This is Pearl Jam's best album of the 2000s. Continuing where Pearl Jam left off, the band matches the energy of their last outing with better, tighter songs. The lyrics (notably, all are credited to Vedder) are exceptional. No longer bound by anti-Bush righteous rage, Vedder seems to feel freed to sing songs with more empathy and positive energy. There are still plenty of songs about troubled souls and surfing, but the overall tone is warmer and filled more with empathy than anger.
The band's playing is excellent as always, and Brendan O'Brien's return to the fold is welcome - this album, even more than the Ten Redux cd, is proof positive that O'Brien is THE man to produce Pearl Jam's albums. He adds a few touches of keyboards and strings here and there to augment the standard guitar/bass/drums rock format, and the result is a sound perfectly suited to Pearl Jam's strongest batch of songs in years.
Pearl Jam fans who have been waiting for a new great album but weren't quite convinced by their previous cd should give this one a shot, and fans who have stuck with the band all these years will not be disappointed. This is Pearl Jam for 2009 and beyond.
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