Pete Yorn, Janet Bean and the Concertina Wire, and Vic Conrad & the First Third

"/>

PETE YORN

Day I Forgot

(Columbia)

Sharp sophomore outing from Leonardo DiCaprio's agent's brother.

Tousle-haired singer/songwriter Pete Yorn's been swatting at rumors that he owes

"/>

Pete Yorn, Janet Bean and the Concertina Wire, and Vic Conrad & the First Third

  • Pete Yorn, Janet Bean and the Concertina Wire, and Vic Conrad & the First Third

  • ">

    PETE YORN

    Day I Forgot

    (Columbia)

    Sharp sophomore outing from Leonardo DiCaprio's agent's brother.

    Tousle-haired singer/songwriter Pete Yorn's been swatting at rumors that he owes his career to his two Hollywood-heavyweight brothers since the instant Musicforthemorningafter, his tuneful 2001 debut, endeared him to folks hunting for a talent edgier than David Gray and straighter than Rufus Wainwright. But on his assured follow-up, Day I Forgot, Yorn's carefully scuffed El Lay guitar-pop fits so neatly into its tradition that it's hard to believe a focus group wasn't involved in its creation. This is certainly not a bad thing (unless you prize formal innovation over tousled hair, anyway): Lead single "Come Back Home" shrinks down Dinosaur Jr.'s fierce amplifier fuzz to cozy mall-rock dimensions; "When You See the Light" musters some of the giddy forward momentum of Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way"; and on the pretty "Turn of the Century," Yorn mourns a lost love through a hazy web of acoustic guitars like Harvest-era Neil Young. He only really loses his footing on "Burrito," a clunky new-wave rave-up that inexplicably finds Yorn offering half his dinner to an unnamed, evidently hungry someone. Consider it a deleted scene and enjoy Day for the rest of its popcorn-munching pleasures. MIKAEL WOOD

    JANET BEAN AND THE CONCERTINA WIRE

    Dragging Wonder Lake

    (Thrill Jockey)

    Delicate solo side from former Eleventh Day dreamer.

    It happens early on, but if you're not careful, you'll miss Janet Bean's Rosetta stone lyric under the layers of striking, lush harmony, twinkling piano, and soaring, searing guitar. It comes in the chorus of "All Fools Day," and it goes like this: "Sometimes you lose/sometimes you just can't win/sometimes you sink instead of swim." Dragging Wonder Lake, the solo debut by Beanperhaps better known as one-half of Freakwater's vocal core or one-fifth of lamented artful alt-rockers Eleventh Dream Dayis, essentially, a musical, poetic examination of the conditions of the human heart that give one a glimpse at that paper-thin distinction.

    Fact is, though, Dragging Wonder Lake isn't like a Freakwater recordit doesn't just sit down and say "howdy" and let you listen to its tale. Sure, the album winds its way through cosmic cowgirl territory, and the language can be brutally plainspoken-poetic in its examination of the broken and half-mended heart's depths. But here, Bean's playersthe Concertina Wireinclude noted avant cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and Tortoise guitarist Doug McCombs, both stalwarts of Chicago's improvised music scene. And these fellas seem to add just the right touch of dissonance to the weep and a finely brushed chamber-pop sensibility to the campfire. Dragging Wonder Lake demands more than one listen, and it requires that your ears, brain, and empathy get on the same page to allow the sediment to settle to the bottom and see the whole clearly. The effect is often devastating, as on "One Shot," the sweeping, orchestral take on Randy Newman's "The God Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)," and the rainy-day-and-fuzz-soaked title cut. Elsewhere, simplicity reigns: "The Purple Heart" tells it like it is, and "My Little Brigadoon" punctuates the whole affair with a twinkling, poppy bouncea little sunlight to dry out the rain, perhaps. Thankfully, whether rocking out or firing up the strings, the Concertina Wire rarely get in the way of Bean's voice and the storiesbe they bleak, bittersweet, hopeful, or all three all at once. It's a fine, fine distinction. CHRIS HANDYSIDE

    VIC CONRAD & THE FIRST THIRD

    Vic Conrad & the First Third

    (Hidden Agenda/Elephant 6)

    Plangent pop from Down Under.

    Lovers of mid-'80s Australian pop will recognize Adelaide-based Conrad's name from his combo the Garden Path, which charmed many an import bin-combing Oz-o-phile in its day but, save a stray flexidisc track from U.S. zine The Bob, remained obscure on these shores. Conrad resurfaced in 2000 fronting the First Third; that combo's self-titler first appeared in the U.K. on Bevis Frond's Woronzow label and now sees a proper U.S. release. Conradvocally, a cross between Ed Harcourt and the late Epic Soundtracksconjures a vibe that suggests XTC conspiring with the Green Pajamas, or possibly Harcourt hooking up for a grok-fest with Guided by Voices and Olivia Tremor Control. Pastoral, acoustic-textured folk-rock collides with effects-strewn, lo-fi indie-pop ("Everyone"). Winsome, harmony-vocal-littered piano ditties march past, boasting a sleek '70s singer-songwriter edge ("See May Way"). Mini- symphonies well-scrubbed at the ornate altar of Pet Sounds waft in from the ozone (the strings-laden "Emily & Liam"). Extended psychedelic drones laced with fuzzy sitar and John Fahey-like fretwork zip the listener back to the '60s ("DNA for Alice," featuring the Frond's Nick Saloman guesting). Meanwhile, the benevolent spirit of the Beatles hovers hither and yonder, making this multihued, open-ended collection of tunes, as our Limey pals might put it, a stone corker. FRED MILLS

    info@seattleweekly.com

     
    comments powered by Disqus