Pete Yorn

“I’ll find my own way home,” Pete Yorn sings at the top of his exhilarating new album, Hawaii. Lonesome as that notion may sound, there’s actually something ecstatic, something triumphant in its delivery, a commitment to survival and self-reliance in the face of doubt and uncertainty.

“I’ve always been drawn to symbolism in my songwriting,” Yorn explains from his home in Los Angeles. “With any given lyric, there’s always something more going on beneath the surface.”

The same can be said of Hawaii as a whole. Written and recorded with Day Wave’s Jackson Phillips, the album serves as something of a sequel to Yorn’s critically acclaimed 2019 release, Caretakers, building off the intoxicating creative chemistry the pair discovered on their last go around and elevating things both sonically and emotionally as it grapples with growth and change, escape and anxiety, independence and isolation. The songs here are driving and propulsive, delivered with rich, three-dimensional arrangements that draw on everything from ’60s surf rock and ’70s punk to ’80s Britpop and ’90s indie rock, and Phillips’ production work is suitably raw and cinematic, muscular in all the right places without sacrificing an ounce of vulnerability.

“I knew I wanted to make an energetic album,” says Yorn, “and the pace we were working at really reflected that. We’d get together once a week and bang out a new song every single time.”

Vaccines had just rolled out and Delta wasn’t yet part of the national vocabulary when the pair began work on Hawaii, and the sense of hope and possibility is palpable in the recordings, an electric current coursing through the album even as darkness looms on the horizon.

“After being forced to take a break for so long, it felt like Jackson and I had built up this creative head of steam,” Yorn explains. “When we finally got back into the studio together, it just exploded into something more exciting and invigorating than I’ve ever experienced before.”

A New Jersey native equally indebted to Bruce Springsteen’s blue-collar introspection and Lou Reed’s deadpan stream-of-consciousness, Yorn first broke out in 2001 with his extraordinary Columbia Records debut, ‘Musicforthemorningafter.’ Hailed by NPR as one the year’s finest, the album garnered RIAA Gold certification on the strength of its universal acclaim as well as Yorn’s relentless appetite for the road. Rolling Stone praised it as “atmospheric, gently lit by sunlight and regret,” while The Guardian called it “sublime,” and The AV Club deemed it “the first chapter in a long and exciting career.” In the decades that followed, Yorn would go on to solidify his status as a songwriters’ songwriter, releasing six more solo albums and collaborating in the studio with everyone from Frank Black and Peter Buck to Liz Phair and Scarlett Johansson (Yorn and Johansson’s joint 2009 release, ‘Break Up,’ went Platinum in France). With a voice Consequence of Sound described as “ruined and forlorn,” Yorn earned performances on Letterman, Fallon, Kimmel, Ellen, and more, as well dates with artists as varied as R.E.M., Foo Fighters, Coldplay, My Morning Jacket, and The Chicks, and festival slots from Coachella and Bonnaroo to Glastonbury and Austin City Limits.