Pete Yorn: Back and Fourth (Sony/Columbia)

Pete Yorn's fourth album, aptly titled Back and Fourth, is a series of conundrums.

Conundrum one: It was produced by Rick Rubin and Mike Mogis, and despite Mogis' indie-rock influence, Back and Fourth is definitely Yorn's most commercial-sounding record. Conundrum two: The songs are gorgeous, with glistening guitars and Yorn's voice nearly cracking with sorrow and strings—but the lyrics, despite their earnest sadness, are all too often cringe-worthy.

Which brings us to conundrum three: the entirety of "Social Development Dance." Its chorus is easily the best hook on the record, but the song is wrought with those aforementioned cringe-worthy lyrics: "When we kissed it was electric / chemists made us for each other"; "I Googled you in quotes got no results"; "You kissed the best / you had enormous breasts."

Moments like these are jarring within the context of such dreamy music. Music like Yorn's, frought with romance and drama, in the past has sustained a level of suspended disbelief; if there were jarring lyrical moments, they weren't egregious enough for me to remember. But on Back and Fourth, the escalating, filmic soundscapes all too suddenly lose altitude. Music like Yorn's, in order for it to keep its distance from lesser singer-songwriters' feeble attempts at lyrical and musical heights, shouldn't even have any turbulence.

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