelings of the song maybe there is a finally letting go (in a good way).
4. “Idols (We Don’t Ever Have to Say Goodbye)”
“Over study of the main attraction,
leaving slowly in the dead of night.
Always wondered ‘bout your sleeping habits.
We don’t ever have to say goodbye.”
There is something so ’90s about this song. I close my eyes and feel The Replacements/Paul Westerberg, Guided By Voices, Pixies, Teenage Fanclub, and something/someone else that is still coming clear to me. The opening beat, and that guitar riff. It lingers and reminds.
I listen again and wonder if this is about obsession. About being a fan. About making someone’s art, image, and perceived personality a part of your DNA. A face on a poster, on an album cover, on the front of a DVD. Press play and see it all again. “We Don’t Ever Have to Say Goodbye”.
5. “Do You Want To Love Again?”
“Do you wanna love again?
Do you wanna starve again?
If you get another chance
Are you gonna nourish it?”
Wistful summer goodness. That’s my initial reaction to this track. There’s a maturity in this. Lyrically. A knowing of how things really are, how they really turn out. The desire to move on, the actual moving on, and yet the questions continue. There’s a lot of letting go in this song, too.
“Differences of core.
When we’re out of reason.
Always starts at the same time,
always starts with you.”
The title track. My favorite song on the album. There’s something in this song that I can’t quite put into words. It’s a deeper feeling, more visceral, more physical, more deep beneath the surface. It takes me back to something far, far before, and it brings me back into something right now.
I need more time to explain all the thing this song is meaning to me. For now I will just say that I love it. Deeply.
“I can see where this is going.
No one tells you how to live.
You have your world,
I’m drowning in mine.
Same time next week.”
There is something here that reminds me of The Cure (“Letters to Elise”) and a few other songs from the ’80s (The Church, Sinéad O’Connor – the opening chords remind me a bit of “Black Boys on Mopeds”), and again, something else. Maybe something older. This one makes me cry. This one reminds me of so many things. This one is vying for favorite song, following “Caretakers” (the song) so strongly, and some emotively, that I can’t really choose.
This is the track that makes me want to write more of a story that’s unfolding in my mind. This one is the muse that I know will push something out of me. It already is.
“And I don’t care what your friends are doing
And I don’t care what they need
I will be there one day.”
it comes crashing down.
Start feeling the same.
You sink thru the ground.
Lost you again.
I lost you again.”
Another one that hits on a personal level, with me. Lost people who lost themselves, who let themselves go, who gave up. And the loss of self.
Melodically this one is breathtaking. The synths pull at heartstrings. The electronics shake something loose. They add something magical to the song. They unhinge more emotions.
“I will get you away from here,
in good time.”
Pop sensibilities with a danceable beat and melancholic lyrics. This feels like an evolution from 2001’s musicforthemorningafter. As if its a lost track that was found again, and revised. Infused with 31 years of life experience. It has that spirit that first caught me and kept me. It’s different. Evolved. Grown.
“Leaving ‘em all in a state of awe.”
Another evolution for the ears. I hear Day I Forgot and Nightcrawler. I hear The Olms and Pete’s work with Scarlett. I hear all of it and something more. It is quintessentially Yorn. Undeniable. But if you listen (put your headphones on, turn up the volume) you can hear the growth, the change, the journey.
Hit repeat. Listen again. Do you hear it?
11. “A Fire In the Sun”
“You must’ve been angry to say all those things,
when we were running out of dreams.
A fire in the sun.”
A post-break-up. A summer’s eventual end. Waiting at the station to go back home. Pressing rewind, reliving the last words said, trying to make sense of them. Tracing the progression of happiness, of new, to everything burning away, turning to ash, to end, to memory.
Pete is always so good at the break-up song. Capturing all the layers and stages and complexities (and simplicities) of feelings. We’ve all been there. We’ve all burned that way. We’ve all been left just like that, and left just like that.
“And I’m just empty.”
“If there’s times when you’re not listening.
Just because you’re overwhelmed.
When the world has let you down,
and you give it a rest.
Make it up to yourself.
Maybe take your own advice.
Won’t you try?”
This last track starts and I think “this feels like a first track”. And maybe it is. It is the first track to what comes next. It leaves you wanting more.
I want more.