Pete Yorn, ‘Pete Yorn’ (Vagrant)
Pete Yorn’s 2001 debut was so melodically and lyrically sharp that his subsequent releases (including last year’s pairing with Scarlett Johansson) have seemed unfocused and fussy by comparison. As if in a fairy tale, however, a Pixie has appeared to straighten him out. Meaning, producer Frank Black, who discards Yorn’s tasteful trappings and replaces them with strangled guitars and snappy snares circa Surfer Rosa. From bracing opener “Precious Stone” to the chugging fan appreciation “Rock Crowd” to a heartfelt version of Gram Parsons’ “Wheels,” Yorn emerges with his most purposeful, affecting album yet.