There's no doubt that Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder knows how to rock out with a guitar and an impassioned yowl. But can he roll with a ukulele, that simple, lute-like instrument of luaus and kindergarten recitals? Why yes, yes he can.
Vedder picked up the instrument 15 years ago and has spent more than a decade composing tunes on it, the fruits of which are cataloged on this album. Many of these songs explore themes of love and loneliness with no-frills poignancy.
The Pearl Jam classic "Can't Keep" opens the album, coursing with the tortured-soul anxiety of the original yet seeming even more insistent. "Sleeping By Myself" shines with quiet strums and vocals that grow from murmurs to croons. Cat Power makes a cameo on "Tonight You Belong to Me," a dreamy little number from the soundtrack to The Jerk, while the single "Longing to Belong" is 100% Vedder, with a chamber-music twist. A cello soars as the uke flutters, building the perfect setting for Vedder's thesis: "Love can be frightening when you fall."