Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review: Jack Johnson "To The Sea"

Jack Johnson is a pretty easy artist to figure out. He'd probably always rather be playing guitar by a bonfire on a beach or surfing than doing whatever he's doing at any given moment. With the release of "To The Sea" Johnson has grown his album catalog to five (count 'em five!) full length albums (and that is not even including his "Curious George" soundtrack.) So what is the deal with this new album? Well, I'll tell you:

First off, it's not all that different from his previous offerings. Much like his last album, "Sleep Through The Static," he is utilizing piano/keyboards to give his songs a wider range of sounds. It's not just acoustic guitar, light drums, light bass, calm vocals, mix and repeat. However, in overall tempo, attitude, and vocal range it is similar to every other album that he's ever made.

The first single is "You and Your Heart" which also happens to be the first track off the album. It begins with a simple electric guitar riff that slowly is layered with piano keys and drums. The bass is pretty subtle until a breakdown after the second chorus that takes the listener to the end of the song. This is the best portion of the song. I can definitely see why it was chosen as the first single, but at the same time, it feels like they are trying to trick the listener into believing that this is a newer (possibly more rockin' sort of) sound coming from Jack. This tactic is used on the track "When I Look Up" as well.

The back half of the album is predominantly loaded with acoustic jams that have made Jack Johnson famous. I can't totally blame him for it, either. When something works, it works. Why fix what's not broken? Dave Matthews went crazy and tried different styles on "Everyday" and "Stand Up" and there was a massive backlash among his own fans for straying from his band's signature sound. Jack Johnson is slowly creeping out of his acoustic shell, but in slow stages so that his longtime fans won't freak out like Bob Dylan's fans at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

If you're looking for a pretty sweet stand out track, I'll go with "At Or With Me." It's base is set on the piano, with what sounds like an accordion or synthesizer providing great ambiance. It's worth a listen.

In the end, would I recommend this album to the masses? First ask yourself if you already like Jack Johnson? If yes, get it immediately. If no, there's nothing for you there. Move along.

Tony's Grade: B


Rae said...

I like JJ... But I can't really listen to an album all the way through. Much like John Mayer or Josh Radin or Jason Mraz (why are these all J names???) all his songs sound very similar to the point that they run together.

Tony B. said...

I think that is the problem with most of these artists. My favorite artists are the ones that consistently grow evolve, and mix it up.