His songs may be emotionally opaque, but Pete Yorn is quite clear about one thing: He doesn’t want to be lumped in with the current waves of sensitive singer-songwriters. His two Columbia albums, 2001’s “Musicforthemorningafter” and the current “Day I Forgot,” are filled with pleasant, eminently hummable folk rock, but at the Wiltern Theater Thursday night — the first of two shows — Yorn and his band applied thick coats of blaring guitar and thumping drums over his sleepy melodies. But his obsession with being taken seriously as a rocker obscures the brittle charms of his albums.
It basically turns Yorn into the lead singer for a bar band, and his modest-to-the-point-of-diffidence stage presence isn’t up to the task. It also robs the songs of their dynamics, reducing them to two modes — either coy seduction or oblique kissoff — so that only his cover of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” and a gleeful bashing through the goofy “Burrito” break through. Making the biggest impression in the end are the details: the guitar line from David Bowie’s “Heroes” that snakes through “Come Back Home” and the way that “Crystal Village” scruffs up the melody of Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son.” He may make the case that he’s no folkie, but Yorn has yet to figure out just what he should be.
Opening act Grandaddy suffers from no such identity crisis. The Modesto, Calif., quintet writes and performs music that is as idiosyncratic and identifiable as a fingerprint. On “Sumday” (V2) the band takes perfectly good pop songs and leaves them out in the yard, allowing their colors to fade and hinges to rust into music that is creakily beautiful, turning the layers of guitars and keyboards woozy and off-kilter, like a satellite about to decay out of its orbit.