Sophomore slumps can be a bitch, suggesting a talent that burned up all its inspiration the first time out. It's tough to recover momentum after a slump, but the surest way to get the job done is simply to turn out an album as memorable as your debut. Pete Yorn takes that approach on Nightcrawler, which picks up the ball dropped by the all too aptly named Day I Forgot and returns to the sharp, smoky songcraft of his debut, Musicforthemorningafter.
Maybe he just figured out what he does best. Yorn isn't the most flexible talent, as the regrettable bouncy electro-pop foray "Georgie Boy" makes clear. Born to grimace behind a guitar, he's cursed with a voice that makes any attempts at levity sound forced, but he makes good use of that curse on tracks like "Vampyre," with its smoldering-then-burning intensity and eerie references to broken legs and shadowy figures in the backs of cars. "Vampyre" strikes a foreboding note developed on subsequent tracks like "For Us," a dark-night-of-the-soul conversation featuring guest drummer Dave Grohl, and "The Man," a delicate ballad featuring two out of three Dixie Chicks.
As with his debut, Yorn gets the highlights out of the way by the halfway mark. The rest is a bit of a coast, though it's a pleasant bit of coasting. Then again, by mid-album, Yorn has already made his point: He remains a singer and songwriter of note, and a unique, compassionate tour guide through some of life's tougher corners.