The Soundtrack, by Eddie Vedder
Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder is one of rock’s most distinctive voices. Often imitated and at times, nearly duplicated, the vocalist remains one of the most passionate and engaging frontmen in rock. While Pearl Jam continues to amaze audience with energetic live performances and acclaimed studio albums, the band often takes break to work on various side projects. Vedder meanwhile, indulges his love of surfing while often contributing solo projects to charities or film soundtracks. In 2007, Vedder was asked by fellow surfer and friend Sean Penn to contribute music for his fourth feature-film Into the Wild about the young life of Christopher McCandless and his journey into the Alaskan wilderness.
Produced by Vedder and longtime producer Adam Kasper, the soundtrack to Into the Wild is Vedder’s first full-length solo release as the songs are a mix of the rock-inspired tracks that he’s known for with Pearl Jam with a mix of folk-driven songs that are almost reminiscent of the musical accompaniment of Cat Stevens. Featuring contributions from former Sleater-Kinney singer/guitarist Corin Tucker and guitarist Jerry Hanan, the soundtrack is a wonderfully enchanting, haunting, and inspirational album that not only showcases Vedder’s talents but also the serene, harrowing tone of Sean Penn’s film.
Setting Forth is a jangly-inspired track with hard-hitting bass drums led by Vedder’s awe-inspiring vocals as he sets the tone for the entire album in this short, mid-tempo number. The track also includes Vedder playing some jangly-like guitar riffs and melodies that is also accompanied by acoustic backgrounds. No Ceiling is a slower, folk-driven song accompanied mostly by a banjo and a soft, slide guitar in the background. Vedder’s narrative-style lyrics definitely tells the story of Christopher McCandless going onto his journey to Alaska. Far Behind is a mid-tempo rocker that fans of Pearl Jam will definitely familiarize themselves with as the two-minute track is a nice accompanying track for a good road song. And no, this is not a cover of the song by fellow Seattle band Candlebox.
Rise is a mandolin-driven track that continues the road-inspired narrative from Vedder’s lyrics as the song reflects McCandless’ journey while looking back at what he’s leaving behind. The two-and-a-half minute track is definitely an inspirational track with Vedder’s vocals being the highlight. Long Nights is an eerie track led by Vedder’s bass-like vocals and jangly-guitar flourishes that emphasizes McCandless’ isolation in the city and everything that he had despises. Vedder’s vocals and lyrics reflects the sense of confusion in the film’s protagonist as Vedder’s guitar playing is wonderfully inspiring. The one-minute instrumental Tuolumne is Vedder playing an acoustic guitar with wonderful melodies and riffs that conveys McCandless innocent into his exploration of nature.
The album’s first single for Hard Sun that is a cover of a Gordon Peterson song under his Indio pseudonym. The five-minute, inspirational song is played in the film’s final credits but its lyrics are definitely uplifting that reflects McCandless’ journey. Vedder sings the song with his growling vocal style while the chorus, he is accompanied by Corin Tucker. The song is played as a folk-rocker largely accompanied by an acoustic guitar that is followed by a drone-like guitar track that becomes a solo later on.
Society is a Jerry Hanan-composed song that is mostly an acoustic ballad in the style of Cat Stevens. Vedder’s vocals definitely sets the tone without being too soft as the song definitely plays as an accompaniment to McCandless’ journey and isolation with the world. The Wolf is a score piece of Vedder playing an organ that is also accompanied by Vedder’s wailing vocals. The track is played during McCandless’ confrontation with the harshness that is nature.
End Of The Road is a slow but elegant track with Vedder playing flourishing guitar chords as he sings the song filled with his lyrics of McCandless’ journey. The song is a wonderful cut that plays to the film’s theme of movement as it emphasizes McCandless’ journey and the people he meet on the way. The album closer Guaranteed is a folk-driven track that features Vedder in his most romantic as the song is played with just Vedder and his flourishing, acoustic guitar. The song is amazing with its imagery and it’s played during some lovely scenes of nature that revels in McCandless’ innocent and the tragedy that would follow. After the song is played for three minutes, there’s two minutes of silence until it returns with Vedder basically humming. The result is a calm, serene closer that ends the album very nicely.
The album in digital form, notably on iTunes features four extra tracks that includes two original songs by Vedder along with a live version of one of those songs and a live cover of Phil Ochs’ Here’s To The State.
While the only complaint of the record is that it’s 33-minutes (in CD form) and that’s a bit short in comparison to other albums. The soundtrack to Into the Wild remains an inspirational album from Eddie Vedder. Fans of Vedder’s vocals and various side-projects will no doubt enjoy this album. Anyone who loved Penn’s enchanting drama should get the soundtrack since the music works very well with the film. In the end, the soundtrack to Sean Penn’s Into the Wild is a fantastic, enchanting, and spiritual album from Eddie Vedder. Even in the times as his so-called clones like Chad Kroeger and Scott Stapp continue to churn out watered-down rock with no heart and passion that Vedder and Pearl Jam has amazed fans with for over 15 years.