The notion of music requiring “edge” seems to be one tied in with the concepts of authenticity, and what makes art “worthwhile”. Is there something inherently less valuable in music that simply sounds pleasant, as opposed to pushing boundaries? For the majority of his career, Pete Yorn has made music that is defiantly without edge, and that trend continues on Arranging Time. Yorn’s folksy pop is catchy and moody, and many individual songs sound fantastic, but can he maintain a listener’s enthusiasm over the course of an entire album?
Melodically speaking, Arranging Time has notable standout tracks. Lost Weekend is impressively anthemic, and its cacophony of guitar, piano and effects allows the chorus to transcend the garden-variety malaise themes of the lyrics. She Was Weird has a wondrously catchy, Americana-inflected melody in the chorus, and when surrounded by the squelching synth bloops that comprise the song, it sounds a lot like Born In the USA-era Springsteen. It’s easily the strongest song on the record, and serves as a burst of energy and fun in the tracklist.
Unfortunately, it’s followed by I’m Not the One, which feels muddled, between a minimalist intro, a sweeping chorus, and muted vocals in the verses. All the elements are potentially interesting, but the song flits between them, with only the chorus feeling satisfying. However, Shopping Mall is the track that best demonstrates Yorn’s weaknesses. Accompanied only by sampled drums and gentle keyboards, the track wants to be a melancholy ballad, but the vocal melody is so indistinct that the entire track seems to just float by. There’s nothing for the listener to feel grounded in, emotionally.
The second half of the record follows a similar track, with guitars accompanying mid-tempo beats, but with little in the way of actual songs to draw one in. The tracks just lack the polish and excitement of the album’s first half. They’re inoffensive, but dull. Arranging Time suggests it might be time for Pete Yorn to shake his style up a bit, for the album may be perfectly listenable, but it never moves beyond that.