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Album Review: Eddie Vedder - Ukulele Songs

Posted by Samantha Hatfield on 08/05 at 08:57 AM

Grade: A

His voice is unique.  That is to say that there is not another voice that can inspire the same feeling within a listener.  Gruff without being harsh, his voice was strong enough to champion the alternative rock genre.  Eddie Vedder made his mark on the music industry as the lead singer of Pearl Jam and produced some of the most prolific music of the 90s.  From “Even Flow” to “Better Man,” Vedder has a voice that will never be forgotten, and he is sharing his voice with his second studio album, Ukulele Songs.

Vedder’s first solo project was an earthy collection produced back in 2007 for Sean Penn’s film adaptation of Into the Wild.  It seemed that Vedder had made a seamless transition from alternative rock to folk rock—a role he fit perfectly.  Seeing a softer side to the artist was welcome simply because he produced an album that showcased his raw talent.  He proved himself again as a singer, songwriter, and musician on the album.

Ukulele Songs is composed of original songs and covers that obviously showcase Vedder vocally and on ukulele.  This is an album that requires a quiet evening and a glass of wine.  It is both enchanting and heartbreaking.  The cathartic tunes and tones are woven with such simplicity that being swept away is difficult to fight.  When sampling this album for the first time, I had been working around the house but found myself so taken with the music that soon I was lying on my bed just listening.  The album shifted back and forth between the hopefulness of love and the personal reflection after a failed relationship.  Vedder truly puts his heart on the line with every note and lyric of Ukulele Songs.

The album opens with a Pearl Jam track from 2002, “Can’t Keep.”  The song breaks into a run as Vedder strums and croons.  The release within the opening of the album is like singing with your eyes closed, a feeling of total abandon.  Vedder is crooning, shouting, galloping, breaking free.  The music is so simple, so real. 

Sleeping By Myself” breaks from the freedom of “Can’t Keep” and pulls itself into the lonely depths of life after breaking from a lover: “Forever be sad and lonely, forever never be the same.”  These sentiments are carried into “Without You.”  On this track, Vedder is up all night reflecting on “healing over the scars that we’ve collected from the start.”  There is such sweet musical dissonance throughout the piece that echoes also in the sentiment of the lyrics.  Vedder lies awake thinking of a former love, musing on the ways in which past relationships leave impressions on our future selves.  While our lives go on, we carry our former loves with us.  Vedder would “rather this than live without you.”

On the track “Longing to Belong,” Vedder teams with cellist Chris Worswick.  The deep soothing notes of the cello add a new depth to the music.  The song dances through the daydreaming days of new love.  Vedder teams with The Swell Season’s Glen Hansard on “Sleepless Nights.”  The harmony and melding of the two soulful male voices is what truly brings the deep emotion to his track.

Nothing about this album lingers for too long and the same is true of my favorite duet on the album, “Tonight You Belong To Me.” Vedder invites indie darling Cat Power to sing this short, but sweet, tune with him.  Both artists have such distinctive voices and to hear them sharing the stage is truly a revelation.  Vedder adds another cover to the album with “Dream A Little Dream,”during which he was evidently channeling Tom Waits.  The juxtaposition between the soft lilting ukulele and Vedder’s gruff voice make the tune a wonderful ending for the album.

Overall, Vedder has produced an album that is based on simplicity of musical composition and great depth of human emotion.  Vedder’s conviction and honesty within the album truly speak to the kind of artist he keeps evolving into.  Ukulele Songs is a beautiful collection of love songs whether they be new love, wavering love, lost love or true love. Vedder has produced an album that can connect to the heart of listeners.

{name} Author: Samantha Hatfield
Bio: Samantha is currently a senior double majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Theater. She is a perfectionist with a penchant for writing, video production and music. Ever since seeing Weezer live at the then “Tweeter” Center at the ripe old age of 12, she has been hooked on live music and developed a voracious appetite for new albums and bands. Some of Samantha’s favorite bands include: Bon Iver, The Raconteurs, Florence + The Machine, Band of Horses, Cage the Elephant, Ray LaMontagne and the list goes on.

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