Monday, April 14, 2008

Day I Forgot - Pete Yorn (SCQ Spring 2008)

Day I Forgot

Pete Yorn
Columbia Records.

SCQ Rating: 86%

In April of 2003, I should’ve been studying. That would’ve made a lot of sense, given that my schedule included several essay exams scattered over the coming two weeks. Instead, I stood in a London-area HMV with a gift certificate in hand, completely at odds over what to buy. Sure, I was carrying a copy of the newly released Pete Yorn album around with me, but truthfully, I was looking for something different. After a few distractions (including my first impressionable listen to Cat Power), I gave up and bought Day I Forgot. Despite his first album being a big deal for me a year earlier, I viewed this purchase as a silver medal to my own indecision.

From the opening field-recording demo that leaves us hanging before the guitars of ‘Come Back Home’ crash in, I instinctively dropped all presumptions about what this record should be. His sound hadn’t changed so much as focused; the DIY ethic was still at work, but where Music for the Morning After stretched its wings over several styles, Day I Forgot is singular in its forthright desire to rock. The drums are decidedly heavier, giving would-be ballad ‘Crystal Village’ a defiant edge. Even the guitars are beefier, cutting deep into ‘Long Way Down’ or blowing a riff out of the water as ‘Carlos’ does. Much of the reason critics merely shrugged at Day I Forgot can be traced to this straight-forward guitar rock, which disappointed those who treated Yorn like the next big thing, but few can argue that Yorn pulls it off convincingly.

We had two weeks left on the lease of our decrepit student flophouse, and between finals and unresolved summer plans, my housemates and I could feel the changing of the guard. Like how the spring rain melts weeks-worth of filthy snow down the gutters, this house would soon be filled with a new group of wide-eyed students to deflower. In many ways, we were preparing to say goodbye for another few months, and given how quickly things change amid a group of young men and women, I was aware things couldn’t stay the same for long. As several songs from Day I Forgot began to cling to my brain, London underwent an unseasonably warm current that bathed our last days in a summer’s humidity. The blankets of our make-shift projector room were torn down, revealing a great living room we’d wasted, and our windows were left open to breathe at night. Our study days became routinely interrupted by water-gun battles in the stairwell or backyard procrastinating. A song as seemingly ridiculous as ‘Burrito’ fit right in, its power chords drowning Yorn’s reminiscing from the window-perched speaker. The kitchen mentioned in ‘All At Once’ will always be our kitchen in that house.

A night after we pulled the couches out onto the front lawn, bought bottles of wine, and drank into the early hours, I woke up to write my anthropology exam. It was the end of April and my last exam, so I left early to ensure I could pace my walk and enjoy the green grass of campus. And as had been the case for the past two weeks, I woke up with one of Yorn’s new songs in my head; in this case, ‘Man in Uniform’, which I wordlessly sang to myself as I considered how dead I was about to be. The exam was a write-off – I could’ve been in a different class the whole time – and Yorn’s melody followed me home for one last day in London.

With its clean instrumentation and romantically-restless songs (who could ignore ‘Turn of the Century’?), Day I Forgot is a spring-time album that preludes those approaching summer nights. In a tight competition, it is also my favourite Pete Yorn album.

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