Sound: Ukulele Songs has 16 tracks, and the entire album is under 35 minutes long. This is Eddie Vedder's second full-length solo album. The longest track is Without You at 3 minutes and 19 seconds. The shortest track is Hey Fahkah at 9 seconds and consists of Eddie Vedder messing up on the ukulele, then laughing and saying fahkah a couple of times. There is also a 37 second instrumental track called Waving Palms. This album was produced by Adam Kasper who is known for his previous work with Cat Power, Mudhoney, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, R.E.M., Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.
The album opens up with a cover of the Peal Jam song Can't Keep, which when cooked down to the ukulele and Eddie Vedder's voice seems to have as much vitality as the original recording by Pearl Jam. On the song Longing to Belong Chris Worswick provides cello, which provides a great dramatic quality to the track. Chan Marshall (of Cat Power) duets with Eddie on Tonight You Belong to Me which lends a haunting quality to the track. Glen Hansard (of The Frames, and also starring in the movie Once) sings on the track Sleepless Nights with Eddie. The chord progressions on the ukulele, to my surprise, remained interesting and engaging throughout the album. // 9
Lyrics: While I've read that the covers and original tracks on this album were not meant as an autobiographical choice, they certainly feel that way. The songs all seem to focus on grieving a lost love, finding your place in the world, and celebrating a new love. The entire album feels very intimate, as if Eddie Vedder was sitting in the room or across the campfire from you.
The vocal deliver is mesmerizing throughout, especially on the duet with Chan Marshall on Tonight You Belong to Me. Ukulele Songs absolutely puts an emphasis on Eddie Vedder's voice, and allowed me to really appreciate how great of a vocalist he truly is. My favorite songs on the album are Longing to Belong, Broken Heart and Tonight You Belong to Me. Some of the lyrics from Longing to Belong that really stand out to me are: I dream of circles perfect/ eyes within your face/ my heart's an open wound that/ only you'd replace.
A lot of albums use vocals almost as melodic filler, but not here. The vocals, lyrically and melodically are integral to each track. Each track says something, and expresses emotions very poignantly. // 8
Overall Impression: You have to listen to this album with an appreciation of what it is. This is not a rocking hard album with clever hooks and breakdowns. This is an acoustic album with just a ukulele and a voice. At first, I didn't expect to really enjoy this album. I thought maybe there would be a few good tracks and I would throw them into a mixed bag playlist on my mp3 player and move on. Instead, the entire album is making it to my mp3 player, and is staying on high rotation. This isn't an album to listen to working out, but it is a great album to listen to when you are laid back trying to chill out.
The songwriting, both lyrically and musically, is great. Each time I listen to this album, I like it a little more. I notice other little details. Most importantly, like several great rock albums in the past inspired me to want to learn guitar, this album inspired me to want to purchase and learn the ukulele. // 9
- Brandon East (c) 2011