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Back on Track With the Olms

Bolstered by a new sound and a new writing partner, Pete Yorn makes a triumphant return to form with the Olms



    Back around the turn of the century, a little-known singer/songwriter named Pete Yorn released an album entitled Musicforthemorningafter. It was one of those albums that stuck with me immediately, like I had heard every song 100 times already. I was only 18 -- and it wasn’t as easy to discover new music as it is now (this was right around the time when Napster was starting to haunt Lars Ulrich's dreams), so when I stumbled on something I liked, I wore it out.

    Every song on that record was infectious; every hook was followed by another yet-stronger hook, and somehow it just fit perfectly into whatever was going on in my life at the time (which was basically spent hating my job while working in the shoe department at Mervyn’s, and falling hopelessly in love with blond girls named Tiffany and Bridget, etc). It spawned a continous stream of hit singles and seemingly soundtracked every love scene in nearly every Hollywood romcom. Even its hidden track -- remember those? -- "A Girl Like You" could’ve been a massive hit. 
    Fast-forward 10 years, and, honestly, Yorn has never quite lived up to the overwhelming potential that his great, grand debut promised. He released a couple of mediocre studio albums (2003’s Day I Forgot, 2006’s Nightcrawler), an excellent EP (2006’s Westerns) and an instantly forgettable collaboration with Scarlett Johansson (2009’s Break Up). It’s not that the songs on those subsequent records were throwaways -- not by any means, most of them were beautifully written, melodic pop nuggets -- but that certain "it" quality that made his debut so memorable just got lost somewhere along the way. Instead of fading into used-CD dollar-bin purgatory, though, Yorn has gone and got his groove back -- in a big way.
    Early last year, he teamed up with a fellow singer/songwriter, J.D. King, who he'd been friends with for more than a decade, to form a brand new band named the Olms. Vocally, the two couldn’t be more different. King has an almost lazy, casual delivery -- nearing a Bob Dylan-esque inflection on their current single, "On the Line." But when Yorn takes the mic, like he does during the sweet ‘60s a.m.-radio leaning nostalgia of "Someone Else’s Girl," his voice comes on tenderly wounded and slightly warbled, just like it did back in 2001 when "Just Another" and "Strange Condition" became massive hits off Musicforthemorningafter.
    The music on their 2013 self-titled release is a mix of Byrds, late-Simon and Garfunkel, and Beatles influences with a sunny Southern California disposition and a hefty dose of folk-rock charm. "Wanna Feel It" is a perfect example of the kind of short, buoyant pop songs these two make: it’s under three minutes long, crammed with sweet background harmonies and bounces right along thanks to its peppy beat.
    As far as pop music goes, it’s nearly unbeatable. Is it better than Yorn’s 2001 masterpiece that some of us still have a real soft spot for? Only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure: The Olms have got Yorn right back on track.
    The Olms are at the Casbah Dec. 5, with Simon Petty opening. I’ll see you there.

    Dustin Lothspeich plays in Old Tiger, Diamond Lakes, Chess Wars and Boy King. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.