// Album Recommendation

Eddie Vedder

Into The Wild


"It's a mystery to me
We have a greed with which we have agreed
And you think you have to want more than you need."

Into The Wild by Eddie Vedder

Into The Wild is Pearl Jam lead vocalist Eddie Vedder’s evocative soundtrack for writer/director Sean Penn’s film of the same name. The nine original songs (there are also two covers that fit the overall mood) are all inspired by the real-life story of Christopher J. McCandles, a 23-year old honor student and athlete, who got so fed up with modern-day society that he gave away all of his belongings, even his 24.000 dollars in savings (as a donation to Oxam) and left it all behind to embark on a spiritual journey through the natural world. Tragically, he later died of starvation deep in the hinterlands of Alaska. Despite the film’s sad ending, Into The Wild is ultimately a life-affirming story of posing oneself existential questions and of having the courage to break free from expectations and live out the true essence of one’s self. As a lyricist, Vedder the poet is at work here, employing a great economy of words, which paint vivid pictures of wanderlust, the great outdoors, majestic vistas, vast horizons, solitude and self-discovery.

Into The wild never becomes blatantly melancholic. Even though it’s a very atmospheric record, Vedder avoids pathos in both his vocal performances, the instrumental backing and his lyrics. Most of the songs – including two, short instrumentals – must be labeled “folk/folk-rock ballads”, and they’re suitably jangly and rustic for the subject. On the opening track Setting Forth Vedder puts into words the early stage of McCandles’ heroic quest to let go of his own fear and follow his instincts ("Be it of no concern / Point of no return / Go forward in reverse / This I will recall / Every time I fall"). No Ceiling is a short but sublime, banjo-driven track, whose lyrics depict the lead character’s inner struggles, as he contemplates his decision to leave the big city, acknowledging that regardless where he ends up, he’ll always feel an affinity for the natural world (“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”), even if it’s been at the cost of losing contact with the people that were once close to him (“As I walk the Hemisphere / Got my wish to up and disappear”).

Out of the nine songs on Into the Wild, Far Behind is the one that's most similar to the heavier sound of Pearl Jam. Like the opening track, it deals with McCandles’ existential ruminations (“Why contain yourself / Like any other book on the shelf”) and his subsequent acceptance of the fact that he has to follow his call (“Subtle voices in the wind / And the truth they're telling / The world begins where the road ends / Watch me leave it all behind / Far behind”). Long Nights works both as a conscientious mental letter to the people he left behind and as a reminder to himself why he did it in the first place ("Have no fear / For when I'm alone / I'll be better off / Than I was before / I've got this life / I'll be around to grow / Who I was before / I cannot recall / Long nights allow me / To feel I'm falling / I am falling”). The appropriately titled Rise floats on an uplifting mandolin that arouses feelings of wanderlust, as do the words (“Gonna rise up / Find my direction magnetically''). Society, with its gentle acoustic guitar and Vedder’s emotive vocal, is especially gripping and a poignant reflection on the superficial values of modern-day society (“Oh, it's a mystery to me / We have a greed with which we have agreed / And you think you have to want more than you need / Until you have it all you won't be free / Society, you’re a crazy breed”).

The Wolf is basically an instrumental song in that it doesn’t feature any actual words. On top of a simple organ motif, Vedder’s yearning voice howls like the call of the wild. With a running time of just 1:31 minutes, it’s short but effective, leaving you with the image of a lone wolf howling at the moon. On the last track Guaranteed, Vedder deftly and tastefully fingerpicks an acoustic guitar while summarizing the journey of the lead character, from his desire to break free from expectations and obligations (“On bended knee is no way to be free / Lifting up an empty cup, I ask silently / That all my destinations will accept the one that's me / So I can breathe”), and the joy he feels at experiencing a boundless freedom (“Wind in my hair, I feel part of everywhere”) to his final thoughts, as he knows the end is near (“Leave it to me, as I find a way to be / consider me a satellite forever orbiting / I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me / Guaranteed...”).

Writer/Director Sean Penn’s choice of composer for the soundtrack to Into The Wild was an inspired choice and makes perfect sense. Eddie Vedder has always presented himself as an earnest seeker of spiritual truth, dedicating time and money to environmental activism (he’s also an avid surfer in California and Hawaii). Vedder’s sympathy for his subject shines through in every aspect of these recordings: music, lyrics, performances, production. He even plays virtually all of the instruments himself. Into The Wild is soulful, thought-provoking and downright indispensable.

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