Eddie Vedder, lead singer of the Seattle-based grunge band Pearl Jam, recently released his most recent solo project, a 16-song album demonstrating Vedder’s vocal abilities, as well as his ability to shred on the ukulele.
Titled “Ukulele Songs,” this surprise solo album had a release date corresponding with Pearl Jam’s twentieth anniversary and begins with a cover of Pearl Jam’s “Can’t Keep.”
Vedder has had numerous solo projects in the past, including the entire soundtrack for “Into the Wild.” And he continues to succeed in delivering more soulful vocals in “Ukulele Songs.” But this time around, the high cords of the ukulele add a twang to the album and give it more of a diversified dynamic.
Vedder draws on various influences for “Ukulele Songs,” using an intro riff strikingly similar to The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” in the song “You’re True,” playing the ukulele in a nontraditional, yet authentic, way.
Produced by Monkeywrench Records, “Ukulele Songs” showcases Vedder’s creative capabilities that burst when he is given only four strings and his voice box.
The album keeps each song short and sweet, with the longest song barely lasting three minutes and the shortest songs lasing barely more than eight seconds, though most songs on the album fall under two minutes.
The short, simple sounds of the ukulele partnered with Vedder’s voice is ever-relaxing and can make any listener think they’re kicking it on a beach in Hawaii, except with the Seattle Space Needle in the background.
That’s not to say that what Vedder does with the ukulele isn’t impressive. The song “Satellite” displays Vedder’s technical ability, using a plucking pattern that creates a sweet melody harmonized by his signature throaty vocals.
“Ukulele Songs” features multiple two collaborations. In the song “Sleepless Nights,” Vedder sings a duet with Glen Hansard. “Tonight you Belong to me” is another duet on the album with Cat Power adding soft female vocal accompaniment.
Overall, this album delivers a sound with the consistent smooth-yet-raspy vocals of Vedder, but with a change of scenery that will be a breath of fresh air to any die-hard Pearl Jam fan.
It’s nice to see a musician as established as Vedder try a solo project where he experiments with a fun, new sound while still staying true to his roots and the sound for which his fans know him.
Some listeners may be skeptical at first of this album’s complexity, but in the end, “Ukulele Songs” will not disappoint.