Review Summary: Relax, and let Eddie Vedder take you to the wilderness of Alaska.
Eddie Vedder is one of those musicians that needs no introduction. His impact on the 90’s grunge scene was immense; his powerful and distinct vocals were influential to not only future rock bands, but also defined the entire movement. With rock classic “Ten” released in 1991, Vedder was the highlight of the record, providing both tremendous songwriting and his angst-ridden and passionate vocals. As Pearl Jam’s career worn on, Vedder began to lose the angst that so adequately fit “Ten” and “Vs.” and developed much more of a pure singing style. With that said, each of the more recent Pearl Jam records have proved that Vedder can still awe and blow the listener away with his vocals, which contain both the emotion and conspicuous nature that is necessary. In 2007, Vedder recorded his first and only solo album to date; proving that he can succeed outside of the shadow of Pearl Jam.
Vedder’s “Into the Wild” solo record was written as a soundtrack to the Sean Penn film of the same name. In the movie, the main character (Emile Hirsch) graduates from college and donates his money and leaves his possessions behind to travel across the United States. Hirsch’s character eventually gets to the wilderness of Alaska, where he tests his survival skills and thinks about the troubles of his domesticated life. The soundtrack is not your conventional Pearl Jam sound, but has a rather folk flavor to it. Previous tracks Long Road
from “Merkinball” and “No Code’s” Off He Goes
are an accurate suggestion to what “Into the Wild” sounds like. Despite the change in background music for Vedder’s vocals to compliment, his effect is quite similar. Vedder isn’t exactly howling at the top of his lungs, but his cutting edge tone is still very much alive.
Both the opener Setting Forth
and following track No Ceiling
virtually establish the atmosphere for the record; the latter utilizing the play of a banjo to provide the earthy “wild” resonance. No Ceiling
at just over a minute and a half is almost tragically too short, but is brilliant for every second. Vedder’s vocals are what hooks the listener and he sings, “Comes the morning, when I can feel, that there's nothing left to be concealed. Moving on a scene surreal, no my heart will never, will never be far from here.” The short length is what plagues the album to an extent, for expansion would have proved to be beneficial in certain areas.
The two most extensive tracks on the album are oddly enough the two cover songs. Both Hard Sun
are undoubtedly underscores of the record, and feature some of Vedder’s best vocal performances. Hard Sun
is a majestic piece, elevated by backing singers and the rare appearance of electric guitars. Towards the end of the album, Hard Sun
presents a powerful break from the earthy folk that dominates the record. In the case of Society
however, there is much more of a focus on the lyrical aspect and purely reflects on the journey contained in the film. “Society you’re a crazy breed. Hope you’re not lonely, without me.” Society
is one of several tracks whose title can be literally tied in to the story, along with Setting Forth
and End of the Road
represents the main character’s disconnection from the civilized world, while Setting Forth
refers to the beginning of the journey and End of the Road
is well, the end of the road.
Although “Into the Wild” serves as an excellent soundtrack to the film, but when taken out of context does not seem like a standout record in any regard. Even just thinking about the concepts without actually watching the movie heightens the music a bit. “Into the Wild” is not the most striking collection of songs written by Vedder, but is a tremendous point for his solo songwriting to improve. When listening to the album, not a great deal will stand out and awe you however, as a whole is a satisfying listening experience.