Jack Johnson’s To the Sea is the Hawaii-based folk-singing surf enthusiast, troubadour's 5th studio album ( created in Johnson’s solar powered studio). The man, so easy to like that some have decided to hate him, is back with another solid set of laid-back songs that feature interesting wordplay, occasionally brilliant lyrics, and deceptively uncomplicated melodies.
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Johnson actually gets a bit edgy experimenting with some new sounds on a few songs (like You and Your Heart) but mostly we get more of the interesting observations, beautiful guitar and ukulele picking in the clean clear arrangements with a bit of reggae/calypso that you expect Johnson to deliver.
Johnson clearly enjoys making his music and he works very hard and tirelessly to make the world a better place to live ,donating a lot of his time, money and resources to environmental and educational causes. He donates most of his tour profits to charity.
It’s easy at this point to take his music for granted since his sound is supposed to be straightforward, and as soothing as spending a few hours listening to the ocean’s surf. We’re used to him at this point and he doesn’t seem to do too much to expand his sound.
If you listen closely however, you’ll hear lots of small new details but nothing that really spins his basic groove into a new place.
You and Your Heart has an interesting opening (a funkier than usual strumming acoustic guitar and then an electric guitar that’s far more ragged than Johnson’s been in the past. Good lyrics too.
To the Sea is in slow familiar Johnson island folk music groove territory but nicely done.
Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology is an entertaining pop-folk-blues sing-along.
The Upsetter—has Johnson’s alter-ego comforting a friend (stop upsetting yourself, upsetting your thoughts) over calypso beats and guitar picking that goes from dark to bright in a skilled hummable melody. This one starts off a bit ragged, almost in Rolling Stones territory before it starts being island music bouncy.
To the Clouds is the quintessential Johnson song with lyrics expressing the joy of passionate love.
Worst song: Pictures of People Taking Pictures –when Johnson tries too hard to be profound and misses yet insists on repeating the song title over and over again, it’s just bad. Skip this one.
BOTTOM LINE – Jack Johnson's To the Sea has a few unique moments to offer, but mostly delivers another solid Johnson album from the nicest guy in indie-folk-rock. 13 songs: 5 keepers, 7 average ditties and 1 bad apple.
©2012, Christopher J. Jarmick
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