Jason Savio

Pearl Jam – Dark Matter

On Dark Matter, Pearl Jam’s twelfth studio album, the band sounds just as inspired and hungry as it was 30 years ago. The album bursts with a heavy, tight, and frantic energy. And, as always, Eddie Vedder’s lyrics are a point of focus that ties everything together. 

“React, Respond,” is a powerful wake-up call with Vedder singing “Are we at war with each other/Are you at war with yourself?/We could be fighting together/Instead of fighting ourselves,” before the band reaches a crescendo. The title track delivers heavy, crunching power chords as Vedder digs deep, shouting “It’s strange these days/When everybody else pays/For someone else’s mistake.” 

Dark Matter also includes softer, melodic moments as well. “Upper Hand” starts with a more ominous, atmospheric opening with lyrics to match: “The distance to the end is closer now than it’s ever been.” The whimsical “Something Special” sounds like a message to Vedder’s daughters as he offers words of strength and encouragement. “Wreckage,” despite having a catchy and bright tone musically, is about overcoming the end of a relationship, or, as Vedder puts it, “combing through the wreckage.”

Vedder offers his best line for the final song of Dark Matter, “Sunset,” in which he is still struggling to deal with the aftermath of an unexpected end but is learning to see past it when he sings, “They say in the end everything will be okay/If it’s not okay, well then, it ain’t the end.”

For more, visit: www.pearljam.com

Gary Clark Jr.JPEG RAW

Blues rock guitarist Gary Clark Jr. continues to show his talent and knack for writing songs with substance on his latest effort JPEG RAW. Joined by an impressive group of guests on select songs, Clark Jr. touches on multiple genres while somehow making them all sound uniquely his own.

Clark Jr. is a chameleon of sorts – on one song he’ll be deep in a funk groove alongside George Clinton in “Funk Witch You,” and on another he’ll be serving up a rowdy blues number about handling a cheating partner in “Don’t Start.” He even manages to sneak in a one-minute-long flamenco-flavored number entitled “To The End of the Earth.” These songs might falter in less capable hands, but Clark Jr. excels at all, while maintaining his reliable guitar throughout. JPEG RAW features memorable guitar moments, notably the solo in “Hyperwave” and the licks at the end of “This is Who We Are.”

The closer “Habits” is a 9-minute soul ballad that could’ve ended at the 3:30 mark and still been good, but it continues into a folkish beat, before launching into a transcendent guitar solo. It’s further proof that Gary Clark Jr. is the guitar player you should be listening to. 

For more, visit: www.garyclarkjr.com