MAX’S MUSIC BOX: Former pro surfer Jack Johnson releases a strong, easygoing album

(Photo used with permission of Creative Commons)

For three years, Jack Johnson fans have been waiting for another beachside companion.  Since his first album, Brushfire Fairytales, Johnson has been known for his acoustic surf-influenced music.  His new album, From Here To Now To You, feels more like a combination of the acoustic album In Between Dreams and Brushfire. Luckily, songs on From Here To Now do without the electric guitar, sticking to Johnson’s most valuable tool, the acoustic.  The new album lyrics also highlight Johnson’s life nowadays; he’s settled down and has a family.  Although the album isn’t groundbreaking, it’s a welcome addition to Johnson’s discography.

1. “I Got You” is an excellent first track for the record. Immediately, it’s apparent that you’re entering the world of Jack Johnson. The whistling, acoustic-guitar slapping and arpeggio set the laid-back beachside mood of some of Johnson’s earliest tracks. The song pays homage to his wife in the chorus. “I got you/I got everything/I got you/I don’t need nothing/more than you.” This introduces the record’s themes: companionship and family. (8 pts. out of 10)

2.  “Washing Dishes” is much more upbeat, but it still maintains Johnson’s simplicity. However, the guitar is more complex and rhythmic. Again, the song highlights his wife. First he dreams of success, and later this leads him to sing that one day he will take his wife away.  The lyrics are far from profound, but the tune is catchy and provokes foot tapping. (7/10)

3. Before listening to Johnson’s commentary on “Shot Reverse Shot,” I had trouble with its meaning. Johnson explained it as a technique in film school where the camera films a character over the other character’s shoulder and switches perspectives while one character speaks to the other. According to Johnson, the deeper meaning has to do with empathy and standing in someone else’s shoes. It reminds me more of a pop song due to the tempo. However, “Shot Reverse Shot” lacks Johnson’s quintessential relaxing trademark. Overall, it doesn’t seem to go well with the rest of the album because of its pace. (7/10)

4. “Never Fade” opens with classic guitar slap and arpeggio. Johnson adds a ukulele, which gives the song a Hawaiian feeling. Johnson sings, “It feels good to be the one, that you want/When all I want is you.” Not surprisingly, the song features companionship again. Melodically, the song shines when Johnson sings progressive scales with his lyrics. (8/10)

5. “Tape Deck” is one of the better upbeat tracks on the record. (Johnson is just much better at crafting slow, relaxing songs.) “Tape Deck” is done relatively well, though. The song instills the need to dance and tap your feet. Lyrically, Johnson paints a picture of his first band with verses like, “Four guitars and zero drums/ we sounded folk, but we wanted to be punk.” Johnson explained in a commentary that his son’s musical group inspired the song. The song lyrically fits in with the album’s theme, but musically it goes in a more cheerful direction. (7/10)

6. “Don’t Believe A Thing I Say” follows the pattern of Johnson’s peaceful and relaxing tunes. Johnson utilizes multiple acoustic guitars and a percussion shaker to add to the song’s rhythm. In the song, Johnson explains his confidence in the natural order of the world.  “I trust them patterns more than men/or the stories that they tell/even if they tell them well.” The straightforward, clear messages let Johnson’s lyrics come to life. (8/10)

7. “As I Was Saying” is beautiful. Johnson speaks of the hardships in long-term relationships. My favorite lines are This is worth saving/ ‘cause some of us is more than us/ if you add us up/ and then subtract/ my lack/ of sleep.” The song is very tender, and you can feel Johnson’s emotion through his soft voice. A ukulele harmonizes and plays in the upper ranges, while the guitar maintains the rhythm. (9/10)

8. “You Remind of You” is another  heartfelt song that reminds me of a lullaby. It sounds as if Johnson is singing to his children as he says, “Your daddy got more love for you than you could ever know.” The way Johnson punctuates and phrases each verse is like a nursery rhyme. The song is extremely pleasant and extremely simple with just one acoustic guitar. This is the most heartfelt song of the group, and it makes it easier to understand what Johnson is saying lyrically. (9.5/ 10)

9. “Radiate” is the most unique song on the record. It’s upbeat, while featuring a drum set. There’s also a computer-generated sound that repeats throughout. The song is somewhat catchy, although it’s extremely repetitive. In the chorus alone, the word “radiate” is repeated 12 times. Johnson explained in a commentary that the song was referring to how his kids radiated joy and love. This song verges on annoying, but it’s hard to dislike because of Johnson’s great voice. (7/10)

10. “Ones and Zeros” is rhythmic, not with the aid of drums, but because of Johnson’s hammer-ons, which, along with the arpeggio, keep the song moving and interesting. Simultaneously, it stays simple due to the lack of a drum set. The song itself is in the key of C, while most of the other songs are in B flat. Because of this, the song definitely has a more cheerful feel. The lyrics are strange, and it’s hard to find meaning in them. For the chorus, Johnson sings, “There’s this vine/ trying to climb/ through the window into my life/I don’t mind.” It’s a relaxing song, but the lyrics seem meaningless. (7.5/10)

11. The slide guitar used in “Change” gives it a country vibe. Also, the vocal harmonies remind me of common bluegrass or country duets. Because I don’t like country, I don’t really like it. The lyrics are easily understood, though. The chorus is “All these changes/different stages/turn a page/after page.” The mediocre song just speaks of changes in life. (6/10)

12. “Home” concludes the album well, summing up Johnson’s journey with lyrics like “Home is wherever we are, if there’s love there too.” As he makes his way back home, Johnson ends the record. The song begins with birds chirping and acoustic guitar. The song embodies the record’s themes. It speaks of nature, love and family—common motifs throughout the album—so it’s a great way to end such a wonderfully simple record. (9/10)

Overall Rating: (8.5 pts. out of 10)

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