On March 27, 2020, Pearl Jam released their 11th studio album, Gigaton. What was supposed to be a momentous release followed by a massive tour turned into a record that, in many ways, marked the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gigaton highlighted a distinct progression in Pearl Jam's sound. Following two albums produced by Brendan O'Brien — 2009's Backspacer and 2013's Lightning Bolt — Gigaton was described as "a musically adventurous trip" by Ultimate Classic Rock's Michael Gallucci, who also said it was their most satisfying album since Backspacer.

Now, four years later, Pearl Jam have followed that adventurous trip up with what might end up being their best full-length of the 2000s: Dark Matter.

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Moving on from Evans in the producer seat, Pearl Jam teamed up with wunderkind Andrew Watt to help them achieve their absolute best on their 12th LP. The end result is one of the most exciting albums of the year that will go down as one of Pearl Jam's most interesting of their entire career.

As you dive into Dark Matter and form your own opinion, here are seven things we love about Pearl Jam's new album.

The Powerful Reflection on Album Opener, "Scared of Fear"

While Dark Matter's first track might be more focused on introspection for the narrator, it's impossible to not find yourself in the lyrics. When Eddie Vedder sings in the chorus, "We used to laugh / We used to sing / We used to dance / We had our own theme," he offers a chance for your own reflection — whether it's contemplating the last few years since the release of Gigaton or something more personal to your life. It's the first of many powerful moments on the record.

Mike McCready's Unforgettable Solo on "React, Respond"

The song itself is an incredible call to action. Vedder sings, "Are we at war with each other / Are you at war with yourself / We could be fighting together / Instead of fighting ourselves." And while the lyrics are some of the most convicting of the entire album, the most unforgettable moment of the track comes when Mike McCready gives one of the greatest guitar solos of his life. In fact, it's such a monumental solo that the song doesn't lean on it as a bridge, but rather, it's how "React, Respond" closes.

The More Somber Moments on Dark Matter

A few months prior to the release of Dark Matter, McCready said in an interview about the album, "It's a lot heavier than you'd expect. There's the melody and energy of the first couple of records." The bulk of Dark Matter lives up to that statement, but there are a couple of tracks that stand out as somber, formidable moments for Pearl Jam. Whether it's the waltz-y nature of "Something Special" or the near-delicateness of album closer "Setting Sun," these mellower moments on Dark Matter only serve to showcase the power of Vedder's vocals and the focus of the entire band.

Pearl Jam Confront Darkness Over and Over

It has often been said that you can't truly appreciate light without acknowledging and confronting the darkness around you. That idea seems to be a guiding force for Pearl Jam throughout Dark Matter, perhaps most poignantly experienced on "Wreckage." When Vedder sings, "Visited by thoughts on another darkened week / How even every winner hits a losing streak / The mistakes we all make and perfectly repeat / Chains are made by DNA refusing, refusing to release," there is almost a sense of hopelessness in his words. Fortunately, as is often the case when pushing into the dark matter of our lives, Pearl Jam don't leave you without hope; though there may never be a permanent parting of the clouds, there is clear encouragement to keep pushing forward and comb through the wreckage around you — whatever that might be.

Dark Matter's Many, Many Vinyl Variants

Ahead of the release of Dark Matter, Pearl Jam shared a video on their social media that encouraged you to listen to the album on vinyl — and to listen to it loud. Pearl Jam have always been committed to providing whole experiences with their albums, often being recognized for their efforts with Grammy nominations for their packaging. With Dark Matter, the band focused on creating a record collector's dream (or nightmare) with several unique vinyl variants of the album. While some might point to this as a fad, Pearl Jam used the opportunity to not simply provide various pressings of the record, but to support independent record stores. Partnering with shops across the country — and participating in this year's Record Store DayDark Matter is available on 12 limited colorways, many of which you can only find at your local record store.

The Cliffhanger of Album Closer, "Setting Sun"

The aforementioned mellow tone of "Setting Sun" actually builds up into a powerful experience. But rather than end with the full band exploding in harmony, Pearl Jam pull it back to just an acoustic guitar and Vedder, both sort of trailing off as Dark Matter comes to a close. Vedder sings, "Let us not fade," as one final request to the listener to continue pushing forward and not let this be the "last setting sun." It's almost as if there is more to come, but instead of giving you an expected ending, Pearl Jam give you the chance to find and pursue your own conclusion.

READ MORE: Patrick Carney Hopes New Black Keys Album 'Resonates' With Fans

"Waiting For Stevie" Might Be One of the Best Songs Pearl Jam Have Ever Released

Whether it's Vedder singing the gut-wrenching truth, "You can be loved by everyone / And not feel love, not feel love / You can be told by everyone / And not hear a word from above," or Matt Cameron's drumming shining with utter perfection, "Waiting For Stevie" should be considered an instant Pearl Jam classic. This is a masterpiece in every way possible.

Dark Matter is out on April 19 and can be purchased here. Pearl Jam head out on a world tour beginning May 4. You can find their full tour schedule at this location.

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