Year of the Album — #029
Eddie Vedder – “Ukelele Songs” (2011, Universal Records)
I’m as big a fan of stripped-down acoustic music as the next guy, but there’s something so cynically self-indulgent about Eddie Vedder recording a 16-track album using nothing but the ukelele and then packaging an entire tour around the solo, single-instrument concept. Listening to the full album in a single sitting is a numbing experience. Rolling Stone’s positive review compares the album to painting in a single color, allowing us to experience subtle shifts in shading. But listening to Ukelele Songs is like hearing the same conceptual piece over and over until the changing of songs is almost indestinguishable. And the single-instrument format, while perhaps a noble experiment, fails to reach the level of transcendence you expect Vedder was aiming for. While single songs like “Sleeping By Myself” have their own unique charm, hearing the songs in quick succession blunts any impact they may have had on their own. This is definitely a niche album, notable only to the already initiated.