An influential figure on the still-going grunge scene, Stone Gossard is best known as a co-founder of Pearl Jam, the mighty Seattle outfit for whom he has essayed many a memorable riff. The guitarist’s second solo album comes a dozen years after the first, 2001’s Bayleaf, and is something of a retrospective, rounding up and finishing off numerous demos that were not quite right for his main band. Moonlander is light years away from Pearl Jam’s stadium-rocking anthems, partly due to Gossard’s pleasingly fragile vocals but also a folkier, friendlier musical tone. You may note unlikely hints of The Eagles, Kings of Leon, and – on the title track – Glen Hansard’s Oscar-winning ballads for the movie Once. Lyrically there are surprises, too, with frequent nods to the spiritual (despite Gossard’s recent admission that “I’m probably at my least religious I’ve ever been in a while”), all culminating in the joyous refrain to Beyond Measure: “a simple gospel song; we hope you sing along.” Relieved of the intense angst that turns many rock fans away from grunge, Gossard may well acquire some enthusiastic new followers.
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